Rural hospitality in the developing world

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Rural hospitality

Background - Todo - In the developing world - What rural means

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The following is a draft to hopefully generate discussion about how internet hospitality websites can work in rural areas in the developing world.'

Rural Hospex – Model for the Developing world ... If you have any questions or comments, please contact either, Justin about the content. Cheers!

Developed vs Developing

Developed vs developing. First World vs Third World. Western vs Non-Western. There is no politically correct way to find out just what the politically correct term is anymore when it comes to various societal standards. So, how can you so simply define the evolution of society? How can one define development in the first place? Rhetoric aside, for the purpose of this page we are going to stick with that of the developed and developing World. If you do wish to have a more elaborate understanding of what exactly constitutes a developed country or that of a developing country you can just use the links provided. We are no means stating that the information provided through those links are to be correct in meaning for everyone, but only to give each person reading a standard to start with.

With the above links provided, you can also find lists of which countries fit into either category of developed or developing.

An Overview

Rural in Developed world compared to Rural in Developing world:

Beside the general definition of rural, a distinction should be made between the Developed and Developing world. In the developed world most people in a rural setting still enjoy a high standard of living, or at the very least a standard of living which gives them means to meet there daily needs. While those living in rural areas in the developing world generally are poorer and/or have a lower standard of living than that of their urban counterparts. It must be understood that in many rural areas of developing countries internet access outside of cities can be non-existant. So, how can a website, make a difference to people who have never seen a computer in their life before?

Why bother?

Generally most people on internet hospitality exchange websites feel that as it is a web-based platform to facilitate real world experiences how can it possible work where there is no internet? But that is exactly the point as some people fail to realise that others lead complete lives without electricity and are able to offer the greatest culture exchange in the world. If internet hospitality websites are serious about facilitating culture exchange then it needs to happen where there can be the greatest exchange. This includes the rural areas of the developing world. People in developed nations often lead lives that are very disconnected to the natural world, while people living simple lives in rural areas of the developing world are closely connected to the land on which they live. What they lack in material wealth they make up for in wealth of spirit and soul. It should therefore be acknowledged that people from the developed world could learn a lot from a rural setting. It can also be proposed that many people from the developed world need to be reconnected with a more natural way of living far more than the false thinking that people from developing nations need material wealth.


There always will be an imbalance between the material wealth of people in different areas of the world. People’s material wealth will always be tied to the land that they live on. People living in areas rich in natural resources -be that rich in soil, minerals, timber or other resources– will have more than those living in areas that are not. Since the time of colonization this gap has only been accelerated by people from materially wealthy lands stealing, raping, pillaging and doing everything in their power to gain material wealth at the rest of the worlds expense. Despite many parts of the world having vast material wealth, the power and money associated with it has been deprived to the local people. Wealthy corporations and governments of Developed nations make deals to ensure that they gain a portion of materials that they are in no way entitled to. All while local people continue to struggle just in order to survive.

Humanity is currently living beyond its means and as a global population, our current way of life is unsustainable and people from developed nations are especially guilty of this. They often are totally disconnected from nature and the natural way of living due to a capitalistic, consumer based setting, and therefore must look at concepts such as de-growth if there is to be any hope of a balancing out with nature. There is no argument against this. It is our best hope then to look to these rural regions of the developing world where any form of long-term sustainability can be still be found in its purity and learn from them. If it is then possible for these people to see how people live more harmoniously with nature, than maybe it is possible for these people to take that knowledge back to their urban settings and put it into practice. This leaves the possibility open for an eye opening experience for both parties involved as there is enormous amount of knowledge to be shared and focused on between the two.

Difference between Rural Hospex in the Developed world and in the Developing world

  • Rural CS in the developed world is mostly between people of the same standard of living. While in the developing world it is someone from the developing world hosting someone from the developed world. With these things in mind one must realise the fact that life is different in the developing world compared to the developed world and so the hosting situation may be very different.
  • Very little internet access, if any at all.
  • Low likelihood of amenities such electricity, refrigerators, running water, or even a bed.
  • A complete reliance rests on the host versus partial reliance in the normal hospex relationship.
  • Lower chance of a common language spoken.
  • Greater chance of culture shock for those caught unprepared.
  • An expectation to stay for an extended period of time such as two weeks, or two months, in order to integrate into the rural experience.

