How is the lifestyle in Malaysia

Immigration, Displacement and Asylum: Current Issues

Karen O'Reilly

Dr. Karen O’Reilly is Professor of Sociology and Head of the Faculty of Social Sciences at Loughborough University, UK. She is particularly interested in social anthropology. She has been dealing with the phenomenon of lifestyle migration for almost 20 years and has published numerous books and articles on it.
Email: [email protected]

The migration of comparatively wealthy individuals to places from which they expect the possibility of self-realization and a higher quality of life is also described as lifestyle migration. The migrants put the search for the "good life" above other motives for migration.

Country estate on Mallorca: Lifestyle migrants are often looking for the rural idyll. (& copy picture alliance / blickwinkel / I. Weber)

A clear common feature of different forms of lifestyle-oriented migration is the striving for self-realization. Lifestyle migrants often portray themselves as active agents who have taken their lives into their own hands through migration. Her stories always contain reports of the arrival, the new beginning and the realization of her dreams. They emphasize their supposed pioneering spirit and that migration gave them the opportunity to find their "true selves" in places to whose cultures or landscapes they felt drawn. [1] It was only through the change of location that they became free to be the person they wanted to be and to lead a valuable life.

The longed-for lifestyle is reflected in different hiking destinations. Some are looking for a more leisurely and quieter life and move "back to the country", for example the British in France or the US in Latin America. [2] Others flee from the hectic, consumption-driven and immoral life in the West, for example to India. [3] Some see their emigration as a salvation from a gray, depressing and crime-riddled future (e.g. British in Spain); others, on the other hand, perceive a life in the country as more authentic or pure (for example urban-rural migrants in Australia). [4] Many want to protect their children from the materialism, excessive consumption and insecurity of Western or other modern lifestyles. [5]

But there are also lifestyle migrants who are attracted by the pulsating cultural life and the open spaces of global cities like Berlin. [6] In the latter case, the probability of relative prosperity compared to the destination country is low. Nevertheless, this relative prosperity is sufficient to place cultural motives for migration above economic constraints. In the following, three significant, albeit extremely different, forms of lifestyle-oriented migration will be explained in more detail: Bourgeois Boheme, residential tourism (residential tourism) and the rural idyll. [7]

Bourgeois bohemian, residential tourism and rural idyll

Some migrants seek alternative lifestyles in places that promise the fulfillment of bohemian ideals. So-called Bourgeois bohemians seek goals that serve intellectual, artistic or creative expectations and that promise unique "cultural" experiences. The writers, artists and musicians described by the American anthropologist Jacqueline Waldren (1996) in her book about insiders and outsiders from Deia, Mallorca are considered prime examples of these bohemian migrants. On the one hand, they are looking for a free, unadjusted life, in contrast to the norms of both the target society and the society of origin. On the other hand, their financial resources are a prerequisite for their stay. The same applies to the "Mykoniots by choice" who keep coming to the Greek island of Mykonos and living out an alternative identity there through their artistic "life, acting, working and creating in a tourist area". [8] And the emigrants from the western world who are looking for "positive vibrations" in the holy Hindu city of Varanasi also belong to this form of lifestyle-oriented migration.

Other lifestyle migrants pull as Resident tourists in areas characterized by mass tourism (and mostly by the sea), for example in Turkey, Spain or Greece. They associate their migration destinations with sun, sea and vacation, but less with excessive hedonism and more with peace, tranquility and freedom. The first encounter with the target region usually takes place as a tourist and the resulting impression is shaped by the social and material leisure and pleasure spaces of tourism. Tourism brochures and other marketing tools promote these images and ideas of attractive target regions. Residential tourists, in a sense, strive for a life of everlasting vacation. Some are seasonal migrants, but many are settling permanently. They may have to work, but work is not the focus of the migration decision. The main goal of emigration is to escape the hustle and bustle of the countries of origin and earn just enough for a comfortable life. In addition to these original residential tourists in the Mediterranean region, there are other forms of residential tourism, such as US and Canadian so-called "snowbirds" who spend part of the winter in the warm climate of California or Florida, or the growing number of Americans who stay permanently have settled in Panama, Mexico and Costa Rica. [9]

Those lifestyle migrants who are looking for the Rural idyll are looking for the quiet life. Rural places are thought of as an opportunity to travel back to the "good old days": back to the simple life in the country, where a sense of community still prevails. [10] In their stories they often emphasize the unique and physically tangible relationship to the landscape and nature. Michaela Benson (2011, p. 84) reports on the British in France: "[They] presented their new surroundings in a variety of ways: as a rural idyll with untouched nature and rustic houses; as a place of relaxation; but also as a place to that they could do physical activity and get their hands dirty. " Brian Hoey (2009, p. 32) reports that for middle-class Americans who retreated to rural Michigan, "moving to romanticized rural locations, rich in natural beauty, where they often vacationed, was a moral- or was a value-based project that they combined with a 'restart' and 'self-discovery' through the targeted attachment to a certain place. "

The shaping of lifestyle migration through cultural narratives and global inequalities

Although lifestyle migration is actually understood as an individual search for the "good life", other factors influence both the choice of destinations and the experiences made there. Whether figuratively or literally: Places require a certain way of life. Americans seek places in the Midwest that they perceive as beneficial; Lifestyle migrants who move to the countryside want to become part of the village community and live self-sufficient or at least live more originally; Westerners in Varanasi hope to get closer to their spiritual selves; and for some Canadians, living in remote areas away from civilization has something of the proverbial desert island - quiet and secluded. All of these are not individual ideals, but overarching cultural narratives that are not infrequently promoted by those who market these places - packaged in myths and dreams. Noel Salazar (2014, p. 124) summed up the importance of societal ideas for lifestyle-oriented migration as follows: "Shared cultural and socially conveyed ideas that interact with individual ideas are used as means that give meaning and explain the world." [11]

In addition, it cannot be ignored that historically created global inequalities enable lifestyle migration in parts of the world and pave the way: Lifestyle migration is based on relative prosperity. Often these migrants acquire real estate as a second or rather as a primary residence, which they could never afford in their country of origin. Many lead relaxed lives based on their income or investments made in the West or the good pensions they receive from long years of work in the richer economies. Although they are not rich by the standards of their society of origin, lifestyle migrants often benefit from lower wage levels in the chosen destination countries or rural areas. In many places these differences in prosperity are the result of colonial exploitation and the resulting asymmetries in power and prosperity. So it is no coincidence that many lifestyle migrants follow the paths of earlier colonial relationships. Many destinations of lifestyle-oriented migration (such as Malaysia, South Africa or Thailand) are former colonies or have recently been occupied by Western powers. In the event that lifestyle migrants come from the former colonial powers, current hierarchies can build on historically grown inequalities. Colonial continuities are reflected in legal systems and ownership, in mobility opportunities (e.g. unidirectional travel options through visas and residence permits), perceptions and behaviors (due to the attention that "white bodies" often gain), which sometimes also arise from the fact that wealthy migrants in the Target regions are seen as resources for economic development.

This text is part of the policy brief "Lifestyle Migration".