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German Second Homeowners in Sweden

Some remarks on the Tourism – Migration – Nexus
Dieter K. Müller
p. 67-86


Les Allemands propriétaires de résidences secondaires en Suède. Remarques sur la connection tourisme-migration

Phénomène récent, le tourisme de "résidences secondaires" est devenu une mode qui reflète l'évolution des modes de vie dans les sociétés occidentales. Dans ce nouveau contexte on s'interroge sur le statut de ces propriétaires qui partagent leur temps entre les deux résidences : faut-il les considérer comme des touristes ou des migrants ?

L'approche est ici centrée sur les propriétaires des résidences secondaires et leur perception de la situation. On constate qu'à leurs yeux la distinction entre tourisme et migration est très artificielle, souvent mise en rapport avec les pratiques administratives. Considérant les Allemands propriétaires de résidence secondaire dans les campagnes suédoises, on s'aperçoit que la plupart d'entre eux ne se soucient pas de la nature de leur statut même si certains sont de facto des émigrés et que d'autres ont planifié une installation complète lors de la retraite. Cela implique que leurs possibilités de participer à la vie de la communauté locale restent restreintes. Pour la municipalité d'accueil, de toutes manières, accueillir des touristes ou des nouveaux citoyens est différent au niveau économique. Aussi est-elle perdante lorsque les règles administratives nationales échouent à prendre en compte les changements d'une société de plus en plus mobile.

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Mots-clés :

Allemands, tourisme

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Texte intégral

1The connection between tourism and migration has recently been acknowledged within the academic community (e.g. Bell and Ward 2000, Feng and Page 2000, Williams and Hall 2000, Hall and Williams in press). The reason for this interest is found in the societal changes entailed by the international restructuring of the economy during the last decade of the 20th century. An outcome of this process is the development of new geographical patterns of production and consumption. At the same time, new patterns and forms of tourism and migration have evolved (Williams and Hall 2000). These new patterns correspond partly to the geographical changes of the economy, but are themselves also vehicles of economic change, transferring economic and human capital to tourist destinations.

2In this context, second homes promising regular and accessible leisure and tourism experiences are met with rejuvenated interest. This development comprises areas in Europe, North America and Australia and New Zealand and contributes considerably to changes in the receiving areas (Hall et al. 2001). However, the development also entails more profound questions regarding the role of second homes for their owners as well as within the receiving community. Concerns have been raised questioning the economic value of second homes for the local community as well as the consequences for the social structure of the rural community (e.g. Aronsson 1993, Bohlin 1982a, 1982b, Flognfeldt in press, Gallent and Tewdwr-Jones 2000, Müller 1999).

3In this paper however, it is argued that the way in which second homeowners perceive and conceptualise their situation influences substantially the assessment of the impacts of second homes. An important question is therefore, to what extent are second home owners in-migrants or tourists? Traditionally, second homes have always been considered at the cross-section of tourism and migration. Consecutively, second home users were labelled ‘marginal tourists’ (Cohen 1974), ‘residential tourists’ (Casado-Diaz 1999), ‘semi-permanent migrants’ (Flognfeldt in press) and Pacione (1984:183ff) considered second home use as a ‘seasonal suburbanization’. All terms express different conceptions of second home owners and address mainly the permanency of the second home use as decisive factor.

4According to Williams and Hall (2000:19) there « …is a significant conceptual blurring of the boundaries between the different forms of migration at both the international and domestic level with respect to the second home… ». The purpose of this article is to address these boundaries and to assess second homes as a phenomenon at the cross-section of tourism and migration.

5The article starts with a review of recent publications addressing the connection between tourism and migration. Thereafter, second home mobility is discussed. Finally, findings from a survey of German second homeowners are presented. The study, containing 91 structured interviews based on a comprehensive questionnaire, was conducted in the municipalities of Emmaboda, Nybro and Uppvidinge in southern Sweden in 1997. Moreover, recent public statistics are used to complement the findings of the interview survey.

