Culture Guides

Your Second Home in the Sun – Aaaaaaagh!

The march of middle class Germans and English is demolishing the culture of the most beautiful parts of Europe. The bastards.

It’s been years since I’ve lived in England, 13 to be precise but I still pass through every now and then to connect with a few old friends and make them feel old with my Peter Pan traveling life.

It’s also been about 13 years since I watched television – if everyone wants to live longer how come they all waste so many years in front of the Hypnosis Box?

But as a guest I couldn’t very well tell them to turn off the TV and in the course of the day I saw no less than three programs about ‘how to buy your second home in the sun‘. The show followed middle class couples with a few hundred grand to spare whose dream was to discover a beautiful, rustic little cottage somewhere in the south of France of the foothills of the Italian Alps and… transform it into a few tinny little apartments to rent to holiday makers.

Travel anywhere in the countryside of Spain, Italy and now Croatia and Bulgaria, and the local news is all about the rich Germans and English who’ve bought up the nicest bits of land and houses for their summer homes. The houses stand empty for 9 months of the year, a gardener making sure that the pool is clear of leaves for the summer when the owners come to make the most of their ‘fashionable European properties which double as an attractive investment’.

I watched the programs with a growing nausea and anger inside me as the preoccupied entrepreneurs negotiated with the local authorities to build an extra driveway to their properties, utilising the help of local lawyers and translators – because, naturally, they had no intention of learning the language of the country they’d bought land in.

For the English and Germans (there are others but these are the main culprits) it’s all good. The sun shines on their new properties, the beer is cheap and they have something new to boast about at their dinner parties. True, the locals don’t speak much English and you can’t get Tetley tea bags anywhere but it’s only for a month or two a year…

Thing is, in the countryside of Europe, the only thing people have is land. There’s no money, no work and only the slow-paced, gentle life of tending the allotment and looking after the goats or the bees. Stress levels are low and life is simple and uncomplicated, if a bit dull. There isn’t much need to work as many people live on the land belonging to their families and so there’s no need to pay rent.

This also means, though, that no one local can afford to buy land either. When I was traveling in Ibiza, a local told me:

Es una lastima. When someone buys a cinca, an Ibizan house, it’s lost to us forever. It’s like we lose a little bit of our culture and become like all the rest of the world.’

Road Junky supports the abolition of frontiers and passports and maintains the right of anyone to live anywhere they want. But how many homes do you need? Houses stand empty, the community spirit is drained and the countryside of Europe becomes another target for the endless consumerism that threatens us all.