How to Be the Only Girl in a Mixed Dorm
As a solo traveller, staying in dorm rooms is fun. Personally, I’ve never felt uncomfortable sharing a room with strangers, as I understand the practicality of the hostelling system; that old travel philosophy of just getting on with it.
Then again, because of personal preference, I will always try to book into the girls’ dorm first. If it isn’t available then I’ll happily take the mixed dorm option. Or so I thought. Then I entered my six-bed mixed dorm in Munich, where I was the only girl, and realized that I felt uncomfortable. I’d shared dorms with guys before–two Germans in Shanghai and two Irish brothers in Beijing–but there were always a couple of other girls there as well.
During my three-night stay, I discovered some of the differences between being a girl in a girls’ dorm vs. a mixed dorm:
In my all-girls’ dorm in Vienna, after a day out, we would repack our bags, make our beds, or reorganise our lockers. In contrast, in Munich, I witnessed more clothes being flung, money being dropped, and forgotten soggy towels draped over bunk posts.
Friendly vs. Flirty
I’m aware that some mistake friendliness for flirting, and I’m a very friendly person. I was aware of this in Munich, and whilst I was naturally friendly, I remained careful about making sure it wouldn’t be perceived as more than that. I watched Eurovision with a couple of guys, had breakfast with another, discussed books with a third, and gave tour directions to a fourth. These are all ways that I would act around girls, and I ensured that I gave off no wrong impressions. In Shanghai, I went clubbing with my two German dorm-mates along with a couple of other hostel friends, but one got a bit too friendly. Since then, I’ve become much more careful about how I act.
I’ve grown more European now; I’m quite relaxed about stripping off, within reason. Obviously I didn’t do this when boys were present, so I found myself scrabbling under the sheets, hoping my wiggling wasn’t suggestive whilst also praying that my scrunched up knickers wouldn’t fling out into their faces and that something Bridget Jones-style like that wouldn’t happen. It was either that or changing after a shower, which was inconvenient because my clothes always dropped from the pegs as soon as they sensed a wet floor.
When I entered my Beijing dorm, there was a sign on the bathroom door reading, ‘Dear friends, please do poo poo in the reception toilet. Many thanks!’ just to set the tone. However, my dorm mates were two fitness-freak Irish brothers so I learnt to forgive them. In general, I’d always wait a good 20 minutes after they’d left the bathroom, and in the mornings, I’d try to shower first. This might sound diva-ish and gender stereotypical, but when you’re out of your comfort zone, you surprise yourself by how you can subconsciously revert to societal views!
Really, it all comes down to personal preference and what is available to you. Whether you share a dorm room with boys or girls isn’t the most important part. My favourite part is finding out my dorm mates’ home countries and listening to their stories. Whilst you may be pretty impressed with your own extraordinary adventure so far, allow yourself to be wowed by others and their magnificent stories too. That is, I think, the essence of travel: to discover, share, and continue.
Photo credit: Heribert Pohl