Migration, tourism and second homes

6Both tourism and migration are forms of mobility. Both are also connected by a causal relationship. Williams and Hall (in print; see also Hall & Williams, in print) recently provided a seminal and comprehensive outline of various forms of interrelationships between tourism and migration. Earlier, they had identified those societal changes that have recently entailed an intensification of the tourism-migration interrelationship. In brief, the following changes more or less directly related to tourism can be mentioned (Williams and Hall 2000:8ff):

7– Labour market uncertainty and increased labour mobility

8– Globalisation of labour markets

9– Ageing of Western societies and an extension of active retirement

10– Changing identities on different geographical levels due to migration

11– Increasing welfare and participation in tourism consumption

12– Environmental trends

13– Improved transportation and communication

14In our context, it is unnecessary to continue with a more thorough overview of this work. Instead, the following sections revisit a number of key arguments important to the issue of second homes, which is one of the fields that even Williams and Hall (2000:19f) identify as a major intersection between tourism and migration.

Defining migration and tourism

15Migration can be assessed and defined from a number of different angles (Boyle et al. 1998:34ff). Obviously, migration, like tourism, requires some kind of movement over space. Usually these movements require the crossing of boundaries limiting areal units. The units can occur on different scales and thus the distance between the units can differ between some meters and several hundreds kilometres. Still, in most cases, administrative statistical units are used to record migration.

16Almost the same principals are applied to define tourism (Jansson 1994). Being a tourist implies a move over space to a place that is not visited during everyday life. Although this definition of tourism is not that explicit in terms of the geographical extension of the move, it is rather obvious that even tourism requires a move over a spatial boundary into another administrative spatial unit.

17Hence, the dividing line between tourism and migration is not the movement over space. Instead, the division between migration and tourism has to be conceptualised by addressing the ‘permanency’ of the move. A tourist is expected to stay less than one year at the destination while a migrant is sometimes expected to stay more than a year before he or she receives full citizenship rights, for instance the right to vote. Migration therefore seems to be more permanent than tourism, which often is thought of as a one or two week long vacation. Bell and Ward (2000) also use the concept of return as a demarcation between tourism and migration. According to them, migration implies no intention of return meanwhile temporary mobility often aims at a return.

18A key question that is addressed by Williams and Hall (2000:6) can be formulated as follows: How long is permanent ? It is obvious that ‘permanency’ in migration is rather temporary. That is due to two reasons. Firstly, households within the western world move at some stage due to reasons related to the labour market, household changes, life course or leisure. Secondly, an increasing number of people choose or are forced into circulation rather than migration, visiting more or less regularly a number of different places. This might be due to long distance commuting or engagement in seasonal work. It also implies that they actually spend more time in other places than the one where they are actually registered (Bell and Ward 2000). Thirdly, a considerable number of migrants actually choose to return to their original home (Boyle et al. 1998). The demarcation between permanent and temporary mobility as put forward by Bell and Ward (2000) is thus questionable.

19Also, the motives for tourism and migration can be similar or in fact, the same. An increasing number of households chooses to migrate for reasons related to consumption more than to production (Bell and Ward 2000). Particularly, it can be difficult to distinguish between motives for second home ownership and motives for migration into rural areas.

What is a main residence ?

20The argument put forward suggests that an increasing number of people spend their lives in several different places. Still, there seems to be an agreement that there is a first or a permanent home superior to the other homes. This perception of home can easily be criticised due to various reasons. Kaltenborn (1997, 1998) argues that so-called second homes in many cases are truly first homes due to the place attachment of their owners. In contrast to the so-called permanent homes, second homes tend to stay in the ownership of the same family sometimes for several generations and have thus a special meaning to their owners. Permanent homes are exchanged when practical matters related, for example, to labour market or life course, require it. Hence, permanent homes are more frequently but often less permanently used than second homes.

21Also considering long distance commuting, a distinction between permanent and second home appears to be highly artificial. It is for example easy to imagine that a long distance commuter allocates his time exactly like a second homeowner in two different places. Still, for the commuter, the weekend in the countryside is a stay at home; meanwhile the second homeowner is considered a tourist there. During the week both can work in the same office in the city. Not only do both persons allocate their time-budget identically, but they probably also tend to allocate leisure activities into the same space-time-pockets.

