Since 2004, there is a growing awareness of the risks that tsunamis pose to coastal communities globally. Despite the fact that these events were already an intrinsic part of the culture of some countries such as Chile and Japan, many other places had virtually not heard about such phenomenon before 2004. Nevertheless, the frequent reoccurrence of major tsunamis in recent years has led to the emergence of a “tsunami culture” in many areas of the world, which has resulted in increased awareness, disaster preparedness and willingness of local populations to evacuate when the threat of these events arises. However, evacuation during a tsunami is still not successfully carried out by the different elements of society, pointing to lack of awareness, an over-reliance in defence mechanisms or lacking in the transmitting of knowledge from previous events. This paper will explore these cultural issues using as a basis questionnaires carried out by the authors during their own field visits to the last three major events (Chile in 2009, Indonesia in 2010 and Japan in 2011), and interpret these through the willingness of coastal communities to build protection measures along the shore and the impact that these can have on sustainable development. The existence of a “traditional tsunami culture” will be explored through an analysis of the existence of multi-layer safety system constructed by previous generations, and whether this is being preserved nowadays or past lessons are being forgotten.