In certain situations is can be asked that guests bring an appropriate gift for the family or community they are to be staying with. Depending on the people you are staying with, this could be a 1L jug of cooking oil, a big bag of salt, possibly money (given to mediator until enough money has been reached to buy an object – say a bicycle), or anything else that feels appropriate or has been sorted out through verbal communication with a mediator. Remember that this gift would be in addition to helping out around the house or village of your hosts.


The purpose of trying to bring about internet based hospitality in the rural areas of the developing is two fold. From the hosts point of view it would be to learn about people from different cultures and lifestyles while for the surfer it would be to learn about a completely different way of life to what they are used to. Asking one to step outside their regular realm of life and bare witness to that of one that may be completely different. In the very raw sense, is this not what CS is all about to begin with? People from developed countries often get so caught up coming to the 'aid' of subsets of developing countries to provide them with what we think they want, that we often forget the most important point at hand which is. "We should be asking these people (communities) what they want, and then working from there to help them achieve it by any means available.''

Mediators / Facilitators

Since there can be no internet in the rural areas someone will have to act as the middle person between the rural areas and the surfer. People in cities near to rural areas could be contacted by someone seeking a rural experience and could be checked to see if they are an appropriate intermediary. İf appropriate and proven, they could then proceed with instructions about how to reach the rural area.

Who would be good facilitators?

  • People who understand the local culture but also understand life in the developed world such as foreigners already living there. This can mean; Peace Corps Volunteers, European Volunteer Service, and Volunteer Service Overseas all have foreign people based in rural areas of developing countries. Expats could also make excellent mediators.
  • Local people who have had the opportunity to travel themselves before coming back to their rural setting.
  • Students who study part of the year in in an urban area but then return to their rural village.

Community Couch

As previously mentioned, there is a high probability that rural hosts in the developing world will be poor. For them regional travel is unlikely to neighbouring countries let alone to another continent. Therefore there has to be a real benefit for them to take strangers into their house. If possible, rather than just have one family host guest it could be easier if an entire community invested in hosting the surfer or at the very least, multiple families. The surfer could then give back to the entire community while doing; translation work, helping at a school, helping out a health clinic, helping with the harvesting/work, or anything that the village may need help with that you yourself have skills in or are willing to learn. The most important thing about the experience would be that you are there to help the villagers with anything that they need, not what you think they need. This could all be done with the help of a friendly mediator if necessary.

Language Barrier

It can be expected that in many developing rural areas of the world the potential guest will not know the local dialect or language in the area of which they will be travelling. This is where the importance of the mediator comes in for the initial part of the process by being able to start the integration of the host into the rural setting. As a guest, you should be expected to research and if all possible learn some basics of the area in which you want to be hosted. Be prepared to learn some of the local language to enhance and enjoy your stay. It should never be implied or expected that the people from the rural area should need to speak the same language as you. You are the guest in their community.

Guidelines and expectations for guests

Although rural hospex in developing countries will be a completely different experience from that of a urban setting, it can still be good to take a look at some of the guidelines of "How to be a good guest". Below is a list of guidelines that should be respected during your rural experience. We tend to believe that a rural experience in the developing world will be like participating with wwoof, only without the bureaucracy, payment structure, expected labour, and general lack of hospitality. If you are going to spend time within a rural community, you are expected to give something back.

* Be part of the community Make sure that you know what will be expected from you before going to the rural area. This can be sorted out yourself through direct communication with the area if possible, or with that of a mediator. Don't be afraid to ask what type of help it is that will be doing and how you will be able to integrate with the family or community will be staying with. Always remember to listen to what your hosts want, not what you think they need. From there, you will be able to do your best to help in any way possible.

* Be ready to help

If you agree that you're willing to help three hours a day, after one hour do not say that you don't want to help anymore and that you're going for a walk. Respect what has been agreed upon and give even more if you are able and enjoying it. Try to be flexible with your hosts and work with their daily schedules.

