Who needs a significant other when you live in a dorm?
A lot of people apparently. I hear them through my paper thin walls, but wait, that wasn’t the point. The great part about living in a dorm is that most often its that perfect sweet spot between being annoyed by the very breathing of other people and being lonely. The kitchen, underequipped though it is, is the proverbial water cooler, and there’s so many spontaneous jokes shared there while waiting around for the few lone working stoves to get free. Not to mention the chance to try authentic food from as far off places as you can imagine, from just about every continent. Why just the other day a guy from Georgia was boiling some eggs in a tin can and offered me one. You learn new styles of cooking from exotic lands – recently I saw my Korean friend cut his frozen pizza with a pair of scissors. He lost his knife a few months ago.
The shared loos are another place where one is exposed to various cultures. The long list of rules, instructions, ending in threats is translated into several languages and plastered around the stalls, making for good bathroom reading. Of course that still doesn’t ensure compliance to basic loo etiquette, I suppose not everyone speaks the common language of not being a jackass! But here I am getting side-tracked again. Germans are famed for their efficiency, yet it seems to be built on a shaky foundation of basic mathematics. To share between about 10 people, there are 8 sinks but only 3 showers. Unfortunately, all 3 showers are in a single cubicle so most often it counts as one. Unless you are quite open-minded, the reasons for not putting up some partitions are quite mysterious. Oh, did I mention it’s a mixed gender dorm (though that’s obvious in Europe, its definitely not in India)?
The rooms are private spaces, that only friends are privy to. All the rooms are identical of course, down to the same furniture and curtains. That doesn’t stop people from peering into each other’s rooms through ajar doors whenever there’s a chance to. I wonder why we are all so curious to get that sneak peek into our dorm mate’s rooms, but its an undeniable truth. Maybe we just want to find out who the messiest ones are, or the annoying ones that vacuum at odd hours of the day? Its really not like we don’t already know enough about each other, by the end of the semester you recognise their footsteps, bathroom schedule, eating habits and if you are really unlucky – sexual preferences.
The best part about dorm life is the limitless and shameless perks that come with having no qualms admitting to your lack of worldly possessions. This helps to adhere to a strict student budget, where every Euro saved on unnecessary items like owning more than 3-4 of plates, cups etc. is diverted to the beer fund. That’s why its our general rule in here, that if you are invited to join someone for a meal, you are expected to bring your own utensils with you. It also means you can use an empty beer crate as a night stand, drink champagne from a coffee cup, knock on each other’s door to borrow anything from a pen to a pot, and on lazy weekends when the fridge is empty, pool your odds and ends to make a meal together. All you need is a system, and resource utilisation can be maximised – 3 of us have co-owned a bike for months now and it works great. My single complaint is I seem to be the only one who ever feels the need to fill air in the tires. But since I have access to fascinating cultural discussions over alcohol from so many different places (favourites being Indian rum - Old Monk, homemade Hunagrian Palinka, Radler from Austria – Goesser, and beer from the Netherlands) I’ll let this one pass.
Starting dormlife in my mid-20s, I was truly apprehensive of what was awaiting me. But I wouldn’t go back and change my decision for the world. I’m all set to move into my own place soon, and as pangs of separation anxiety crop up, its comforting to know that the memories and friends I’ve made here are for life. These are the people you can count on to come hug you when you need it, listen to your cranky monologues in the middle of the night, get drunk with you when the occasion calls, lie in the sun near the log in the summer the whole day and pretend to study, help you with moving, teach you how to use the drier, tease you about your quirks relentlessly, make Ikea trips and grocery trips, raise their eyebrows to impossible heights at every time they catch a male friend coming to or leaving your room and deal with just about anything else that life throws your way.