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Handling dating requests

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So, you got an email through CouchSurfing that sounded a little weird, which made you think: "Am I going to have to deal with this even here?" Well, here are possible answers to that question that may bug most of us.


Some ways of dealing dating requests

The first guidelines for creating safety is to first understand your role in understanding and making the world a better place. Cultures and personal cultures are different, so people approach relationships in various ways.

There are a few cultures that have a different understanding of the concept of friendship. The lack of understanding and actual friendship experiences are becoming a way of life, and it is being fed with family issues, lack of effective communication and the abuse of individualism. People don't learn how to be friends that way, and try to get quick fixes everywhere. What are they trying to tell us? They are trying to say that they are lonely, that they need attention and they are not friends with themselves, because they don't have that knowledge and those experiences yet.

It is easier to understand certain behaviors when we can see that facet of a person's life. If you never experience a friendship, how can you create one by yourself? It is impossible. What people do instead is to create situations in life that resemble a real friendship. Everything else, including all the desperate moves that are a result of lack of romantic options, are issues deriving from not knowing what it means to have a real friend.

A Classic Example

Would you agree with me that what could feel so invasive to some, may be ordinary to others?

For example: A person from Culture "A" approaches a person from culture "B". Culture A's typical ways are bold and direct and accepted in their society as normal behavior. Culture B sees that as the exact opposite: that behavior is aggressive and disrespectul. Culture B's person reacts aggressively and Culture A's does not understand why. They go back and forth in this situation and both get hurt. What seems like a situation that could easily be resolved has no resolution. Both might have just missed an opportunity to provide each other with valuable tips on how to respect each other.

Now, there is also another type of situation that can explain the behavior of some people, not necessarily in combination with the cultural differences explained above. There is an issue of self worth in certain individuals. Some people are lonely and desperate and don´t even realize it, because the externalization of their pain (of being lonely) became their personality of being so aggressive and wanting to get attention from the opposite sex.

So, good old understanding, effective communication and the attitude/mindset to educate people about your culture are the ways to get people educated about themselves and the culture of couchsurfing. If someone emails you via couchsurfing with strange intentions, take that as an opportunity to educate the other person, taking personal responsibility for sharing your opinion about friendship.

So, let´s say the basic approach is:

  1. Question the person about their reason for acting the way that they do.
  2. Tell the individual how you felt when you got such an email.
  3. Explain your personal opinion on friendship, relationships, and couchsurfing.com
  4. Try to be friends, and be yourself. You don´t have to stick to a serious language.

Some scenarios

Scenario 1, the good one

Couchsurfing Email from LOVERBOY: - Hi, Let´s meet up sometime, you are a beautiful woman. I was looking to find a couch to crash on, but the bonus of having breakfast with you is even better. Hope to hear from you. Loverboy.

Couchsurfing Email from WISEGIRL: - LoverBoy, thank you for the compliments. However, I'd like to be honest and express that this email is a little too forward for my comfort. I realize this may be a cultural difference issue, or that I may be reading a little too much into it, but for me, the Couchsurfing Project is not a site for me to find potential dates, as there are other sites tailored to that purpose. This is a place for me to meet new and likeminded travelers and friends. I'm more than happy to extend my friendship, but because I'm not used to such a forward approach, I would feel more comfortable if we exchange a few emails and chat for a little while before we come to any Couchsurfing agreement. In the meantime, I'm interested in your culture, and how people view dating and friendship where you're from and how your communications differ from mine. Should I visit your country, it may be very valuable information for me to know! :)

REPLY from LoverBoy:

- You know WiseGirl, thanks for pointing that out. Please accept my apologies...the people of my culture often tend to be very blunt and it's easy to forget that other cultures may choose a more subtle approach. I did not mean to imply in any way that we would be anything other than friends, and I realize my wording might have implied otherwise. Although I do find you beautiful, like you, I am interested in making new friends and I hope that our miscommunication has not affected our chances for friendship. I understand that you would like a little more time to get to know me in order to find an arrangement, and if need be, will check out other surfing options. Thanks for respecting my culture and sharing your insight. I will do my best to respect you and yours.

This way, neither party places blame, each takes responsibility, and boundaries are clear without being nasty. If it IS likely a cultural issue, do NOT ridicule or insult them by asking if girls (keeping in context, though this convo could go either way) in their country actually fall for that. What you perceive as a pickup line may not be intended to BE one (consider the general example that many women in Italy are called beautiful, but the men delivering the compliment are simply complimenting them), and what may seem cheesy to you could be language barrier issue on their part. The point here is not to impose your culture upon them or make it a better than/worse than scenario. It is to explain yours, and if you are interested in knowing more, respectfully inquiring about theirs.