22Obviously time-space use is not a sufficient factor in distinguishing first (permanent) and second homes. Instead, the concept put forward by Kaltenborn (1997, 1998) using place attachment as decisive indicator for home seems to be more reasonable, acknowledging the subjective perceptions of home.

23In reality, it can be expected that a considerable number of people dispose of more than one place that can be called a home. However, practical matters concerning, for example, taxation, statistics, voting and other citizenship rights force individuals to state exactly where they are at home. This administrative practice obviously fails to acknowledge the complexity of life and mobility by defining people as static and immobile during everyday life. It is simply not accepted that people are at home in two places at a time.

24The consequences of this practice can be significant for the single individual, but also for the local communities. Disposing of only a second home in a community implies that the second homeowners are excluded from certain citizenship rights. They are not able to influence the local society to the extent of ‘permanent’ residents. They are also outsiders and often accused of displacing ‘real’ locals from the housing market (Gallent and Tewdwr-Jones 2000). Moreover, they are perceived as temporary residents although they might live more than six month and thus spend more time than ‘permanent’ residents in the host community (Müller 1999). For the local community, tax income and other public transfers are dependent on the number of ‘permanent’ residents, which does not necessarily correspond to the actual number of residents. This number, which is usually unknown, is the result of an equation expressing the factual time spent in the community by ‘permanent’ residents and second homeowners. The lack of appropriate measurements and statistics can be mirrored, for example, in a deficit of local service provisions.

‘Second’ homes ?

25Second homes can represent the entire mobility spectrum (Müller in press). Second homeowners can perceive and use their second homes as weekend homes allowing for short-term recreation. Alternatively, the second home is a vacation home that is used during long-term leaves and long weekends. The second home can also be a future retirement home.

26As it was shown above, there are no obvious demarcations between tourism and migration, in particular with respect to second home mobility. Consequently, the term ‘second home’ is rather insufficient. The term ‘second home’ says nothing about the factual use of the property and nothing about the homeowners’ attachment to the house and to the local community. Hence, without asking the homeowners, it is impossible to estimate whether they perceive their homes as first or second homes.

27In fact, in the first instance, the term second home refers to administrative practices. The power of these administrative practices is nevertheless significant in excluding homeowners from the local community. In this respect, the term ‘second home’ provides a meaning. It identifies the second homeowners as not being full members of the local community, at least in terms of participation in certain rights and duties. Hence, the question of why certain homeowners choose to get registered in a community and others do not is also central, alongside concepts like tourism and migration.

German cottagers in the swedish countryside

28This section contains the results of the survey among 91 second homeowners in Småland, a region in the south-east of Sweden, regarding integration and everyday life of the German second home households. The households were asked to give their views on a number of semantic differentials (e.g. good - bad), which were separated by a five-point scale. This method is common within tourism research and described by Smith (1995). The survey also contained open-ended questions allowing the second homeowners to express their own thoughts. In some cases, theses answers were taped.

The German second homeowners

29The majority of the 91 second homeowners who participated in the survey, came from Northern Germany. A few came from the area between Frankfurt/Main and Stuttgart. This distribution corresponded well with the total pattern of 1996 and it can therefore be expected that the sample represents the German second homeowners in Sweden quite well, although there is no statistical support for this conclusion (Müller 1999).

30With a few exceptions, the German second homeowners were between 30 and 70 years old. Each of the age groups 41-50 and 51-60 held about one third of the second homeowners. The second homeowners’ professional backgrounds featured a wide variety. Still, the majority of the second homeowners were engaged in white-collar work and represented the German middle class.

31In most cases, the second homeowners’ households contained two persons. However, the second homeowners said that they always had guests around, so that the actual number of the persons using the second home was higher than the number of household members. Hence, there were often three and four persons in the house. In some cases, the second homeowners reported that even more than five persons were present at the second home (fig. 1).

32The use of the second home differed considerably between the second homeowners. Two thirds of the German second homeowners visited the second home three to five times a year, but some of them were there more than ten times (fig. 2). All second homeowners stayed in their second homes during July, but even April, June, August, October and Christmas break were popular times to make a trip to the second home (fig. 3). These periods correspond well to the traditional occasions to take leave for a couple of days; Eastern and the All Saints weekend are usually also school holidays.

