6 Things I Learned While Working At A Hostel

I hadn’t actually planned to work in a hostel when I moved to New Zealand, but this place always surprises me in the best of ways.

Since late November, I have been working up here in the Bay of Islands at a beautiful little hostel. Its directly across from the beach and has been nothing short of interesting.

I know that I haven’t talked a lot about life up here in the Far North, but don’t worry, I’m getting around to it.

1. People Suck

They’re dirty, inconsiderate and if you give them an inch, they will take a mile. I’ve cleaned up some pretty horrendous things in bathrooms, done the dishes for grown adults, and been blatantly ignored when speaking to guests.

I’ve had people sneak back in to use the facilities after checkout, and after multiple conversations about check out time. Several groups of barely 18 year olds just walked around with their headphones on all day and never spoke to anyone. A pair of boys burned a spot on the counter, a young woman copped attitude every time we spoke to her, an no one seems to know that its rude to be having a conversation outside someone’s open window at midnight.

Also – the office is closed and my shift is over. Stop knocking on my door.

2. People Are Lovely

I have met some seriously excellent people while working here. A Dutch girl who was there when I desperately needed a friend, a German girl who loves wine as much as I do, and a wonderful older couple from my area back home. Not to mention my unforgettable coworkers and heart-of-gold boss, of course. Plus like 100 other top-notch people.

I’ve been able to hear people’s stories, their “why” for their travels, and I’ve made plans to meet up later on somewhere else in the world. I’ve had people give the best hugs, cry when they said goodbye, and even buy me a bottle of wine as a Thank You.

Meeting people at a hostel can change your entire trip. You’ll get to go on new adventures and find new ways to connect with people who may not be at all like you. It’s a beautiful thing.

Pro Tip: Connect with people and exchange contact info. Don’t be embarrassed to ask for someone’s FB. Its 2018 ya’ll.

3. Cleaning Is Important

As previously mentioned in ‘People Suck’, I have done A LOT of cleaning. But I will never understand how not only can people brush their teeth so aggressively that it covers the walls, but then don’t even have the brain space to wipe it up.

Wipe down your bathroom regularly. Clean up the hair and please don’t leave me skid marks in the toilet. Keep your rubbish reasonably collected. Don’t spill food everywhere unless you really love snuggling up with ants. Actually, how about don’t take heaps of food into your room to begin with. The kitchen is communal, so please wipe down the area you used, and clean your freaking dishes.

I fear what some people’s homes look like.

Pro Tip: When traveling in even subtropic areas, mold can grow overnight. Please don’t leave standing water in the bathroom.

4. Patience Is A Virtue

I have told my story hundreds of times now. Please don’t take is personally when I am not the best conversationalist. I have no personal space (shared dorm) and I’m always ‘on’ because I live and work here. Frankly, I do not always want to chit chat, Im just trying to have my first cup of coffee. I do not want to have to clean up your mess in the kitchen before I am able to even cook for myself. This may be a hostel, but this is also my home. On occasion, I will need peace and quiet.

But no matter how annoyed I may get with people, this is still customer service. And if you’ve ever worked at Nordstrom, you know that ‘We come from a place of Yes’. So smile and move on because there is always a new lot checking in tomorrow. Some of them are bound to drive you just as crazy as these ones.

5. Motivation Is Key

Its easy to just sit around once your shift is over. But how are you going to recommend places to your guests if you’ve barely even left the hostel?

Get to know the town. Check out a few restaurants and shops, even go on a few tours. And don’t forget about any nearby hiking trails. I didn’t come to New Zealand for all work and no play. Even if I’m feeling excessively lazy some days, I force myself to get out and take a walk on the beach if nothing else. I realize its probably easier if you’re working at a hostel in a big city, but this is Paihia. 

Taking some time away from the hostel is good for your sanity. Plus, it eliminates that whole chit chat thing, which some days you simply cannot bear.

6. Most Importantly, I’m A Much Better Guest Now

-I will not EVER check out late unless already discussed with reception. It seriously puts a big dent in their day. Small hostels have a lot to do and no time for your inability to plan ahead.
-I wouldn’t even think of using the facilities after checkout unless I have spoken to reception about it. Don’t be a sneaky little prick.
-I wont call a hostel between 10am and 12pm. That’s their busiest time because they are cleaning rooms and dealing with checkouts. Bigger hostels with designated receptionists are fine, but at small hostels they’re elbow deep in laundry and toilet bowls.
-I will not have my friends over using facilities they did not pay for. Go back to your crappy hostel.
-I’m already pretty particular about the kitchen (just ask my friends), but I’ll make sure I always keep my area clear and do my own dishes.
-I will tidy up my room before checkout. Gather rubbish and just give the bathroom a quick once over. It may not seem like a lot, but it makes a big difference.


Some days I have wanted to pull my hair out. But I have had the opportunity to meet so many incredible people while working here. I may not have been rolling in cash, but the experience has been priceless.


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  1. EUROHOSTEL LIVERPOOL – This is in the restaurant/bar attached to the hostel which is just around the corner from Matthew Street which is arguably the birthplace of the Beatles.

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