After so many months in a high-end working environment, never going out a day with less than business casual attire, the backpacker hostels here in New Zealand are a bit of a culture shock for me.
It is a complete different world with different rules and it seems that the past year has changed me, because I find them somewhat strange.
Backpackers have a very set identity. They are proud to be backpacking and to be “adventurous” and to get to know foreign cultures and do things ordinary tourists don’t do. They want to see the “real” life of the locals, visit places no tourist has set foot in before. Of course, all of them want to do that and all of them usually travel on a budget as not having money is part of this identity as well. They have everything they have with them in their backpacks, which are gigantic monstrous things they carry on their backs, oftentimes loaded with additional things like sleepingbags.
Some backpackers are childish, going from party to party, comparing amongst each other whose parents sent them more money and more “care-packages” with all the “important” items they need and can not get in New Zealand, for example tooth brushes (I am not kidding you, there was this girl complaining how the toothbrushes she found were either too soft or too hard so she skyped her parents who keep sending them to her. From Europe.). They usually have an iP*d with which they take all their pictures, usually selfies about their skydiving experience.
Then there are the broke backpackers who snag away the last of the free breakfast because they are so in need. Usually they have a few pounds too many on their hips which makes you wonder if they should really eat the last 4 slices of toast they just put into the toaster, but they can’t stop complaining on how they have to go Wwoofing again because they ran out of money again (for whatever reason).
Then there are the anti-tourist backpackers, who only do things the locals do. They tend to wear bright outdoor clothes, but will not stop telling you how you suck because you went to the touristy place while they took a tour only the locals would do and how you suck because you ate lunch over there and that is a place recommended by the Lonely Planet and that a local recommended a different place and that the food there was so much better. They have huge SLR cameras to take the best pictures ever and make an effort to talk like the locals (“G’day!”). And they refuse to talk in their mother tongue, even if you speak it because they only want to talk in English.
Then there are the party people who come into the hostel drunk at 3 AM and make some noise. Fortunately for me I am a heavy sleeper (is that the contrary of light sleeper?) and I don’t hear them, I just sleep through their drunken songs and their quarrels and their discussions about life.
I think that there might not be two worlds that are more apart from each other than the working culture in Tokyo and the backpacker culture in New Zealand. I have to worry less about appearances, less about being formal and about hierarchies and less about offending people because backpackers don’t take offense that easily, they are more relaxed. While I certainly enjoy some parts of this kind of lifestyle, I know it is only temporarily and that I will find my way back into the workforce soon enough and I will probably miss all of this (even though I am complaining right now).