33In 55 of 91 cases, the second home was exclusively used during the presence of the owner’s household. « We once loaned our second home to some of our friends — this is also a way of getting to know one’s friends… » was the sarcastic comment from a second homeowner on the question whether he loaned his second home to friends. Therefore, only for 14 percent of all second home weeks (163 of 1 167) were used by others than the members of the owners’ households. The households used their second homes for an average of eleven weeks a year, half of the households for at least eight weeks a year. About 50 percent of the houses were used between 5-16 weeks a year (fig. 4). In six cases, the owners stated that they spent more than 26 weeks in the second home, which means that the owners should hold a residence permit. In several cases, the owners admitted that they did not do so simply because they were not aware of the current legislation. Instead, they assumed that the Swedish EU-membership implied that a residence permit was obsolete.

Future plans

34What ambitions did German second homeowners have when purchasing a second home ? Although the variety of answers to this question should be very high, there is evidence and reason to distinguish different strategies regarding the second homes; the second home purchase could be a way to give meaning to the owners’ leisure — it could be a strategic step towards a permanent immigration to Sweden. The impact of German second home ownership on the change in the local communities should also depend on the reasons for second home ownership. In the survey, the second homeowners were asked to what extent they had ambitions to convert their second homes into permanent homes, and the issue was discussed in the interviews.

Figure 1: Average number of users per second home

Figure 1: Average number of users per second home

Source: Author’s survey

Figure 2: Number of visits in the second home per year

Figure 2: Number of visits in the second home per year

Source: Author’s survey

Figure 3: Number of visiting households per month

Figure 3: Number of visiting households per month

Source: Author’s survey

Figure 4: Second home use

Figure 4: Second home use

Source: Author’s survey

35An overwhelming majority, 82 out of 91 responding households, expressed the desire to spend more time in the second home than they did now, but only 38 thought that they also would have an opportunity to do so. Many of the others considered their ties to Germany as too strong; they did not want to reduce their social contacts to children, grandchildren, relatives and friends, and therefore put a higher priority on these social networks than on longer visits to the second home. Even the house in Germany and its maintaining were given as reasons for a limited usage of the second home in Sweden. Ageing and its consequences for the health obviously formed very strong reasons to keep the permanent residence in Germany. In this context it was not necessarily mistrust in the Swedish health care system that prevented them from migrating, but the familiarity with the German system. Meanwhile, many of the German second homeowners expected that they would, when retired, at least temporarily increase their visits to the second homes. However, health would still form an important constraint; the second home will be visited as long as one’s personal health will allow it.

36An example was provided in one of the interviews. A retired family stayed the entire summer season in the second home, meanwhile the winter was considered too inconvenient. The family was well integrated in the Swedish host community, gathered there with Swedish friends, neighbours and one of their children who had also bought a second home nearby. The woman spoke Swedish quite well, received a daily local newspaper, listened to the Swedish radio stations and presented herself very well-informed about Swedish issues. Her husband was at least able to communicate in Swedish. They had already discussed the issue before and confirmed to one other during the interview that they would continue to use their second home as long as possible, but they would definitely not migrate to Sweden. They mentioned the long winters and the uncertainty regarding their ageing as reasons for staying in Germany. For the latter reason, they would like to be close to their family and to have access to physicians who speak the same language.

37Other families drew the opposite conclusion. One family had already decided to move permanently to the second home. The woman, academically trained and already retired in Germany, had spent a winter season in the second home. She had used the time to work and teach classes in local adult education programmes. Her husband had to stay in Germany one more year, but will also then move to the second home. They did not see any problems regarding their decision. The pensions will be transferred to a Swedish bank and their social insurance guaranteed the access to Swedish health care and so on. They mentioned the European Union and the right of free mobility across national borders; they considered this as one of the core features of the EU for the union’s common citizens. Both had already applied for residence permits and agreed that this procedure was rather uncomplicated and un-bureaucratic. Their children were also interested in Sweden and had already visited them several times. Still, they did not exclude the possibility of returning to Germany. They would, however, at least try to settle in Sweden.

