’Best of both worlds’ – balancing mobility and moorings
Contributed by Lifestyle Migration Hub member Ulrika Åkerlund.
In this, my first ever blog post, I will briefly present my case study of Swedish lifestyle movers in Malta, and also make a summary of some of the threads of my research. My academic background is in geography, and my aim is to add and elaborate on the spatial perspective to the current theorization of lifestyle mobilities.
First, why did I choose to locate my fieldwork in the tiny island state Malta? Like many of my respondents, I wanted to find another example than the heavily exploited beaches of the Costa del Sol. Like my respondents, I wanted to understand the context of the place, and have the perspective of local agents and mediators, why an English-speaking country was preferable. For some reason or another, I stumbled over this tiny rock in the midst of the Mediterranean, and found it to be an interesting case for many reasons, not least the outspoken wish of the Maltese government to attract lifestyle movers and the resulting packages of policy directed to achieve this goal. In many ways, opportunities for finding the ‘good life’ in Malta is facilitated and promoted, in other ways it is limited. My research aims primarily to explore these structures, how they are interpreted by the movers, and how the movers negotiate strategies to make the most of opportunities.
Two major groups of Swedish lifestyle movers can be found in Malta; young, mobile professionals working in online betting and other IT sectors, and retirees seeking a leisured, relaxed/active lifestyle. It is toward the latter group I have concentrated my research. The movers describe the common lifestyle-led aspirations of the ‘good life’ in Malta: a warm climate, a relaxed way of living, being active and exploring the attractions of the islands, and enjoying a high standard of life. One very interesting, and complex driver is the economic consideration. Living in Malta (among other destinations) is, for these movers, economically advantageous not only because of slightly lower costs of living, but primarily for the opportunity to access a very favorable, remittance-based personal taxation scheme. For Swedish retirees with a high Swedish pension fund, this is very attractive. I call it a complex driver is because access to lower taxes is not, in itself, an amenity however it certainly provides opportunities for accessing amenities. Affluence can very well be an outcome of the move, but it is also a prerequisite because of the criteria that has to be fulfilled in order to access the schemes.
When asked to explain what the ‘good life’ mean to my respondents, the first images was of the ‘good life’ in Malta. However when elaborated, the imaginings acknowledged also the ‘good life’ that the movers had left in Sweden: intimacy with close ones, the family’s second home, summers in Sweden and so on. Quite soon, it became clear that the ‘good life’ comprises both these places, and the search for quality of life is, for my respondents, truly the search for ‘the best of both worlds’. This relationship between the two places that are meaningful to the movers was often expressed with ambiguity. Thus, the search for quality of life includes a constant search for balance between mobility and moorings.