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The phrase; "Boys have cooties" was always circulated when I was a child, mainly from other kids who watched way too much American television. In my four months of living in a Berkeley fraternity house among college-aged American boys (they 100 percent couldn't be called men, they needed full-time agony aunts), I learned numerous life lessons whether I wanted to or not. Mainly that personal hygiene and a basic understanding of women are deeply lacking, and there's nothing I can do to change either of those things. Bear in mind that this frat house is just one of dozens in Berkeley alone, and that sarcasm will be heavily used in this article. I won't be naming any names (though I'd love to) and many frat boys I met were positively lovely. It was just the few that needed basic lectures about toxic masculinity and domestic chores that will be targeted by my literary wrath.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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1. If they make eye contact with you, they're most likely drunk or high and have obtained a mysterious confidence.

Waking up in the morning and emerging through the jungle of empty beer bottles and fast food takeaway boxes, if you make it to the disgusting kitchen and run into a boy, he'll scutter away into the darkness or refuse to look you in the eye. Whether we'd be standing only centimetres apart while frying off eggs or toasting bread, chances are high that you won't be addressed. They're probably terrified of you, or don't know how to communicate with a woman without downing a keg of beer first.

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Many of these boys are spectacularly wealthy (well, their families are.) You need to have some connection to cash to get into college in the USA, usually but not always of course. Many of these boys also went to prep schools, with other boys surrounding them. Their only opportunity to talk to women often is on nights out in clubs or bars, and the heteronormativity is honestly unavoidable. I made some great friends while living in Berkeley, but never felt entirely safe unless there was a female friend or just a regular ol' female around. Boys have no idea the lengths that women have to go to in order to feel safe, just walking down the street. Especially in a strange city without your family.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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2. The issue of consent is a major epidemic across US college campuses

Men in America often objectify women, and one of the first things I noticed about our frat house when we moved in was the consistent posters regarding consent. The alarming feeling that only an incident would spur on the sudden mass influx of posters plagued me for a lot of my trip, and Irish women who also lived in the house were all very safe. The rumours about US college campuses lacking safety didn't help, as well as the security guards who insisted on escorting us around the campus at night. According to AAU Campus Climate Surveys (2015), 23.1 percent of female undergraduates, 5.4 percent of male undergraduates, and 24.1 percent of TGQN (trans, gender-non conforming, queer) undergraduates reported being sexually assaulted since starting college. Among graduate students and professionals, the estimates were 8.8 percent female, 2.2 percent male, and 15.5 percent TGQN. Sexual violence is far more prevalent in colleges, compared to other crimes. RAINN claim that only 20 percent of female student victims, aged between 18-and 24, report sexual violence to law enforcement. Frat houses are yet more spaces where women aren't always protected.

3. Their mums have cleaned up after them and spoiled them silly since they emerged from the womb

The boys of our frat house made a 'chore list' for the Irish students alone, and overcharged us absurdly for rent. They essentially exploited us; we paid them handsomely for gross accommodation while they lived there for free, and they spent the money on drugs and then drove to In 'N' Out. They were incapable of cleaning up after themselves, so old food and cooking tools were stacked up, while dirty dishes were consistently in a Mount Everest pile up in the sink. I learned of new smells I never thought existed, thanks to mould and bacteria. I'm convinced that I'm immune to many diseases because of living there. Boys have an astounding ability to leave a mess rotting the place for days, if not months, and play chicken with you until you can't take it anymore and give in. I have the distinct memory of cleaning out green mould from our fridge for three hours and inhaling Stranger Things 'Upside Down' like materials. A gas mask would have come in handy. They also don't know that sheets are meant to be changed.

4. Become Bear Grylls overnight if you have a rodent problem

We had numerous Snow White-esque pets in our abode, such as a Skunk (we named him Larry), ferrets under the floorboards and even bed bugs. We even had to trap a bed bug (insanely difficult task) in order to show our landlord, in order to get a $50 reduction in rent. Yes, just $50. He never actually gave us that reduction in the end…

The point is; Get a thick skin for bugs and unwanted pets. You will suddenly turn into a complete Lara Croft badass and will learn to live amongst nature.

bear grylls bad decision GIF by NETFLIX

5. Certain toxic, alien practices surrounding fraternity houses and sororities continue to exist

During the weeks before college actually begins, 'Rush' occurs. This is basically where you semi-audition to be in a frat house or sorority, with some houses being significantly more difficult to infiltrate than others. It becomes a common occurrence to see boys with their shirts off and abs painstakingly arranged in a six-pack wandering around screaming; "ALPHA KAPPA LAMBA 'TIL I DIE, BRO!'. They may not be entirely made up of brain cells, but just ignore them. Sorority girls will walk around in matching outfits and sky-high heels, screeching chants that sound like sirens to you. Music will be blasting from 16 different speakers, signs and balloons will line the street. Every house puts the maximum amount of effort in when it comes to attracting the most attention, and future members. The 'hazing' rituals still exist too. One rule which infuriated our entire group was that frat houses could throw parties in Berkeley, but sororities couldn't. The rule had never been changed, and it was part of the college campus law now. 

