You have a couple hours free on your business trip abroad and you’re within walking distance from the beach. Maybe you can even see the shore from outside your window. What are you going to do? Is that even a question?
For most, it’s a matter of fact: people love the beach. There is something about it in every culture that draws people to it. In the words of Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys, “On the beach, you can live in bliss.”
But before you put on that Speedo or Moby Boardshort and grab your towel to head out and sunbathe, you may want to check a couple things first before you offend a whole nation or have your expectations to relax severely shattered. You’re not going to find piers with burger joints or beach volleyball at every beach. Let's take a look around the world at how some countries spend their summer days on the beach and get their dose of Vitamin Sea.
If you find yourself in South Korea wanting to make it to the beach, don’t expect to get a tan or sunbathe--you'll get a lot of dirty looks and strange stares. It is actually considered offensive to take off your shirt on the beach and show excess amounts of skin. Plan on keeping all of your clothes on (t-shirts and shorts are okay, but don’t be surprised to see people in pants and long sleeves).
To take things a step even further to stop you from sunbathing, you may even find yourself under a provided umbrella. At Haeundae Beach, what South Korea could tout as its own version of Waikiki. Lined with beach resorts, tourists, and kayaks, you’ll also find more umbrellas than imaginable hugging the coastline at Haeundae Beach. In fact, South Korea applied for the Guinness World Record for “largest number of beach umbrellas” (7,937) only to find out there was no such category.  South Korea is all about the good times and lack of tan lines.
If you like to lay on the beach in a calm silence or use the beach for relaxing meditation or yoga, you’re in for a real treat in Italy. Italians don’t do well at grasping the concepts of silence or speaking softly (or swimming for that matter). At beaches in Italy, expect that any given family or group of friends will have one or two radios blasting at incredible levels while everyone is arguing on who gets to play what music.
Perhaps the reason why Italians love the beach so much is because they only enjoy it for two months of the year (and somehow they show up on the beach in July already perfectly tan). If you want to catch some beach time in Italy, make sure it’s between July and August--do not dare even stepping foot in the water during any other month. Doing so will result in death stares and old women explaining how the chill of the water will kill you.
If you do make it sometime during those two months, you’ll notice that Italians avoid the water like children avoid vegetables. Most Italians have no clue how to swim or are wearing really expensive jewelry that they don’t want lost at sea. At most, you’ll see a person on a cell phone having a conversation shin-deep in the water. Otherwise, if you’re okay with the noise and don’t care to get too wet, Italy has some beautiful beaches to soak in the sun.
Given the cold climate in England, you won’t find many people dipping in the water, bikinis (or any two-piece suits for that matter), and especially Speedos (or what they call “marble bags”). You will find sunbathers, but even more so, you’ll find families playing a variety of family games. This probably would seem strange if you grew up near a beach and are used to the beach being a sacred place for you and your circle of friends, not you and your mother and younger siblings. The beach almost exclusively reserved for families in Great Britain. If you’re familiar, you’ll see families playing games of French cricket, rounders, boules, badminton and even football.  The only particularly strange thing you’ll notice is that a good amount of people will be wearing socks in the sand.
Brazil is all about the skin - so maybe not the best places to take your six-year-old boy who has never seen a woman other than his mother. Don't be surprised to see everyone in the absolute least amount of clothing they can wear or see women decorating their backsides with pieces of fluorescent string. Sunbathers are absolutely welcome and encouraged but, like Britain, don't plan on swimming. Brazilians avoid the water culturally to avoid wardrobe malfunctions (probably from tiny bathing suits) and also to avoid drawing unnecessary attention. 
You'll see the locals enjoying a game called Frescobol, not to be confused with beach tennis or badminton. Frescobol is meant to be a "refreshing" game played in shallow water that builds friendships. While some are competitive, the objective of the game isn't to win, but to support your partner. 
If you're looking for a place to really spend some time in the water, then Australian beach culture is for you. In Australia, if there’s a will, there’s a wave.
Most similar to American beach culture, you'll find people out sunbathing in all sorts of suits, parasailing, and most of all--spending time swimming like crazy in the water. And no, not just dipping their feet in never to past their waist like they do in Italy. Actual swimming and playing in the water. Unlike beaches you may find in California, the water in Australia is warm enough to hop in, and while you're out there, you'll probably run into more surfers than you've ever seen.
Probably the most extreme from American beach culture, the French look at the beach as a place for personal estate, a classy meal, and upscale attire. Edward Bishop from the Telegraph wrote, "...the French seaside is a civilised place where the business of everyday living goes on, albeit with fewer clothes." 
The French take beach life seriously. They don't worry about tourists stealing the best spots on the beach because they've reserved a chair with the best spot for the season. You won't find people nearly bearing it all like they do in Brazil. Instead, you'll find Armani Handkerchiefs, expensive jewelry, and sunglasses to match. You'll also find that you won't be seeing any people picnicking out in the sun. Eating is a huge part of beach culture in France, but they prefer proper restaurants. Proper here meaning restaurants that serve cheese, wine, and chocolate - things that won't fare well in the sun. Because to the French, what's a meal without those things? 
Now you know how not to be "that tourist." If all else fails and you find yourself at a beach unsure of the status quo, follow the locals. And don't forget the sunscreen.
Sources and Citations
Beach recommendations based on highest rated beaches from tripadvisor.com.
Eric Ray Corpuz is a native of Las Vegas, Nevada and attended Brigham Young University in Utah. He is a singer, CrossFit enthusiast, and avid beachgoer who believes that kindness and grit can get you just about anywhere you want to go.
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