Shattered Island Dreams | Culture| Arts, music and lifestyle reporting from Germany | DW | 14.03.2002
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Shattered Island Dreams

Germans hoping for a better life on the island of Mallorca are experiencing a rude awakening. Financial and career difficulties are forcing many to give up life in paradise - if they can afford the plane ticket home.


Life isn't always a beach.

For decades, the Spanish island of Mallorca has been a popular holiday destination for Germans.

It’s estimated that 58,000 Germans, attracted by the Mediterranean climate and lifestyle, have made Mallorca their permanent home.

This development has led the German press to often jokingly refer to Mallorca as the country’s 17th state. There are, of course, in reality only 16 German federal states.

But it seems more and more "Mallorca-Germans" are selling their property and moving back home. And they’re the lucky ones. Many can‘t even afford the plane ticket to leave the island and have to ask the authorities for financial assistance.

A fool‘s paradise

Many people don’t realize that Mallorca has changed over the past 30 years, when it first became a tourist destination for Germans. It isn’t that easy anymore to just set up shop on the island, says a German diplomat in the capital city of Palma de Mallorca.

"Living circumstances on Mallorca have become more difficult," he says. Tourism is experiencing a recession, the construction industry is limited due to various building stops. And jobs have become scarce in the restaurant and other sectors.

"The old-established German crafts trade is getting by," the diplomat says. But even they are complaining of a dip in contracts.

"Germans who resettle to Mallorca often don’t have any reserves," the diplomat says. If they can’t find a job, or business doesn’t run as planned, they soon can’t even pay their rent anymore.

Can you spare a plane ticket?

According to the diplomat, many return trips are being taken under dramatic circumstances. Up to 1,300 failed "Mallorca-Germans" need to ask the authorities for help, because they don’t even have the money for their return ticket.

And it isn’t just senior citizens, either, many of whom live on the poverty line because they can’t get by on their pensions. Young people, who typically come to the island with a naive attitude also fail, as do families who aren’t properly prepared for such a change.

But not everyone leaves the island for financial reasons. Some people realize after a couple of years that the climate and recreational assets just don’t make them happy in the long run. They also recognize that the island puts limits on their personal and professional development.

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