The Perils Of Hostels

It doesn’t matter where you are in the world, there are common features that will be present in every hostel. Australians, traveling with other Australians, the Red Hot Chilli Peppers on the Hostel afternoon play list and if its that sort of Hostel, on the evening play list. The shower will invariably have something slightly wrong with it. Whether it drips, or sprays painfully fast, whether it goes cold sometimes, doesn’t work in between 9pm and 10pm, whether a minor turn in the temperature handle causes a dramatic change in the actual temperature, or just something else; a miscellaneous difficulty, its guaranteed that it won’t be exactly as you wish. But then I think this can be said for almost any shower hostel or not. When you first start using hostels, these things grate. After a time you just accept them as a given. What is definitely a given is that online hostel reviews can be always be ignored; the following is a guide to translation:

  • Unfriendly staff = one member of staff was a little brisk with someone who’s probably an idiot.
  • Dirty = Reviewer is someone who shouldn’t stay in hostels.
  • Unsafe = There were coloured people staying and the reviewer is racist
  • Friendly atmosphere = above average number of people, probably bearded or Australian asking banal traveler questions and handing out unsolicited travel advice – this can be categorized affectionately as hostel chat

I went to the University Of Life (and Durham)

Hostel chat is unavoidable unless you are middle aged. If you are middle aged and staying in hostel no one will talk to you willingly, obviously. If you are even quasi-not-disgusting and female everyman will talk to you, obviously. The chat may, if you are lucky stray, but the basic structure will remain the same.

Q1. Have you just arrived? If Yes go to Q2 if no go to Q3

Q2 – Oh! when did you arrive? The answer to this question does not matter go to Q4

Q3 – How long are you staying for? The answer to this question doesn’t matter, they will say something like this: ‘oh not long then/ oh! quite a while then– you should go to [[insert landmark, church, beech or whatever the place is famed for]. Bare in mind this segment of hostel chat can vary extensively in length, the dedicated hostel chat artist can stretch out a laundry list of destinations with directions for the duration of an entire meal or longer. Again, in general your response doesn’t matter. Once they are all out of advice, there will be a pause… go to Q 6

Q4 Where have you just come from? Somewhere where they have been to Q5 somewhere they haven’t Q6

Q4 – Did you go to [insert landmark, church, beech or whatever the place is famed for]? If yes go to Q5 if no go back to Q3

Q5 Its amazing isn’t it? Again it doesn’t matter what you say – go back to to Q4 until all the places the hostel chattist knows from that place are exhausted, then go to Q3.

Q6 Where are you going next? If it is somewhere they know – go back to Q3 if not go to Q7

Q7 Where are you from? This question may come here or after Q2. What is guaranteed is that it will at some point be followed by your standard 5 golden banal questions strangers ask each other upon meeting in bars, clubs, hostels, airplanes etc.

What do you do?

Do you enjoy it?

And either A. Whats it like? Or B I’ve been there, do you know [insert place in your town]

How long have you lived there?

All the time if its a single male (and even if its not) they are listening out for a mention of a boyfriend and more pressingly a sign of if the boyfriend is with them. If the boyfriend is with them then the above questions will be asked with a distracted air and the directions and advice will be given with much less depth. Whatever, the successful completion of this conversation is an unspoken invitation to sit and talk to you whenever they see you around. It doesn’t matter if you are reading, or using your netbook (everyone in hostels has one nowadays, even retards). There is nothing you can do about this. If you have had hostel chat, your are their hostel friend.

If you want to avoid this conclusion. You must kill it dead at Q1

 Q1. When did you arrive?

You: What! Who knows I’ve arrived? – shit! – open your Netbook at this point (keep it with you at all times such occasions) and frantically start typing. Shit shit shit! I’m sorry – I’ve got to send this now. Keep typing until they go away. If they try to speak to you, gesture an apology with your hand and one minute with your finger. With luck, news will spread amongst the other guests that you are weird and probably dangerous, they will speculate on your back ground, motivations and next move, you’ll be a conversation boon – no one will talk to you but they’ll take about you. In fact this is what they will fill in the conversation void that is ever present between hostel friends post hostel chat. The rest of the time they will just be exchanging the names of cheap places to eat, travel, stay, drink and obviously sights they visited and took pictures of themselves next to. Bare in mind if you complete the hostel chat then these pictures will be foisted upon you over breakfast no matter how unwilling your words and body language. 

An optional extra for those who don’t want to take any chances is to wear dark sunglasses at all times, inside and outside, morning, afternoon, evening and in bed. This won’t make you look any more dangerous or weird, it’s just even hostel chat artists will be able to recognise you as a prick.

Dedicated to back packers, hosteliers and Australia – for a country with such strict immigration controls you emigrants prevalence around the world is quite fantastic.


About Paul David Beaumont

Occasional journalist, part-time socialist & full time International Relations PhD student. Available for hire - but never in the morning. Academia page:
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