38The main group of the participating households did not consider an emigration to Sweden as a probable scenario (fig. 5). They were satisfied with the access to a pleasant environment during their leisure, but had already decided to stay in Germany.

Figure 5 : German second homeowners and their future plans

Figure 5 : German second homeowners and their future plans

Source: Author’s survey

39One fifth of the participating households had no real opinion concerning the issue. However, 22 of the 91 households considered a permanent migration to the second home as a very probable scenario, and an additional 10 households considered a conversion of the second home into a permanent home as at least probable. That means that one third of the households considered an emigration to Sweden as more probable as a staying in Germany.

40A family from Hamburg that seemed to be very well integrated in their host community argued that they would probably loose too much if they were to move to Sweden. Why should they leave everything, their social and economic status and security, they had achieved at home? In another case the new second homeowner admitted that the idea was tempting but that there was no urgent reason to make a decision. Both family members had good jobs and did not consider themselves forced to take such unpredictable risks, which would probably result from an emigration to Sweden. Another family did not want to plan that far in the future. They would like to see other places all around the world and considered the second home as a place where they could return to regularly. To emigrate to Sweden might be a step to take later on in life.

41Among those who had already decided to settle in Sweden were several young families. One of the interviewed from Berlin complained about the situation in Germany and in particular in Berlin, where social deconstruction, anti-alien feelings, and environmental damages have destroyed the quality of life and the trust in the future. Everything had become worse after the German unification and that was why the family decided to start a new life abroad. Sweden appeared to them as a good alternative. Even if the family had not bought the house with the aim to emigrate to Sweden, they soon decided that they would like to give it a try. The teenaged son was involved in a school exchange with Sweden and was already learning the language. More importantly, he could try the Swedish way of life. The woman planned to work as a consultant and used her time in Sweden to build a contact network comprised of authorities and initiatives that later on could function as co-operative partners.

42In another example, the interviewed family said they had decided to emigrate to Sweden due to their children. They even complained about the situation in Berlin and Germany and they would like to offer their children a better environment in which to grow up. The purchase of the second home was already planned as a step towards migration. Therefore, they chose a house within a village with neighbours only a couple of meters away. However, the language made for a huge problem. In particular the oldest child, who should attend the Swedish high school, had not yet learned Swedish. Despite that the family had planned to move permanently to Sweden the following year, they did not have any concrete plans regarding their own occupations. One idea was to start an enterprise that would provide other second homeowners with various services but in general they would accept any job offered. However the family felt uncertainty regarding their decision. They did not really feel comfortable regarding authorities, society or the Swedish way of life, but were still optimistic and thought they would manage to integrate in Sweden. They established contacts with German households who already had emigrated some years before and benefited from their experiences.

43One interview was conducted with a person who had already lived in Sweden for several years. After a period as an industrial worker, he had started a handicraft-enterprise that provided a good opportunity to earn a living. His wife had been involved in several unsuccessful job creation schemes and thus had also started a business of her own. The initial enthusiasm had changed into realism. Still, the family did not regret the decision to emigrate to Sweden, because they finally did well in Sweden. Nevertheless, they watched the new German second homeowners sceptically. Lots of them suffered from a lack of necessary information and were too « wide-eyed » and naive regarding the Swedish society and everyday life.

44The chairman of the Swedish-German Social Club in the area reported that 50 percent of all German club members planned to settle permanently in Sweden. He had the impression that most of them were well prepared for such a step. Contrary to the common opinion, not all of them were retired; young families and single persons formed a considerable share. Real-estate agents also mentioned that there was a high number of German prospective buyers who wondered, when purchasing the second home, whether the house would be convenient as a permanent residence. This was also documented by the recent demand of houses within villages, even if those did not correspond to the cliché of the red Swedish second home. Today, Germans also buy modern detached houses and row houses, even if this is still the exception.

