Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Retiring to paradise? : reassessing liminality through leisure migration to Spain

Oliver, Caroline Joy.


Caroline Joy. Oliver


Andrew, 1962 Dawson

Judith Okely

Jenny, 1946 Hockey


Over the last forty years, we have witnessed the birth of a new phenomenon in the Western world, that of 'the dream retirement. ' This study examines a group of (mainly) Northern European older people who move to Spain in search of the culmination of their life-project. Following years of working to the clock they move away from the 'rat-race' to find warmth, good health, company, friendship and enjoyment. Yet [...] the experience is often judged negatively by outsiders. The Costa is portrayed as a slightly unreal world, a liminal zone beyond the 'normal' realm of work. This thesis, an ethnographic exploration of life for older migrants in Spain takes seriously this 'unreal' world. It explores the negotiation of the designated 'free-time' at the end of the working life. The creation of retirement at a determined legal cut-off point has forced a separation between working identities and identities in the life beyond, which previously had (if at all) a ragged boundary between them. In short, it is a modern-day rite of passage. Now, as retirement approaches, new questions come to the fore. Where should we retire? How do we negotiate that culturally created 'time off' at the end of the working years? Do we find satisfaction, companionship, hope and fulfilment of dreams? Perhaps more mundanely,what do we actually do with that time?This thesis is an ethnographic study devoted to exploring the lives and worlds of older people who, in answering the above questions, chose to migrate to Spain from Northern Europe. Its focus is the new brand of 'woopies' (well off older persons) seeking the 'rewards' of leisure following a lifetime of working. They enter an interstitial space devoted to the pursuit of adult play. The thesis interrogates the reality of such rewards, looking at the tensions inherent in the 'freedom' sought within utopian spaces such as Spain. I reveal how the imagined freedoms necessitate some form of regulation, and I employ a re-examination of anthropological models of ritual to do so.


Oliver, C. J. (2002). Retiring to paradise? : reassessing liminality through leisure migration to Spain. (Thesis). University of Hull. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Aug 16, 2011
Publicly Available Date Feb 22, 2023
Keywords Sociology; Human services; Demography
Public URL
Additional Information Department of Sociology, The University of Hull
Award Date Oct 1, 2002


Thesis (41.4 Mb)

Copyright Statement
© 2002 Oliver, Caroline Joy. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

Downloadable Citations