Staying in a dormitory is not all about saving a few dollars, though price is usually a big factor in people’s decision to share a room with strangers. It is, however, one of the easiest places to make friends fast while traveling…. and it is these connections that you will cherish long after you return home.
1. Why Share Space
There’s a variety of accommodation options out there to meet people including dorms or shared rooms of hostels, guesthouses and sometimes bed and breakfasts. The level of camaraderie is off the charts, and there is always someone who can offer advice on the best route or a hidden gem that is not in the travel guide or internet. Finding those with shared interests is easy. You may find someone that you can share a tour, taxi or scooter. Quite often you will even find extended travel companions.
Sharing space offers opportunities to interact with people from diverse countries, races, religions and backgrounds. Friendships are easily forged with those who you may never have a met under normal circumstances.
Sharing a dorm with strangers or meeting new friends on the road and deciding to share a room are ways to economize, decrease loneliness and learn about other travelers.
2. To Make a Friend, Be a Friend
So you are sharing space with fellow travelers? How to you make or maintain friendships? Respect is the key factor. Abiding by the golden rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. Combine this with an open, friendly and approachable attitude and you will maintain current friendships and win new ones.
The golden rule – be kind and smile!
3. 15 Simple Rules of the Road
Say “hello” when you enter your room and introduce yourself
This is no time to be shy. You’ve traveled to have amazing experiences and meet new people. It’s time to make friends or at least be friendly with your new companions. Who knows? You could immediately make a new connection. Just saying your name, where you are from and your travel plans will open up a world of conversation.
Keep your area tidy
This is not a hotel room and most definitely not your bedroom back home. While you might not have a problem with clothes strew all over the floor or your bed, others might. Do your very best to use any storage available for your luggage and keep the area around your bed clean and tidy.
Respect people’s personal space
Remember that some people might feel uncomfortable when you invade their personal space. If you see someone reading a book or any other private moment, be polite and don’t bother them. When it comes to greeting people, not everyone is a hugger too. Offer a handshake and in the first instance and use your common sense from there. Another big no no is sitting on someone else’s bunk uninvited.
Don’t touch other people’s belongings
Okay, this should be common sense. If it doesn’t belong to you, don’t use, borrow or take it without permission. If it’s not your bed, don’t sit or hang your underwear on it without asking. If something is in your way, like a backpack, negotiate where it can be placed. Shared space is about negotiating so that everyone can win.
Use common areas for eating meals and/or drinking alcohol
The dorm is for sleeping, not dining. If permissible with the owners, a snack is fine. A giant smelly meal is not.
If you are ill, get a private room
No one wants your cold or to hear you cough all night. If you are contagious, you need your own room. If you will disturb others, get your own room.
Respect quiet hours
Quiet hours are sometimes posted, but if not, keep the loud talking or Skyping down after midnight or when others are sleeping. If you come in late, don’t turn on the main light or start loud conversations. Close the door QUIETLY. Try to be as quiet as you can. Many people are catching early flights, trekking at early hours or just go to bed at a decent hour, you night owl.
Turn down the volume and brightness of electronic devices at night
Everyone will not be able to sleep with the beeps from your messages, the ring of your phone or the distracting quality of a fully lit screen. Turn off the volume and turn down the brightness of the screen if you are an internet addict and can’t put down your phone or laptop (and who isn’t).
Bring earplugs and/or a sleeping mask if you are a light sleeper
People come in late, leave early, snore, need to turn on a light or the sun may just come up early. Protect yourself from inadvertent, thoughtless or sometimes unavoidable disturbances by taking your rest into your own hands.
Maintain good personal hygiene
If you have ever sat next to someone with bad body odor you will understand how horrible an experience this is for everyone within smelling range. Don’t be that guy/girl who goes out all day sightseeing, getting sweaty and stinky, then goes straight to bed. Stay clean and fresh wherever possible at all times. Shower, brush your teeth, use deodorant as if you are going on a date with one of the people in your room.
People are unlikely to tell you to your face so don’t wait for a hint. You are far more likely to make friends when people don’t need a peg on their nose just to talk to you.
Don’t get amorous in a shared space
You’ve met Mr/Miss Right or Right Now. Romance is exciting…for you. Find a private space or get a private room to speak the language of love. The only ones in your dorm who want to see and hear you make love are the weirdos.
Leave those stinky shoes outside or in a sealed plastic bag
As a backpacker, we are pretty limited on the number of footwear that we can fit in our pack. We also tend to walk… a LOT… and unfortunately, that combination can very easily result in the dreaded foot odor. If you are prone to smelly feet we suggest using a product like odor-eaters and leaving your shoes outside to air out. If that is not possible, store them in a plastic bag, spray with deodorant, and seal. When taking a shower, wear flip flops so you don’t share your toe jam or someone else’s.
Use spray outside the room
If you are spraying it (cologne, deodorant, insect repellent etc.) do it outside the room. Everyone may not enjoy the smell that you are disbursing. Do it in the hall or bathroom.
Abide by the hostel policies
Yes we understand, you are on holiday and you want to live it up a little. We don’t like rules as much as the next person BUT, if you want to maintain a good relationship with the people in your hostel, and more importantly the hostel staff, it is important to suck it up and follow the rules.
If you are leaving early in the morning, pack the night before
Take a few minutes and pack your bag and put your clothes out for the next day at a decent hour. It also helps you to get out on time, a win-win for everyone.
The overall message to take from this guide is common sense. Just because you are in a foreign country, where you don’t know anyone, doesn’t make it ok to act like an idiot.
Respect the people around you! This is as much their space to enjoy as it is yours. Remember that!