The British say "go to the seaside" (meaning I'm going to spend some time at the beach, swim, sunbathe etc.) It's like "going to the mountains" or "going to the lake." However, I once heard an Aussie saying: "I'm going to the sea" not the "seaside" meaning the same.

My question: Are both possible and common? How about Americans? As far as I know Americans don't "go to the seaside" because they do not live in a small seaside country. So an American would say "go/take on vacation at the beach" or just "I'm going to Hawaii" "I'm going to the lake and so on. Am I right? Or maybe "going to the sea/seaside" is a phrase used by Americans as well? I remember I read a Canadian text once that used this phrase. Please leave your comments.

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    Americans would say "I'm going to the beach" and not the "seaside". It's just slightly different vocabulary; I don't think it has anything to do with the size of the country. Nov 10, 2013 at 9:58
  • I'm going to sea means something different again. Nov 10, 2013 at 10:09
  • Actually the size of the country matters a great deal. Think it through. How different is life of someone who lives within let's say one driving day distance from the ocean (sea) and someone who lives in for example Kentucky, or Kansas. How different are the ways they spend their vacations and so on.
    – Peter
    Nov 10, 2013 at 17:25
  • In my country, which is Poland, everybody lives within 400 mile distance from the Baltic Sea, and although Polish people increasingly go on vacation to the Adriatic Sea or Mediterranean Sea - to Egypt, Croatia, Greece, Spain and Italy - when someone in Poland says "I'm going to the seaside" (in Polish of course "jade nad morze") it may only mean one thing The Baltic Sea.
    – Peter
    Nov 10, 2013 at 17:30
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    To throw more terms into the ring, many Americans, especially in the Northeast go to the shore; others, especially in the South and interior West, go to the coast. And in Baltimore they "go down the ocean," which the locals will call goin' downy ayshin.
    – choster
    Nov 11, 2013 at 16:22

1 Answer 1


There are reasons why Americans talk about going to the beach, or the Australians to the sea, whereas Europeans talk of the seaside (French 'bord de la mer', meaning seaside).

It has to do with the development of 'seaside holidays' in England and France in the late nineteenth century, facilitated by the arrival of railways. European resorts emerged based on a town with promenade, shops, hotels, theatres etc close by. Many became highly fashionable, not only in the south of France, but some resorts in Britain too. Brighton is renowned for its Royal Pavillion, built in the reign of George IV, much earlier in the century, but such places as Cromer on the north Norfolk coast, Bognor Regis, Bournemouth etc were highly fashionable resorts by Edwardian times. These sorts of places, together with many others constitute 'seaside resorts'.

In America the tradition of going to the 'beach' grew up in a slightly different way. American beaches, in days when people began using them recreationally, were simply that, i.e. 'beaches', with no town for miles. This is still, to some extent, the case in the massive, underpopulated land of Australia, When Aussies go to the sea, it often means just that.

  • This isn't true about America … while we do have undeveloped beaches, we also have developed seaside towns, seaside resorts, and seaside holidays just the way you do, and when we talk about "going to the beach", we quite often mean going to one of these towns. Cape May, which claims to be "America's first seaside resort", was already a vacation spot before the American revolution — long before your "late nineteenth century" time point (which I think is also much too late for Europe as well). Nov 10, 2013 at 10:37
  • Contrary to what you say, in French we use indifferently à la mer (at/to the sea) or au bord de la mer (at/ to the seaside).
    – None
    Nov 10, 2013 at 11:54
  • @Peter Shor But was that generally true of a time when beaches first started to become used recreationally in America? It is my understanding that the 'beach holiday' developed quite differently in America. Remember that before railways it was only the very elite classes, anywhere, who took holidays. Britain was the first railway country and they began in the 1840s.
    – WS2
    Nov 10, 2013 at 12:16
  • @Laura As indeed we do in Britain. Sometimes we talk of going to the sea and sometimes the seaside. My point in all this is that outside Europe the concept of the 'seaside' is slightly different, which I think partly explains why they don't use that word. (The seaside includes theatres, Punch @ Judy shows, pony rides etc as much as it includes beaches.) France preceded Britain with the 'seaside', patronised by elites from all over Europe.
    – WS2
    Nov 10, 2013 at 13:48
  • @WS2: We had railways in the U.S. as well, certainly by 1860 (they played a large role in the Civil War), and they were most definitely the way the middle classes got to resorts in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, at least in the eastern part of the country. I think you have a rather bizarre idea of 19th century America. It wasn't all like the Wild West. If you didn't live near enough the beach to go there on a day trip (not everybody lived in L.A.), you probably would have needed a seaside town to stay in. What do you think people did? Nov 10, 2013 at 14:57

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