Attitudes towards Swedes and Småland

45The German image of Sweden and its inhabitants is in general very positive (Müller 1999). Almost all of the 91 German second home households agreed that a good relationship with the local community is very important and, with a few exceptions, they felt well treated. This positive image was not mirrored and confirmed when the households answered the question about how good the relationship in fact was to the local population (fig. 6). The reality did obviously not fulfil the expectations of several second homeowners. One second homeowner complained about the neighbours who did not appreciate their new German neighbours, at least not to the extent as he had wished. In another interview, second homeowners complained about the public authorities. However all the second homeowners seemed to be rather optimistic that time would heal all wounds and also solve these kinds of problems. In a third interview, one of the second homeowners admitted that the second home purchase entailed a considerable number of problems that were not expected or visible. Hence, the second homeowner had taken into consideration selling the second home. Now he was happy that he had kept the second home. According to the interview, the establishment of a really good relationship with the Swedish neighbours was result of an active strategy that aimed to create these kinds of contacts. Another house owner gave some examples of this; in particular, the idealistic engagement in local clubs and initiatives and the advancement of language skills opened the way to new and more intensive contacts because the engagement was obviously appreciated and considered as enriching the local community life. Thus, the second homeowner family felt very well integrated. After a burglary in another German second home, the neighbours had bought and hung up a metal plate that said that the house was guarded and observed.

Figure 6 : German second homeowners and the local community ; the numbers refer to the interviewed second homeowners

Figure 6 : German second homeowners and the local community ; the numbers refer to the interviewed second homeowners

Source: Author’s survey

46Several German second home owners argued that they had bought the second home only recently. Therefore it was logical that social relations with members of the local community were not yet established. Time constraints had hindered activities that aimed to create such contacts; the reconstruction of the second home itself held priority over all other things. Another reason that was mentioned to explain the limited relations with the Swedish population was the lack of language skills. Of course it was possible to communicate in English, but not all the German second homeowners dared to do so, or to use hands and fingers. The language was obviously considered as a very high obstacle. Therefore it was popular to join Swedish evening classes in Germany and some of the second homeowners had already managed to advance considerably.

47In terms of activities, the German second homeowners were mainly engaged in gardening and maintaining the house. Other activities were also conducted in the vicinity of the property and included nature walks, berry picking and visits to farm auctions. Still, contacts with the local population were rather limited.

48In some interviews, the German second homeowners expressed an uncertainty concerning the Swedish population; that the latter were queer and difficult to get into contact with. The superficial friendliness according to one of the interviewees was not met in other situations. Others reported that they felt a certain mistrust — it cannot be true that everyone is so kind — last but not least because they did not have any negative experiences with the Swedish people at all. In one case, a German second home owner stated that he was not at all interested in meeting the local population or people in general; the attractiveness of the region was entirely formed by nature, seclusion and the absence of people.

49The German second homeowners reported that they had most of their contacts with neighbours. With exception of one interviewee, everyone agreed that the relationship to neighbours was very good. The second homeowners appreciated not only the conversation and common activities, but also the practical support that was provided by the neighbours. They assisted with tools and manpower, and took care of the second home when the owners were absent. In one interview, a German second homeowner said that neighbours also visited the family in Germany to celebrate a birthday and had simply become very good friends of the family.

50Some experienced German second homeowners considered their recent German companions in Sweden as naive regarding everyday life in Sweden and integration into the Swedish society. This could be due to the short time period that many households had actually been in Sweden. Until now, almost all of the second homeowners had high expectations, hoping that the future will be brighter.

51The German second homeowners themselves formed another important group within the local community. Lots of the second homeowners were inspired to purchase a second home in Sweden by people who had already done so some years before. Thus, initial contacts with other German second homeowners were usually already established when German households decided to buy a second home. The relations between the German second homeowners in Sweden were by no means uncomplicated. In one interview, a second homeowner condemned that a countryman’s big dogs were not put on a lead — « he doesn’t know that people do not do so here in Sweden ». Different attitudes concerning how to behave abroad met and entailed irritation and a certain social distance. Even if none of the interviewed households frankly confirmed a bad or unfortunate relation to other German second homeowners, a comparison in relation to the local population shows that the relationship to the latter seemed to be better (fig. 7). Still, no one felt really disturbed by other German second homeowners, probably because they were not at all interested in meeting them. The relations that nevertheless existed were with friends from Germany who also owned a second home, or with other Germans who owned second homes nearby. The question as to whether there were other German second homeowners around was answered several times in the following way; the respondent admitted that there were some in the next village, only one or two kilometres away. However, there was no intention to meet the other second homeowners.