Scenario 2, the bad one

Couchsurfing Email from LOVERBOY: - Hi, Let´s meet up sometime, you are very pretty you know. Wow, your eyes are shiny like the sun... Hope to hear from you. Love from the love world, Loverboy.

Couchsurfing Email from WISEGIRL: - LoverBoy, are you crazy! get off my back! grow up! don't you see that CS is not a dating site! I am so sorry for your pathetic behavior!

REPLY from LoverBoy:

- You know WiseGirl, you suck!

This is a common knee jerk reaction that never ends well. Not to mention there's nothing worse than realizing you've seriously jumped to the wrong conclusions and just made yourself out to be the worst kind of hypocrite. It is always best to err on the side of caution, and respond respectfully, firmly, and clearly. If we don´t take personal responsibility, our communications will be compromised, right along with how others perceive us. Similarly, if we fail to take that same responsibility for sharing our interpretations with LoverBoy, he will continue behaving in the same way, because we haven't made him aware some might be offended by his approach. It's as much a disservice to fail to give him that heads up as it is responding with intolerance and deliberate offense.

If you are a host and your surfer hits on you

This can happen to even the most cautious host. Fortunately, the person is on your turf and has to follow your rules. Be firm - if you are not comfortable with the attention, say so. Any surfer with any sense will respect your boundaries and their own self-interest as your guest. If they are making you very uncomfortable, call a friend to come over, or direct them to a local hostel, hotel or campground to cool their heels and their libido there.

If you are a surfer and your host hits on you

Be respectful and firm in your boundaries. Be honest.

Always have a backup plan in case you are uncomfortable and need to leave. Have a list of local hotels, hostels, or contact information for other local CS hosts if possible. Once the CS phone network is up and running, you can use this to send out an emergency CS request if you're really stuck, but don't use this as your only backup. Have another plan.

If you kinda think your surfer/host is cute

CS is emphatically not a dating site and is not intended to be used for random hookups - if you're looking for that, there are other sites that are likely to get you better results without getting you in trouble.

However, we're aware that sometimes surfers/hosts discover a "spark" emerging during their CS experience and choose to act on it. Not to stand in the way of love (or, whatever) wherever it may be found, here are some tips to staying safe in this situation:

  • Think about the circumstance. This person has access to your home/is your only place to stay. If things turn ugly or uncomfortable(i.e., a roommate or boyfriend shows up at an inopportune moment), you may find yourself in very hot water (or out on the street with nowhere to go).
  • Consider how many days you will be sharing space with this person. Sharing a bathroom and shower is not conducive to new romance and can get awfully icky very fast.
  • Be very clear about your limits: if you are attracted to someone but don't want to be physical with them while surfing/hosting, say so. Speak clear expectations about who sleeps where, and be firm. If you aren't comfortable setting limits with the person, don't start walking down that road at all.
  • Know the person's full name and their contact information at home, at the very least. You may want to find each other later... for any variety of reasons.
  • Stay sober until you feel you know and can trust the person - alcohol and drugs are responsible for a whole lot of bad decisions in this arena.
  • Be very aware of cultural boundaries about gender roles, sexuality, and expectations. You could be entering into some dangerous territory without realizing it. (What happens if you think you've just had a casual fling and your partner thinks you've just signed a marriage contract?!)
  • In particular, be aware that in many cultures and with many people, if a woman consents a certain level of attention but then says "no," it is not expected that she really means it. Don't start down that path with someone unless you know what you're dealing with - you may end up in over your head when you try to apply the brakes.
  • Know the laws and customs of the country where you are traveling - some sexual behavior may put you at serious risk of arrest (or worse), especially if you are a woman, or if you are gay.
  • Be extremely safe about any sexual contact and do not ever allow your partner to talk you into unsafe sex for any reason. The risks, especially when traveling in unknown places, are too high.

    A few hints

    1. Check the references. Follow up on any that seem suspicious or guarded.
    2. Check the user name for red-flag words like "macho," "loverboy," "raunchygirl," et cetera.
    3. Does the person seems to be partying a little too much with one particular gender on the profile?
    4. Are there too many friends without references, only of one gender or persuasion?
    5. Respect.
    6. Be aware of "preferred" gender for hosting in the couch info - but don't be too hung up. If they prefer a particular gender, ask them why.

    Other tips and advice can be found here

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