Cottaging is as Canadian as maple syrup, but ours isn’t the only country where summer homes and weekends at the lake are in high demand. There a few other countries with populations that cottage with great enthusiasm, and though their cabins may not look the same and they may have different names, the desire to escape their everyday lives and commune with nature remains the same.
Here’s what cottage culture looks like around the world.
Photo courtesy of reddit
The weather in Sweden is so cold and dark for the majority of the year that when summer finally hits, people are desperate to bask in the daylight as much as possible. So it’s no surprise that the holiday home is an enduring Swedish tradition.
There are over 700,000 families in the country and nearly as many “summerstugas” or summer cabins. If people don’t own one, they likely have access to one. But Swedish cabins are not the luxurious havens of comfort they’ve become in Canada. They are a rough and rugged return to nature. Central heat or air? Ha! Grab a pile of blankets or a paper fan. Warm Water? Forget it! Frigid dips in the lake and cold showers under the hose are morning rituals. Indoor washroom? Not a chance. Take a trip to the dry outdoor toilet called a “utedass”, which is similar to an outhouse except it’s constantly emptied and covered with dry earth. There may be electricity and running water in the kitchen, but the Swedish cottage experience is not about convenience. It’s about a return to a simpler time.
Photo courtesy of voiceofnature.tumblr.com
For Russians, the seasonal home or the “dacha,” which is traditionally a small, wooden cottage with a few rooms, is a switch-up fromcity life but not built for relaxing. While families are staying at their dacha, they’re always on the move, working around the property, socializing with neighbours, hiking, or swimming. And because the second home is all about bonding time with the family, the ritual of cooking and eating together is hugely important. Nearly all dachas are surrounded by gardens where Russians grow fresh vegetables to feed the household. In recent years they’ve also adopted the western traditions of cultivating flowerbeds and landscaping as well. Nearly a third of Russians own a dacha themselves, but through the tight bonds of extended family, most still spend time at one during the summer.
There is also a growing population of wealthy Russians who are transforming traditional notions of the dacha by building huge, ostentatious mansions with columns and turrets for their summer getaways.
Photo courtesy of reddit
If the Russian cottage experience is about keeping busy, the Finnish one is exactly the opposite. People in Finland flock to their cabins to do … absolutely nothing! Kids may frolic or play every now and then, but the goal is to sit back and let the hustle and bustle of the real world drift away. People park their butts in hammocks or lawn chairs, sit by the lake soaking in thesunshine, or snuggle up by the fireplace on a chilly night. But no Finnish cottage experience would be complete without the all-important sauna, generally located in a separate lakeside building. It’s the perfect place for meditation and relaxation—to sweat off all those nasty city toxins. And what a cleansing experience to pop back and forth between intense heat of the sauna to the refreshing chill of the lake!
Cottages in Finland don’t sit empty during the winter months either. People relish the opportunity to enjoy the beautiful snow covered backdrops. And while summer is all about moving slowly, cottagers in the winter are spurred into action by the invigorating chill in the air. They enjoy skiing, snowshoeing, and even reindeer rides.
Photo courtesy of tinyhouseblog.com
Vacation cabins in Norway are called “hytte tur,” and nearly half of Norwegians own one. There are two popular types—the ones on the coast for spending the summer by the lake, and the ones in the mountains for spending the winters on the slope. Some families own two cabins to take advantage ofboth vacation seasons! Many traditional cabins were rustic log huts built by the families themselves and passed down from generation to generation. But as passion for the culture grows, the buildings are becoming bigger and fancier—with spa tubs and satellite dishes and more square footage than Norwegians’ primary homes.