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6. They will clog every toilet in existence

In Berkeley, at least, weed was absolutely everywhere. You couldn't make coffee in the morning before scraping your hungover self into work without a frat boy shoving a bong in your face.

From edibles to hemp products to the grass plant itself; marijuana is unavoidable in the area. What are the results of a house full of boys smoking weed until they KO? The digestive system going into meltdown. Who suffers from this surprising turn of events? Normally women, who actually need to use the toilet more often than most boys due to sanitary needs etc. They also need to sit on the toilet seat constantly.

There were four bathrooms in the sizeable fraternity house. You would assume that at least one toilet was always available to use, then. How wrong you are. All four toilets were consistently blocked thanks to the bowel movements of 15 boys, all permanently high. Basic human hygiene went out of the window in days from when I arrived, and I began using public bathrooms in the area to just experience what a regular toilet is meant to be like. Never take your pristine white bathroom for granted, ladies. Some day, it could be compromised by Snoop Dogg & Co. 

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7. You will never take privacy for granted again

Sharing a house with 25 people at the same time can make it extremely difficult to get any time alone. You're probably sharing a room with at least one person, and even small errands like trying to do laundry can take hours with everyone queueing up.

Many of us don't enjoy the feeling of being alone, but if you're accustomed to having your own room as I was (my identical twin and I fought viciously over bunk-beds so our parents separated us) then sharing that space can be a huge shock. Arguments over whose side of the room is messier occurred daily, and clothes went missing all the time. Random strangers would walk into our house, seeing as only the house manager had a lock on his door, so every room was fair game. The house itself was never locked, and it became difficult to know who was one of your frat boys and who was a randomer.

This made privacy a long-lost friend who you ached to see once again, for however short a time. Going to the bathroom or showering was blissful even for those few moments alone. Despite the grubbiness of the bathrooms themselves…(Hello, Cif? Cillit Bang? Lost but not forgotten.)

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8. Someone will eat your food, and you will be fuming over it

You could do a full grocery shop in Trader Joe's down the road and within minutes, hungover boys or high boys who have the munchies will have annihilated your entire snack stash. Most people tried to spend as little money on food as physically possible, either by stealing food from wherever they worked or by stealing food from the house. Now, I took the odd slice of bread or splash of milk for my (Barry's) tea, but that was all. I advise you to create your own bunker of sorts, where you hide all your treats and actually decent-tasting food from everyone else in the house.

season 1 nbc GIF by The Good Place

Never tell anyone, not even your closest friend, where it is. Or else have a password so you can know who to trust. Surviving in a frat house takes buckets of crisps and dip, microwave popcorn, Cadbury's chocolate and pot noodles. Trust me.

9. American's can't drink legally until the age of 21, and they can't handle it

One of the reasons why frat houses are so obsessed with drugs in California is that it's easier to get them, rather than getting their fake IDs rejected while trying to score alcohol. When they DO manage to get booze, boy are they bad at handling it. Mainly due to the insane levels of peer pressure from the Bro Mob. If you told one of them during a game of Beer Pong that he had to poison himself with weed killer then do a backflip in front of a sorority house naked, they'd probably do it. It was toxic as f*ck. We went on a bar crawl with our house manager for his 21st birthday (we thought he was 30-years-old, so that was a shock…) and he drank a bottle of hot sauce and tequila and vomited bright orange puke down the stairs of the bar, and all of us were then banned. There were only two bars in town, so it was a low blow. While they can handle their weed, when it comes to binge drinking there's nobody like an Irish person to put them in their place. 

