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Tips for Hostel Co-habitation

Living with anyone requires compromise, communication, and a few rules. While hostel goers tend to be of like mind, that doesn’t mean we always play by the rules. Whether it’s a shared kitchen, shower, or room, here are a few tips to help you get along with your new roommates.

The Hostel Kitchen

You’ve finally managed to convince yourself to get out of the squeaky top bunk bed and head to the kitchen for breakfast. You grab a cup for tea and a plate and knife for toast. As you sit down to breakfast, are you focusing on your food or on the dishes and cultery?

Think about it (or maybe you shouldn’t). How clean are the dishes we’re using?! At home there’s no need to think twice because I have cleaned them myself. In the hostel’s kitchen, I like to imagine that everyone else washes their dishes as well as I do. But after watching a few people give a half-hearted effort to the forks and cups they’ve just repeatedly had in their mouths, I wonder whose germs and what food particles might remain on the spoon I just picked up.

Washing up TIP: You may not be able to influence the dish washing habits of others, but you can follow the “golden rule” of hot water and soap suds. As you’re washing, ask yourself “Would I want to eat off of this again” and try to clean with that in mind. Who knows — you may use that bowl and spoon tomorrow!

Hostel Showers

I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the cleanliness (or appearance) of hostel showers. Still, I invested in and wear a pair of shower shoes (whether you call them flip flops, thongs, jandals, etc.), which shield me from — just for example, not like this ever happens — various types of hair on the shower floor. I understand that we all lose some down the drain. I also get that those with long hair may put a few strands on the shower wall and then remove them (hopefully) afterward. From time to time I find a wad still on the wall. Forgivable. Not ideal, but it happens.

What should never happen is the clump of hair I recently found on the cold water knob. After the warm water turned hot, I started to reach for the cold and recoiled in shock. It was like Cousin Itt from the Addams Family was sitting there, covering any access I might have to the handle.

Shower TIP: If you don’t want to find someone else’s hair in the shower, don’t leave yours for others!

Food in the Hostel Bedroom

When I first walked into a 4-person all-female room in Melbourne, I found a few new friendly faces and several backpacks and suitcases. What I didn’t expect to find was a package of raw meat sitting on the floor.

At first glance I figured one of the girls had just gone grocery shopping and had not yet made it to the kitchen to put everything away. The next morning I awoke to find it in the same place but with my roommates gone. Ah, maybe they had simply forgotten it was there. I left for the day and when I returned hours later it was still there.

As it turns out, everyone thought it belonged to someone else and with coming and going at different times, we never asked each other about it. There were no passive aggressive notes left imploring the owner to toss it out, but no one acted either. I think house keeping eventually came to the rescue.

Food in the room TIP: Only non-perishable items please!

Hostel Kitchen Fridges

Speaking of food, those perishable items should be kept in the refrigerator, right? It’s a small miracle that most hostel fridges produce very little smell with the range of items (and range of food ages…) inside. Still, from time to time I encounter one with a downright offensive odor. I timidly open the door to catch a whiff of nothing short of what
would be simply called “funk”. If I don’t add my food to the fridge, it will go bad. But if I add it in, it might take on the smell of the funk. What is the lesser of two evils here?!

Refrigerator TIP: Wrap up your leftovers well and mind those expiration dates!

Label Your Food

In every hostel I have ever stayed in, there is a labeling system for food in the kitchen. List your name, room number, and check out date on your bag or individual items. This means these items belong to you. Clear and simple.

At least I think it’s clear and simple. But someone in my hostel in Adelaide didn’t think so. I popped into the kitchen on my second day to find a full bag of groceries missing. Hmm…maybe someone had picked it up by accident and moved it to another cubby? When I failed to find it, I reported the incident to reception and learned that two other people had their food stolen during the night as well.

I assume the thief was on a budget since he/she was staying in a hostel, but hello, we’re all in the same situation! Don’t break backpacker (and just plain decency) code by stealing food.

Mind your food TIP: Label everything clearly. Hungry and low on cash? Check out the free food box/shelf.

After meeting interesting hostel people and stumbling upon hygiene and food issues, I hope to finally move into an apartment in the next 2 weeks. I’m viewing a friend’s spare bedroom next weekend — wish me luck!

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