52For some of the interviewed households it was simply that they avoided gathering with other Germans because they were on vacation, where they tried to experience something different. Germans who came by were relatives or members of the circle of friends. Otherwise, everyday life in Germany had been left behind. Other second homeowners had at least some contact with other Germans due to their competence and knowledge of Sweden, its administration, society, and its people. To keep social company with countrymen did maybe not really correspond to original expectations and plans but functioned as an important catalyst in dealing with experiences of Sweden and Swedes.

Figure 7 : German second home owners and their attitude towards each other

Figure 7 : German second home owners and their attitude towards each other

Source: Author’s survey

53The majority of the owners interviewed considered that a further expansion of German second home ownership in the region would lead to a reduction of the region’s attractiveness. Only a handful of German second homeowners stated, « more Germans would be good for Sweden ». The most numerous group simply did not care whether other German second homeowners were around or not, at least as long as the presence of other Germans did not influence their own situation negatively. In the interviews, the second homeowners did not disguise their fears of future development. They were afraid that the region would loose its authenticity and thus its main attractiveness if additional Germans were to buy second homes in the area. Already now, they said, you could hear almost too much German in the municipal centres. This could cause an overall more negative attitude towards German second homeowners and make them feel not welcome anymore. The German second homeowners showed themselves aware of the negative media coverage concerning the German second home purchases in Sweden that was common particularly in the early 1990s (Müller 1995). Most of them also knew that, for example, a former local politician in one authority had tried to stop further expansion of the German second home purchases. A greater number of German second homeowners could contribute to the possibility of hearing these kinds of arguments again. The German second homeowners who planned to emigrate to Sweden in the future seemed to be particularly worried about such a future development.

54One could expect that the integration of the second homeowners corresponded to the time that they had spent in Sweden. The empirical material did not, however, confirm this expectation. It seemed that individual factors as well as individual strategies concerning the use of the second home play a more important role. Without a doubt, the interviews suggested that the grade of integration was dependent on the activities conducted with the Swedish population and that were often initiated by the German second homeowners.


55Conversions of the second home into permanent residences and thus the transformation from being a temporary visitor to becoming a citizen are mirrored, at least partly, in migration statistics (fig. 8). Between 1991 and 1997, the number of German citizens increased to 1,516 persons. The municipalities that saw the greatest increase took place in urban centres and scientific facilities.

56Emmaboda was the highest ranked rural authority: between 1991-97 the number of German citizens grew by 32, which was the sixth greatest increase in Sweden. Uppvidinge authority (29 persons) and Nybro authority (22 persons) followed at the 11th and 16th rank. Many of the other rural authorities that had a high position on this list formed popular second home destinations. The changes there were high in relation to the authorities’ total populations.

Figure 8 : German citizens, change 1991-97

Figure 8 : German citizens, change 1991-97


57German second homeowners in Sweden represent a wide spectrum of mobility. Some of them are certainly ‘real’ migrants and others ‘real’ tourists. As a conclusion several groups of second homeowners can be distinguished.

58•The traditional second homeowner has bought a second home to have access to a place that can be visited regularly. The place is characterised by certain qualities that distinguish it from the everyday environment in Germany. Typical characteristics could be the location in « nature », the calmness of the place, and its location in the countryside. The traditional second homeowners do not need to be especially extroverted and are satisfied with the random contacts and encounters with the local population.

59• The incidental migrant had once the same intentions regarding the second home purchase as the traditional second homeowners. However, after some time in the second home the incidental second homeowner decides to move permanently to the second home, after retirement or to simply start a « new life » abroad. The second homeowner has not actively worked for his or her family’s integration into the second home society but has nevertheless good contacts to the local community and thus decides to migrate to the second home.