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10. You'll miss Ireland more than you expected

From basic teabags and bread that isn't made entirely of sugar to Irish carveries and homemade meals, there's a lot that you'll miss about the Emerald Isle. Finally having food that isn't processed, being able to afford a meal again, being around people who understand sarcasm and whose country isn't politically dangerous and immoral will be blissful. Seeing proper forestland and greenery is often hard in America, due to the difference in climate. Flying back and seeing the patchwork field of bright green fields, you'll forget all about the dried up desert backyard of the frat house. Also having your own room again will bring tears of gratitude to your eyes, if you can grab one. 

sad rugby world cup GIF by World Rugby

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As if being sick wasn't bad enough, it now seems the we may have to part ways with some of our favourite beauty products if we want to prevent the illness form reoccurring. 

Sure, a a little bit of lippy and a lashing of mascara might make us feel better when we're in the depths of a bad dose, but when you consider the amount of germs that could be living in your cosmetics collection, you might want to consider ditching the makeup if you don't fancy having to dispose of some of your favourite products. 

According to The Independent, Morgan Statt, a health and safety investigator for consumersafety.org, confirmed there a multiple health risks associated with using makeup while we're poorly. 

“You should absolutely dispose of any lip products after you’ve been sick," says Statt.

“Your lip linings are a natural gateway to your respiratory tract which puts you at an additional risk of infection and illness.” 

But lipsticks aren't the only offenders, Morgan told SHEmazing that certain eye products can provide the ideal conditions for bacteria to grow. 

"If you've had some sort of eye infection, like conjunctivitis, it's best to toss out any eye makeup you were using when you got the infection. Dark, moist places like a mascara tube are ideal breeding grounds for bacteria, which could spur on inflammation," she said. 
 
"If you only suffered a cold and don't want to part with your products, you can salvage certain ones. If you use an eyeliner pencil, cut off the top portion that you used while you were sick and disinfect it with an alcohol wipe. The same can be said for your favourite eyeshadow palette. Get rid of lingering germs by disinfecting with an alcohol wipe."

But wait, all hope is not lost! 

If you really can't bring yourself to bin your favourite lippy, you can salvage it by cutting off the top and disinfecting the tube with rubbing alcohol. 

However, if you are really concerned about germs, Morgan says that dumping the product is the best option. 

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Reading this at work? – You might want to put down the cuppa before we go any further.

So, it's no secret that office workers all over the country consume an impressive, albeit slightly worrying, amount of tea on a daily basis.

Whether your looking for an excuse to take a sneaky break, or simply just in desperate need of a pick-me-up, it's amazing how a little stroll to the kitchen can make the working day feel just a tad bit more bearable.

However, it's looks like we might need to find a new way to break up the day, because a worrying new study has found that office teabags can carry up to 17 times more germs than a toilet seat.

Research carried out by the Initial Washroom Hygiene revealed that the average bacterial reading of an office teabag was 3,785, compared to just 220, for a toilet seat.

And as if that wasn't enough to turn you off ever stepping foot inside the office kitchen ever again, other common equipment also ranked high on the gross scale.

Bacterial readings of the average kettle handles were 2,483, while fridge doors came in at 1,592.

Dr Peter Barratt of Initial Washroom Hygiene says we all need to be more aware of the potential dangers that lie in our communal eating spaces.

“If you stop to think about the number of different hands that touch things such as the kettle handle, tea bag box lid, mugs, and so on, the potential for cross contamination really adds up,” he explains.

“Using anti-bacterial wipes on kitchen surfaces and regularly cleaning your mug can pay huge dividends in terms of maintaining a healthy workforce.”

If anyone's looking for us we'll be eating our lunches in the bathroom stalls.

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The humble handbag is an essential part of any woman's life, and while we might complain about have to lug it around everywhere we go, we honestly don't know how to function without it.

But what if we told you your go-to black tote was actually a breeding ground for germs that could be making you sick?

Think about it. They come absolutely everywhere with us, in the car, on the bus, pub, clubs, and of course, public bathrooms – and while we haven't done the exact math, we're guessing our our bags pick up a whole lot of bacteria along the way.

In fact, a new guide compiled by the Good Housekeeping Institute states that there are eight household items that harbour more germs than the average toilet seat, and rather unexpectedly, handbags came out on top of the list.

It seems that while kitchen worktops, bathrooms and dirty floors are usually cleaned on a daily basis, even the clean freaks among us can forget about the less obvious offenders.

Toothbrushes, remote controls and towels all featured on the list, as well as laptop screens, dishcloths, keyboards and pet beds.

So, is it time to replace all of our beloved handbags?

Probably, yes. However, experts recommend that in the future,  instead of placing you handbag on the floor when out in public places, instead try to use a hook or door handle to reduce contact with any germ-ridden surfaces.