* Respect your limits

Never accept a task that you are not comfortable doing, no matter the cultural sensitivity. Be sure to know what you're going to do in advance and that you'll be able to do it. If a host ask you for something that you can't handle, then refuse kindly and propose your help for something else. There must be a bond of mutual respect built between the host and those being hosted. For example, if you are a vegan and plan to attempt a rural experience in Mongolia, be sure that it is known to your hosts (if through direct communication or mediator) why you live this way and that it is of no disrespect to their customs.

* Don't believe that your help is paying a hotel service

Working in the garden for two hours doesn't prevent you helping with other day to day chores. Helping two hours a day for five days doesn't make you unable to give any extra help needed. In general, as with any internet hospex experience, be ready to give a little hand for other daily tasks on top of what you are expected to give primarily if the hosts are comfortable with you doing so.

* Bring appropriate clothing

If you know that you'll be helping in the garden, don't bring only your brand new skirt or your favourite pants. Adapt yourself to the situation.

* Be curious but respectful

Don't expect your hosts to entertain you with rural experiences for your entire duration. Be curious and willing to help and learn within the limit of the your hosts hospitality and do your best to be helpful, but not in the way during your down time. Be able to fill in your own free time without any outside help as it may very well come to this on many occasions.

* Cultural differences

As with any travel experience, you can expect to run across some cultural sensetivities whilst visiting developing rural areas. This could be anything from learning a particular greeting and basic local phrase, to the particular mannerisms and dress codes that may apply in a rural village of South-East Asia. Before you go to a developing rural area with the intent to be hosted, take the time to learn about the local customs and try to respect them.


Entering into some areas you may encounter forms of scarcity that you have never dreamed of. Do not leave taps running and be respectful of shared resources.

Don't just wash your hands in just any water trough you see. It may be the family's drinking water reservoir. Scoop some out first with a cup, or better yet ask your host where to wash your hands.


There may or may not be any public transport to where you are going, there also may or may not be roads. Instructions to someone´s house may be as follows:

'From the main town, hitch-hike 70km south. Walk into the village, ask for the mzungo (forigner). Quote from Taylor

Traveling at night or during certain times of the year may not be possible. Road signs may or may not exist.


There are many ways in which a Rural CS program in the developing World could be marketed.

  • Couchsurfing Volunteers. As with the Rural CS group which is already implemented, certain people with an interest in helping further Rural Hospex in the developing World can volunteer to help with this new sub-group. Helping to create and maintain maps, updating the couchsurfing wiki, answering questions from the curious, and helping the general and overall development of the group during its evolution.
  • Word of Mouth. This has the potential to be the best marketing tool that will help rural hospex within the developing World by asking fellow couchsurfers to spread the word when they travel. No matter if they are travelling to urban or rural areas it would be in the best interest of the group to spread the word to anyone interested in a rural experience. The best people in this situation will be the couchsurfers who most often travel to rural destinations. These people would also be able to tell potential hosts to sign up to the group and get there name and details added to the map.
  • Mutual cooperation. Through contacting other people from various non-profit organisations, NGO's, and other volunteer organisations. By using this communication to develop and promote rural hospex in developing countries through these other organisations. A shared promotion and communication would be reciprocated by couchsurfers for other organisations helping out the rural cause.

Technical requirements

A first draft of a network of Rural hospex Maps has been created. The Global Map now has links to six seperate continent maps. From there, the maps are again divided into individual country maps. Currently only Canada, USA, France and Australia currently have maps created to be populated. Adding additional countries is a relatively simple process and any help is not only appreciated, it is encouraged!.

As of September 2012 we are trying to transition away from google and create our map system through openstreetmaps. It is envisioned it will look something like the hitch wiki maps: .


As of right now there is no icon created for rural couchsurfing in developing countries. Any suggestions would be appreciated. Excellent examples of icons can be found here at the Rural CS icons India page.


Taylor generally manages the wiki and Justin is working hard to develop and promote the rural hospex in the developing World. You can also see what is happening in the rural couchsurfing team and maybe someone there can help you. As different country groups are created and become active, access to add people to the map will be given to different rural country group moderators once there has been some sort of discussion as to what rural means for that country/area.