60• The conscious migrant has a strategy that aims to emigrate to Sweden. The strategy also implies the purchase of a second home. The reasons for the decision are dissatisfaction regarding the societal and environmental situation in Germany and the wish to offer the children a better future. The decision entails that these second homeowners are extroverted and actively try to build relations within the local community.

61It is difficult to measure or even estimate the size of the different groups. The development seems to be in its take-off phase where many have not realised migration plans. Even in the future it will be an almost impossible task to measure or estimate volume of the movement because many second homeowners will never register themselves in Sweden despite the fact that they actually stay in Sweden the entire year. Many German migrants will at least keep an address in Germany to have access to the health care system and simply to have always a possibility « to be on the right side ». In all categories, neither the annual length of stay in the second home nor the attachment to the host community had any real impact on future migration plans. Most second homeowners were not at all aware that getting registered in Sweden would make a difference even for them in terms of access to citizenship rights.

62These different strategies also represent different perceptions of second home mobility. The traditional second homeowners considered themselves as tourists and guests in the host community. They were interested in contacts with the local population but their interest in influencing the development of the local community was more or less absent. In contrast, the conscious migrants used the second homeownership to create a platform for a permanent migration. These second homeowners were keen to receive citizen’s rights in Sweden and benefit from Swedish social security systems. They also used their time in the second home for establishing professional and social networks. The incidental migrants were sometimes de facto migrants who started to stay longer times in Sweden without registering. In some cases the second home was the main residence in terms of the length of stay. Still, the migrants had no aim to acquire citizen rights or at least they had not started thinking of it.

63Earlier it was argued that the term second home is insufficient. Indeed, ‘second home’ says nothing about the factual use of the property and nothing about the homeowners’ attachment to the house and to the local community. Also, the term second home refers, in the first case, to administrative practices. And although the power of these administrative practices is significant as argued earlier, the majority of second homeowners themselves do not perceive it as such.

64Still, the term ‘second home’ provides meaning at least for the receiving communities. For municipalities with high numbers of second homes, the second homeowners’ awareness and unawareness, respectively, is important in terms of national economic support systems and planning. It is thus crucial to find better ways of conceptualising tourism and migration that go beyond the dualistic perception of mobility. Instead, administrative systems that acknowledge a highly mobile society and allow for people to have several homes should be encouraged and introduced.

65Concerning the debate on the tourism - migration - nexus, it can be said that second homes truly form an intersection between tourism and migration. This is maybe not due to the fact that second homeownership represents parts of both, tourism and migration. Second homes form the intersection because they function as a showcase for the complexity of current mobility, also demonstrating that there is a need to rethink such highly established concepts as tourism and migration within scientific research.

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Table des illustrations

Titre Figure 1: Average number of users per second home
Légende Source: Author’s survey
Fichier image/png, 1,4k
Titre Figure 2: Number of visits in the second home per year
Légende Source: Author’s survey
Fichier image/png, 1,3k
Titre Figure 3: Number of visiting households per month
Légende Source: Author’s survey
Fichier image/png, 1,6k
Titre Figure 4: Second home use
Légende Source: Author’s survey
Fichier image/png, 1,6k
Titre Figure 5 : German second homeowners and their future plans
Légende Source: Author’s survey
Fichier image/png, 4,3k
Titre Figure 6 : German second homeowners and the local community ; the numbers refer to the interviewed second homeowners
Légende Source: Author’s survey
Fichier image/png, 7,9k
Titre Figure 7 : German second home owners and their attitude towards each other
Légende Source: Author’s survey
Fichier image/png, 11k
Titre Figure 8 : German citizens, change 1991-97
Fichier image/png, 22k
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Référence électronique

Dieter K. Müller, « German Second Homeowners in Sweden », Revue européenne des migrations internationales [En ligne], vol. 18 - n°1 | 2002, mis en ligne le 09 juin 2006, consulté le 20 janvier 2017. URL :

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Dieter K. Müller

Department of Social and Economic Geography, Umeå University, SE-901 87 Umeå, SWEDEN, tel : +46-90-786 63 66, fax: +46-90-786 63 59

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