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Look, we'd try any excuse to get out of going to the gym. And we've used nearly every trick in the book – tiredness, work, our dog's birthday.

But, this may actually be a legitimate reason to skip the workout.

A new study from Fitrated.com has found that most gym equipment has more germs on it than a toilet seat.

Grossed out? We are too.

The study saw a science lab, EmLab P&K, swab about 30 pieces of gym equipment in three top UK gym chains, and the results were pretty grim.

They found that a treadmill has 74 times more bacteria on it than a public drinking water fountain, while an exercise bike has 39 times more bacteria than a cafeteria tray.

But the mankiest of all? Free weights have 362 times more bacteria than a toilet seat.

Now, that's a lot of germs. But, are we really surprised?

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While you may see a lot of people rub down a treadmill when they're finished; how many people do you see cleaning the weights?

So, if you have to go to the gym and this study hasn't given you the creeps, then the best thing for you to do is bring some anti-bacterial wipes to give whatever piece of equipment you're using a quick clean.

Don't touch your face while at the gym either, and take off your exercise clothes the minute you get home. You don't want those germs spreading.

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How many of us take the time each week to wash all of our make-up brushes properly as well as tossing our make-up bags (yes, all of them) into the wash for a good scrub?

The only time we ever really seem to care about the state of our make-up bag is when we buy a shiny new product and it just doesn’t do it justice to throw it in the pit so we make everything shiny.

Here is what you need to be doing in order to keep your make-up bag free of harmful bacteria and germs:

Wash your brushes…often
We know it’s an obvious one but it’s probably the most important. Your make-up brushes are being used ON your skin EVERY day and they need to be clean. Take ten minutes once a week and wash your brushes thoroughly in either hot soapy water or special make-up brush cleanser.

Throw your make-up bag in the laundry
Another chore to do once a week. There’s no point in washing your brushes and then throwing them into a germ-filled make-up bag now is there?!

No fingers please
If you have any foundation or pot product make sure to use a cotton bud to scoop out what you need. Your fingers are germ-magnets and every time you pop them in there you’re leaving some behind to transfer onto your face next time. Not cool. If there is a tube version of the pot product available, even better.

That pencil sharpener though…
Your pencil sharpener needs to be kept spick and span. Your lip pencils and eyeliners need to be sharpened regularly as they are used on your skin, and more importantly – your eyes! This means the sharpener itself needs to be perfectly clean too.

Sharing isn’t caring
We know it’s in our nature to wear each other’s clothes and do each other’s hair but the line needs to be drawn at sharing make-up. Everyone’s skin is different and by allowing someone to use your brushes/lipstick/mascara you run the risk of transferring skin issues to them or getting them yourself.

Regular clean-out
Make-up has an expiry date. Here is how long common beauty products last and how often you need to replace them, even if they haven't run out:

Mascara: 2-3 months
Eyeshadow: 6 months
Foundation: 6-12 months
Stick concealer: 2 years
Liquid concealer: 1 year
Eyeliner: 3 months

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You put it in your mouth twice a day, but do you really know what’s lurking between and on the bristles?

Here are five nasty germs hiding on your toothbrush:

Influenza
Yes, the virus that causes you to get sick. If you have a cold or are coughing you need to either dump your brush when you are better or soak it in Milton tablets to ensure it is germ free.

Faecal matter
That’s poo to you and me. This is because when you flush the toilet, water droplets are injected into the surrounding area often landing on your toothbrush.

E. Coli
The germ associated with causing you to vomit and have diarrhoea can be found there. Gross.

Blood
Yes, blood – mainly caused by bleeding gums. If this is you, not only should you probably make an appointment with the dentist but you might want to clean your brush.

Food
Well you are brushing the food out of your mouth so this one is not really surprising. Gross, but not shocking.

Bet you’ll think twice now about hanging on to your brush for longer than four months.

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So, how clean are your hands?

Growing up, we’re pretty sure your mother told you to wash your hands, right? And even though the nagging was never relenting, you may have to thank your mum because it seems that old saying of “your mother is always right”, is definitely true.

In support of the World Health Organisation’s Clean your Hands campaign, the Public Health England (PHE) are showing people just how dirty their hands are, if not washed. The images released by PHE show the invisible germs on our hands that are so often forgotten about.

PHE

A few public washroom users may do well from looking at the third image…

According to Dr Paul Cosford, just one bacterium can grow into hundreds and thousands in a relatively short space of time.

Eek, we may start carrying around a hand sanitizer with us when we’re out.

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