Cultural Differences: The Sea Calls Me

Yesterday, I left Italy and came back to Germany. Tomorrow, I should be leaving for Romania with my boyfriend, to complete the second half of my I Can’t Believe It’s So Long Holiday. While I do somewhat look forward to another two weeks of vacation with my boyfriend, I can’t pretend leaving Italy was not particularly hard for me this time.

It took me moving to Germany to realize how much I had taken living near the sea for granted. Here, hundreds of kilometers away from any salty water at all, I felt a sort of claustrophobia I had never anticipated. Due to my extremely heavy workload I had not been back to the sea for two years, and if I hadn’t gone this time, it would have become three. I had started dreaming about it regularly, swimming in the sea and crying with happiness. A particular turn of events lead me to not take my first swim until my third day in Italy, and it was as close as this athiest could get to having a religious experience. The sand under my feet, the current flowing past me, the salt on my lips that later makes any water taste as sweet as syrup, these things made my heart soar and I realized just how badly I missed all of it.

This is one of those cultural difference moments in which some of you wont get what I mean. Some, like those who grew up far from the sea, will probably find this hyperbolic, or plain elitist and chock full of #FirstWorldProblems. Others, like those who did live near the sea for their whole lives, will marvel at how I managed to go a full two years without going completely insane.

The fact is, if I had to choose between big city, country, mountains or seaside as to where to live out the rest of my days, I would choose sea without batting an eye. There are a lot of downsides to living by the sea: the salt water and wind corrodes everything meaning four times as much maintenance on everything you own, it wreaks havoc on your skin and hair, the winters are cold, lonely and mouldy, and if you’re not careful the sand becomes ubiquitous and your bed feels like you’re trying to sleep on a cheese grater. But none of that bothers me in the slightest, if it means I never have to be parted from the sea. That last swim I took before leaving, where the sea was just right, just fresh enough and deep enough, I will keep that memory to sustain me for months.

What about you? If you had to choose just one, where would you live?


  1. Lofty says

    I think I made the right decision for me 20 years ago, an acre block part way up a small mountain within easy driving distance of a medium sized city with as many beaches as anyone could desire. Not that I’m heavily enamoured of beaches near a city, the ones I liked to visit in my younger days were deserted wild beaches with a roaring surf backed by giant dunes in a national park 300km away from home.

  2. says

    Look at a map of the US and see where Minnesota is — I couldn’t have picked a place farther from an ocean if it was intentional.

    My ideal of the sea doesn’t involve swimming, though. The North Pacific, near where I grew up, is too cold for that. But looking for exotic invertebrates in tidepools, or sitting on a dock with a plate of fresh salmon…that’s my paradise.

  3. hoary puccoon says

    For years I’ve lived in a small village in rural France in the summer; Puerto Rico far from the city (near a gorgeous beach) in the winter. The thing I’ve wanted since I was a small child– maybe seven– was to live in a different country with different language, different customs…. My life isn’t as glamorous as the one I dreamed of as a girl, but the experience of really getting inside another culture, speaking another language, understanding local customs, has been even more fulfilling than I had dreamed. The fact that my husband and I don’t have gobs of money has probably helped, in getting us out of the glitzy ex-pat communities and putting us on more equal terms with our neighbors. Anyway, it’s been great.

  4. malefue says

    I would probably choose sea too, although I can’t really live without the mountains either. I grew up and now again live in a city at the northern foothills of the Austrian Alps, with one of the most beautiful lake districts in the world just 15 minutes away to the east. (Salzkammergut, if someone wants to plan a holiday…)
    I lived in places that have neither or just one of these things and I always got bored with them, as spoiled as that sounds.
    Hiking up the mountains during the day and jumping into a lake in the evening is the most luxurious thing I can imagine, yet it’s a realatively cheap way to spend your free time around here.
    I wasn’t paid by the Salzburg tourism board to write this btw.

  5. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says

    Ah, the sea.
    I haven’t been to the seaside in years (apart from a single day last year which was the thing that wetted my appetite, it’s been at least 7 years) and finally this year decided I would go mad if I couldn’t swim in the sea. I have never lived on the seaside and never spent more than 2 weeks at the time there. It’s just something I enjoy.
    I don’t care about sunbathing or partying in the evening. I just want to swim, float or otherwise enjoy the water. As you say – the taste of sea water on the lips, even the feeling of salt all over my skin after I let my self dry in the sun without showering… heaven.

  6. wereatheist says

    I liked Catania very much. A mid-sized city crawling up the feet of a huge volcano, at the sea. Sand beaches to the south, rock coast to the north. There is a heavy risk of earthquakes, of course.

  7. chicco says

    I know exactly what you mean! I am from Cagliari and my years as a Ph.D. student in Clemson, South Carolina (5 hours drive from the nearest beach) were really weird. I missed the sea so much!

    I really enjoyed living in Victoria, BC. I lived by the sea but really close to fantastic mountains. That would probably be my ideal (if only the water were a little warmer!).

    Enjoy your holidays!

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