WWOOFing is a great way to travel around a new country. We chose to WWOOF in New Zealand & it was the best decision we ever made. Here are our top tips to the make the most of your WWOOFing experience.
1- Always read the reviews…but take them with a pinch of salt.
I treated the WWOOFing website like Trip Advisor; If all of the reviews are negative then you would be best to avoid. If the reviews are glowing with one negative review it’s more than likely a great place to stay. Most of the reviews are really genuine but we did see one or two that just seemed malicious. I think the problem is that people sign up for WWOOFing and expect to get a free bed & 3 meals a day for nothing! It’s called Willing Workers On Organic Farms. You are expected to work & earn your keep! Go into the experience knowing that you will work hard for a few hours a day but in return will be fed, watered & taken care of by your host family.
2-Avoid any hosts who say you will stay in a separate holding to them & eat your own meals.
This is not what WWOOFing is about! WWOOFing is a culture exchange. It’s about long conversations over dinner exchanging experiences & cultures. Whilst searching for our host we came across more and more ‘hosts’ who looked as though they were using the site for cheap labour. WWOOFing is as much about the culture & communication as it is about the work. One profile I read specifically said that they didn’t want you to interact with them or their family. Another said you’d be living in a cottage over 7KM from the host families home. More worrying was a profile which could hold up to 12 WWOOFers at a time in a converted barn who had to provide all of their own meals but were still expected to work 4hrs a day. Please avoid these hosts, they are not encompassing the real heart of the WWOOFing community.
Best part of farm life, the fresh produce!
3- Make sure you tailor every email to every host.
You wouldn’t send the same cover letter to every job you apply for, so why would you send the same generic message to every host? Actually read the hosts profile. Tell them WHY you think you would be a great fit for their home. Because at the end of the day, these people are inviting you into their HOME. Where they live. Tell them a bit about yourself & what you can bring to the table. For me, I openly told our potential hosts that I was a city girl though & through but I was always up for a challenge and enjoyed learning new skills. Show off some of that dazzling personality.
4- Don’t send requests to 50 different hosts.
Something that really grinds hosts gears is that they will receive an email from a potential WWOOFer that would be a good fit with them only to then discover they have decided to go with someone else or…even worse…just never get back to them. These people could be holding a bed for you that could go to another traveller or even worse, they could’ve spent money preparing a meal for your arrival. I recommend emailing perhaps 6-10 hosts & then as soon as you have something email any hosts you haven’t heard back from thanking them for their time but you now have a host for those dates. Manners don’t cost anything & you never know, you may end up staying with these other hosts at a later date.
My favourite on the farm, Baby Bunny.
5- If you are unsure of anything on the hosts profile – ask!
As I’ve motioned in previous articles, I’m terrified of bees & most of the farms in New Zealand have hives. Anna assured me they were out of sight & at opposite ends of the farm which made me feel a lot more comfortable. (Although hives on a farm does mean buckets of honey for breakfast each day…yum!)
6- Agree the terms of your stay before you arrive
Can you only stay the 2 weeks you have requested or are the hosts negotiable? Our hosts were flexible as it was Winter but a lot of hosts will have a packed schedule of WWOOFers passing through so will need exact dates. (We planned for 2 weeks and stayed almost 3 months!)
If you have any allergies or dietary requirements your host will need to be aware of these before you arrive. Most hosts are flexible but if you have a severe allergy or are vegetarian/vegan then your host may decline your request or advise that you will have to prepare your own meals.
Make sure you have a clear idea of what is expected of you. What time do you need to start & finish every day & will you have any days off? Also, bare in mind that even though your official WWOOF hours may be 10am-2pm, you are still expected to help out with dishes, cleaning & making dinner.
7- Leave your nice clothes in your suitcase
I spent the whole time in joggers, a t-shirt, checked shirt & hoodie! Not a scrap of make up & my hair pulled back. It’s a farm, not a cat walk so leave the cute jeans & tees in your suitcase for when you have time off. And be sure to pack a nailbrush to remove the mud caked under your fingernails!
Hair scrapped back but look how happy I am with that baby hare we saved from being the cats next snack.
8- Show gratitude
It’s nice to give your hosts a gift from where you live or at the very least, cook a meal from your country. I introduced our host to proper home made scotch eggs & our French WWOOFer introduced all of us to French gallettes. YUM! A genuine host will be interested in you & where you have come from.
9- Remember to leave a review
After your stay the host can review you & vice versa which is always great for future WWOOFers to read. Be honest, but don’t be petty. If you and the host just didn’t click, don’t leave a negative review. Sometimes people just don’t get along. By all means say the types of work you did & that you didn’t click but no point in telling people not to WWOOF here because the host is a pig (unless they actually are!)
10- Enjoy yourself!
This is an incredible opportunity to immerse yourself in local life. Breathe in every single moment. You won’t regret it.
Have you WWOOFed before? What tips would you share with potential WWOOFers? Let us know in the comments below.