Oh those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer…. It’s been a long, cold winter and thank goodness the sun is shining again! Long weekends and warm summer nights, what better way to spend the summer than to escape to the woods, right? Pack your bug spray- it’s cottage season! Yes, we can finally escape the hustle and bustle of city life; leave the noise and the neighbors behind. We don’t need much, a couple of beach towels and a cooler of cold drinks. We can forget the cell phone and the pager but let’s not forget our manners. Yes, it’s fine to relax- but don’t get “lax” when it comes to manners- especially if you’re a guest at the cottage. Remember your manners and you’ll be invited back, forget them, and you’ll spend your summer in the backyard with only the sprinkler for comfort.

Here are some tips for courteous behavior at the lake:

1.Do call ahead or wait for an invitation to visit. Just as it is bad manners to just show up at someone’s home on a Friday night, it’s also bad manners to just show up at the lake. Given the distance, you’ll be putting the cottage owner on the spot. They’ll feel obligated to ask you in even if it’s obvious they’ve got a houseful already. And you never know if they’ve made arrangements to lend the cottage to someone else for the weekend either.
If you do show up unannounced, don’t expect everything to revolve around you. Let the cottage owner putter in the garden or mow the lawn while you visit. Remember, they’re supposed to be relaxing too and everybody does it in different ways.
2.Cottage rules dictate that if you’re dropping by; expect to lend a helping hand. Some cottagers don’t go visiting without their tools and a picnic basket because it’s a given that everyone’s going to pitch in. The whole gang repairs and tidies up at your cottage this weekend, and then you and the neighbor’s visit another neighbour’s cottage the next weekend. (Sometimes hard work, but there’s always some fun to be had afterwards)
3.Don’t show up empty-handed. Always take something. Stop at the corner store and pick up a few things to help the host out with the food and beverage supplies. Most cottagers would agree that you can never have enough cold drinks, bottled water or bug spray and there’s always room for another steak on the bar-b-que. Refrigerator space is often limited, so bring something quick and easy.
4.If you’re staying over, bring along your own linens. A couple of towels, sheets if you need them and at least a sleeping bag or two. If you know there will be a lot of guests, offer to bring along a pop-up tent so that there are plenty of places to sleep.
5.Don’t just make yourself at home unless invited to do so. Take cues from the hosts, remove your shoes when you enter the cottage, be mindful of the furniture, ask before you snoop around and clean up after yourself. If you borrow something put it back and if you use it all- replace it.
6.Be respectful. If you’re staying over, be mindful of the neighbors and keep the noise down. Park where you’re asked to and don’t stay up too late or get up too early. Again, take cues from the host.
7.Wear appropriate clothing. Be prepared for quick changes in the weather and bring along something that’s rainproof. Think about what activities you’ll be involved in and dress accordingly. There may not be extras for you to borrow.
8.Be mindful of your surroundings. Don’t litter and follow the guidelines for fire and safety. Limit your time in the shower and follow directions when using the toilet. Septic tanks and composting toilets come with their own set of rules. Ask if you don’t know.
9.Take a little time for yourself- Just because you’re spending the weekend at your friend’s cottage doesn’t mean you have to spend every minute with your friends. They’d probably appreciate a break too. Don’t be afraid to take a walk or go exploring or shopping for a couple of hours.
AND finally….Have fun! There’s a lot to do at the cottage, golfing, tennis, boating, the beach, card games, board games, gardening, bird watching, fix it projects and a myriad of planned activities at the local beach town. Get involved and show interest. Entertaining is a hard job, help the host out.