Sharing a kitchen with strangers has its challenges, and it can be especially difficult for new travellers who have not yet learned the unspoken rules of hostel kitchen etiquette.
With my experience of staying in hostels over the last few years, I’ve seen varying degrees of hostel kitchen foolery.
So to help you avoid making any awkward faux pas, I’ve put together a list of some of the most important do’s and don’ts of a hostel kitchen.
So let’s start off with the most important….
DON’T steal other people’s food
Obviously. This seems, well, obvious so I’m going to assume nobody reading this would do it on purpose. Instead, I’ll focus on ‘accidental stealing’. Don’t do that either. Always check to make sure what you’re eating is, well, yours! You may be in a small town or a village with just one shop and limited supplies, so don’t be surprised if many of the other hostel guests have the same food supplies stocked in the hostel kitchen fridge.
DO label your food
I know this can be a pain, especially when you’re frequently moving from hostel to hostel, but it helps to avoid confusion when it comes to food ownership. To make things easier for you, just put all of your food in a plastic bag and write your name on it with a permanent marker, and re-use the bag in each hostel; +1 points for being eco-friendly!
DON’T leave your mess in the kitchen
There’s nothing worse than entering a hostel kitchen to cook your meal, only to find a pile up of dirty dishes in the sink, left behind from the previous users. You’ll find that a lot of hostel kitchens put up signs like, ‘you’re not at home now, clean up after yourself’, and they’re right. If you can’t manage to clean up some dishes after preparing a meal, you should really ask yourself if you’re ready to travel the world! Consider that other people have to use the kitchen after you. Take 5 minutes to clean up…properly!
DO offer to donate seasonings and condiments
The great thing about hostel life is that it’s a cyclically moving ecosystem. As so many people come and go all the time, most hostel kitchens will have a nice supply of seasonings, condiments and other food that previous backpackers have donated to the cause. So, before you go shopping for your next meal, make sure to check out what’s available for use in the kitchen.
DON’T take forever
Hey, you’re a backpacker staying in a hostel, not a gourmet chef in a Michelin star restaurant; there’s no need to spend 5 hours in the kitchen preparing a pork loin roast.
Most people just stick to pasta…
DO make your local dish and share it with other travelers
When we were in San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico, we got to experience a traditional Israeli dish made by a group of Israelis celebrating their country’s New Year. When we were in Isla Holbox, a group of German backpackers invited us to a huge dinner they were preparing. It wasn’t necessarily a German dish, but we really appreciated the kind sentiment. So be nice, invite other travellers for food and get to know each others’ culture.
DON’T be stingy
Most backpackers are on a budget. When someone offers to cook a giant meal for 15 people, they more than likely don’t want to pay for it all. Different cultures will read into ‘being invited to dinner’ differently, so it’s always good to ask beforehand whether you need to pay your share or not. If not, try to help out in other ways in the kitchen, by chopping vegetables, or run to the local shop to buy something to contribute to the dinner.
DO pay it forward
Are you really gonna bring that tub of butter with you on an overnight bus to another country? I know you’re on a budget, but you’ll probably only use it a handful of times again. Why not offer it to new guests who have just arrived and are about to go buy food supplies or, like above, donate it to the hostel so other guests can get the most out of it. Who knows, when you arrive at your next destination, some other travellers might just do the same for you!
Good karma and the chance to do something nice for others is always good idea.
Did I miss anything? Do you have any other do’s or don’t to add to the list?