7 cottage cultures around the world


For residents in central and eastern Canada, the term “cottage” is often considered a standard Canadian term, as much a part our language as words like “loonie” and “toque.” But across the country, Canadians have adopted different vocabulary to describe those homes away from home that call to us every summer weekend. In Newfoundland, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia, you’ll frequently hear people talking about getting away to their “cabin.” In Northern Ontario and New Brunswick, “camp” is the word of choice. Manitobans talk about getting away “to the lake” while Quebecois refer to their retreats as “chalets.” The term “cottage,” meanwhile, is generally understood across the country, but really is the dominant term only in Ontario, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island.

But Canada isn’t the only country to have a strong cottage scene. Around the globe, people are escaping cities for lazy weekends by the lake or in the mountains, each with their own terms that embrace the unique traits of their cottage/camp/chalet/cabin cultures. Here are some of the international terms for getting away from it all.

Colombia: Finca

In Colombia, fincas are popular escapes for weekends and holidays. These farmhouses in the countryside, usually located near a small village, offer a respite from the hectic pace of cities like Medellín or Bogotá, and range from fully functioning farms to recreational homes, from tiny cottages to massive mansion-like retreats. Many tourists to Colombia opt to stay (and work) at coffee plantation fincas, where they can learn firsthand about the production and sale of Colombia’s primary export. However, for locals, fincas offer a chance not to work, but to relax—expect swimming pools, hot tubs, and stereos blasting salsa. While fincas are affordable to many Colombians, they can be a significant expense, as it’s common practice to hire a mayordomo, a fulltime caretaker who maintains the grounds while the owners are away during the week.

Finland: Mökki

Finnish Mokki

In Finland, the mökki experience is all about completely escaping—minimal amenities and absolute quiet are among the top reasons people head to these remote rural cabins. Much like here in Canada, a typical mökki vacation includes lounging lakeside, along with a bit of puttering around gardens and the property. However, the most important part of the escape is that very Finnish piece of equipment: the sauna. No true mökki vacation would be complete without sweating out all those city toxins.

Iceland: Sumarbústaður

Iceland’s interior is rugged and remote—the perfect place to escape from the busy, working life of Reykjavik. Urban dwellers who want to escape head to their sumarbústaður, summer houses that typically feature a rustic décor, cozy ambience and lots of empty land to help you get away from it all. And of course, the highlight of a trip to a sumarbústaður is the chance to soak in the hot tub under the midnight sun. Icelanders love to swim year-round in heated pools, so bring your bathing suit to the cottage, no matter what the temperature.

New Zealand: Bach


If you’re a Kiwi with a country cottage or beach house, you probably escape to your bach (pronounced “batch”) on weekends. Traditionally, these small dwellings were typically made from recycled materials, including corrugated iron, used timber, and even old tram cars, and were often painted with bright, cheery colours. However, today’s bach is a professionally built (and thereby safer!) holiday home, usually located in a community of tourist shops and cafés. Typical bach pastimes include skiing and snowboarding in winter, and hiking, biking, fishing and sailing in summer.

Czech Republic: Chatě

In the Czech Republic, locals escape to their chatě for a weekend getaway. These tiny, wooden cottages began as part of the country’s tramping culture from the 1920s, a back-to-nature movement whose legacy carries on not just through the cottages themselves, but also through music and woodworking traditions. The cottages typically stand close together, creating a village-like settlement, and the properties have typically been within a family for a long time, passed down over generations. Today, land plots with fruit trees and gardens abound in chatě communities, particularly along the Vltava, Berounka, and Sázava Rivers.

Russia: Dacha


The Russian version of a cottage is known as a dacha—a small, usually wooden home that offers a rustic escape from city life. Russians spend their dacha time working on the grounds, gardening, preparing preserves, hiking, swimming, and socializing with friends and family over meals. Dacha plots are typically very small, a result of land being divided and doled out by the Soviet government when dacha culture—previously only available to the elite—was opened up to the general population. However, large, mansion-like properties are becoming increasingly common amid Russia’s nouveau riche.

Argentina: Cabaña or Casa de Campo

In Argentina, cottage culture lines the coast, where cabañas or casas de campos beckon those seeking outdoor activities like hiking, horseback riding, and kayaking. The beach scene is also big, and stretches of sand are perfect for parrillas, or barbecues. In Patagonia, estancias (sheep ranches) are popular vacation spots for tourists who want to ride with gauchos through Butch Cassidy’s former terrain. Expect a rugged landscape and the bare basics in accommodation—in the western Andes mountains, many cabins have no electricity and rely on coal or wood-burning stoves.


(All images provided by Joanna Goldberg)