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The 10 commandments of cottaging

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Everyone has a horror story about bad cottage neighbours—the parties, the endless Jet Ski doughnuts, the drunken ATV runs along the dirt road at 3 a.m. It’s pretty easy to pinpoint when someone’s being a crummy cottager, but sometimes, bad behaviour isn’t quite that obvious. We’ve come up with 10 commandments for cottagers, just to make sure everyone plays nicely together.

1. Thou shalt (try to) make friends with your neighbours. Enjoying time at the cottage is a lot easier if you know and like your neighbours, and that takes a lot of friendly communication and a bit of compromising. If they tend to play music late at night (and it’s not rock concert loud), do your best to deal with it without getting annoyed—use ear plugs, close your window, or simply ask them nicely to turn the volume down after 11 p.m. Open, friendly communication is often key to maintaining good relationships.

2. Thou shalt respect others’ property. Even if your neighbours are friendly, don’t act as though there are no boundaries between your properties. Establishing guidelines about visiting and borrowing is a good way to keep the peace.

3. Thou shalt not assume that everyone loves your dog. Your doggy may love to run around in the woods or along the road during an after-dinner walk, and that’s fine. But letting your pooch run free without supervision is asking for trouble. Even if Fido doesn’t run afoul of a skunk or porcupine, your neighbours may not appreciate him chasing merrily after the hummingbirds they’re feeding or careering through their hard-fought game of croquet. Make sure you can see where Spot is at all times, and if she isn’t the type to come when called, consider putting her on a long leash.

4. Thou shalt not drop in all the time. Socializing is pretty relaxed at the cottage—neighbours often share tools and toys, and there can be a lovely communality to life away from the city. That being said, be aware when dropping in isn’t welcome. If your neighbours are entertaining friends, don’t assume you’re included unless they’ve specifically invited you.

5. Thou shalt not mow thy lawn at the crack of dawn. And remember that everyone has different waking and sleeping times at the cottage—what might seem reasonable to you (9 a.m., say) is still early for folk who like to sleep in on the weekend.

6. Thou shalt not hog a small waterway with a behemoth water toy. Rafts, slides, and water trampolines are totally awesome—until they block a narrow waterway and force your neighbours to gingerly maneuver around them. Try and find an alternate placement, or accept the fact that you’ll have to downsize. Of course, your neighbours might be more amenable to your watery wonderland if they have free rein to play on it.

7. Thou shalt not drive thy boat at high speeds close to shore or docks. Noise and a bit of wake is okay in the middle of the lake, but closer to home, they can actually be damaging (not to mention annoying). Slow down close to the shorelines and other people’s stuff.

8. Thou shalt let thy neighbours know in advance when you’re having a party. Ideally, invite them along, but at the very least, give them more than a week’s notice so they can decide if they’d like to avoid the cottage on party weekend. And turn the music down at a reasonable hour—sound carries over water, and it isn’t fair to keep the entire lake awake just so you can have a good time.

9. Thou shalt engage in good cottage karma. Keep an eye on your neighbour’s place when they’re away for the weekend, and let them know—politely—if their rental guests are less than ideal. Help haul in a dock, cut up a tree or paint a boat. Pitch in when the cottager’s association cleans up the public beach. Being a good neighbour makes it more likely that your neighbours will be good in return. Plus, it’s a lot nicer than the alternative.

10. Thou shalt keep some cottage time for yourself. Don’t burn yourself out entertaining guests every single weekend. Your cottage is your space, and you’ll enjoy it more if you have the space and time to relax without having to play host. Keep a few weekends just for you and your family.

Do you have any cottage commandments to add?