How to Blend in – Cottage Country Etiquette 101

“We’ve rented a cottage”.

Sounds exciting, doesn’t it?  You picture long days of swimming and sunbathing, and evenings spent around the campfire roasting s’mores and telling a few stories.  The kids are already excited and you’ve got plans to invite friends up for a night or two, barbecue and entertain.  You’re planning on renting a boat and taking the children tubing.

You can already imagine what it must be like to own a place of your own and plan  a trip up there every weekend.

There’s a certain romance about cottage country living that captivates hundreds every year who buy their own place, and many thousands more who rent for a week or two and experience what it’s like to be a local.

Like any place you travel to, there are differences, and before you go it’s worth knowing what to expect.

Here are some tips to help you blend in and live like a local on your cottage country vacation.

Be friendly, courteous and patient

I was driving down a cottage road earlier this year on my way to see a property owner and was stopped by someone out walking who wanted to know who I was visiting as he didn’t recognize my vehicle.  He was a friendly guy who was just curious about visitors to the neighbourhood, and we had a great chat.  Cottage country communities are close and most residents know everyone and know who is renting out so it’s natural they are interested in who you are.

If you are open and friendly with the locals they will be the same with you.

Be prepared to stop and talk to the neighbours when you are out taking a walk.  Wave at people passing by in boats.  Drive slowly down cottage roads as you never know when you’ll come across a pair of cars with the windows down and deep conversation in progress.  Be patient at the slower pace of life and embrace the pleasure in it.

Understand that noise travels on a lake

Sound can travel a long distance over water, and if you have ever listened to neighbours a kilometer away have a domestic dispute on a Sunday morning, you’ll understand the nature of the acoustics.

If you want to play music outside, consider how it will impact other people’s enjoyment of their surroundings – while you might enjoy a blast of rap, country music or even the 1812 overture, your neighbours will not.

The sounds of nature are the best –  a call of a loon at dusk, the tapping of a woodpecker on a tree trunk, the slap of a beaver’s tail – this is nature’s music you will never hear in the city.  So, give it a try and turn the music off.

All townships have by-laws that prohibit outside noise after 11pm so keep that in mind if you are sitting around the campfire.

Get to know your boundaries (and keep your pets within them)

homemade direction signs

It’s rare to see a fence in cottage country.  Boundaries are just something that cottage owners know and respect, but when you are a visitor you’re not always aware of where they are.

To be on the safe side ask the cottage owner to describe where the boundaries are.  Often there is a line of trees or a rock that marks the property lines and if you keep your pets and children on your side of that you’ll be fine.

Letting your dogs roam onto neighbouring properties is disrespectful and unlikely to endear you to the locals, particularly if your pets leave their waste for those owners to deal with.

On the same topic, that swim raft out in the water is not public property, and unless you know your rental cottage comes with a floating raft, it should not be used.


Respect the environment as nature intended it

We’ve all seen movies where the homesteaders are bathing, and doing their laundry in the river or lake, and it was probably fine when laundry detergent and shampoos were just naturally made soaps.

That was a time when having running water in a property was a luxury, and way before septic systems were developed to leach waste water safely back into the soil and separate out effluent for collection and removal.

Now, we need to protect the environment and our precious water for generations to come; keep harmful chemicals away from areas where they can do damage, and protect shorelines and waterways from the impact of materials not destined to be there.

Don’t be tempted to wash your dog in the lake or take a dip yourself with the shower gel or shampoo in hand.  It may seem natural and a fun thing to do, but you’ll be introducing stuff into the water that is simply not healthy for it.  The locals don’t do it, and nor should you.

Although this may all sound like a lot to take on board, going to the cottage with a country mindset will help you settle in quicker and enjoy it all the more.


Slow down a little; take some time to relish the peace and tranquility; marvel at the unpolluted darkness of a star filled sky; and live like the locals do, even if it’s just for a couple of weeks of the summer.  You’ll be glad you did.


CottageLINK Rental Management
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