Sö’rlen—or “Söderlen”, when pronounced without the Skånsk contraction—is less an official governmental definition than one borne of the imperatives of the real estate business. The simple version of the story is this: the small villages of Österlen, as the southeastern corner of Skåne became known, steadily filled up with artists in search of cheap homes (and the glorious light) during the late C20th; they were followed by people from all over Sweden, especially Stockholm, who wanted a second home in which to spend their summers—like a stuga, but more substantial!—and were willing to pay a lot more. As a result, Österlen property became very expensive, but the local kommunor gained nothing from this, because Swedes are taxed only at their place of long-term residence: if you have a second home, you need contribute nothing to the area’s upkeep.
At least, that’s how it was until relatively recently: taxation reform is ongoing, but it’s being fought every inch of the way, and while there has been some sell-off of second homes in Österlen, it’s not made much of a difference yet. Meanwhile, the outflow from larger urban areas that began with the pandemics of the 2020s has only just begun to diminish, a dynamic which has kept the prices of homes in desirable rural areas like Österlen a lot higher than they once were.
For the real estate industry, this presents a marketing challenge: people want Österlen, but there’s no Österlen left to sell. In urban areas, this often results in the relabelling of a less desirable district in such a way as to suggest it is really part of a more desirable one; Söderlen is the result of a similar strategy, a way of packaging up the heretofore less desirable former fishing villages of the southern coast of Skåne, between Trelleborg and Ystad, as a kind of “South Österlen”.
That’s not to say these little villages aren’t beautiful, mind you—though the long-term hold-out residents complain that the plunking-down of modern architectural styles, often three or four times the height of the C19th houses surrounding them, is ruining the aesthetic (and they have a point).
But the real problem—quite apart from the bitterly cold winds that blow ashore off the Baltic during winter—is intimately caught up with the real appeal of these places: quite simply, the southern coast is low, with a fairly gentle slope in most places, and many of these villages are likely to be declared flexmark in the near future. That houses in Sö’rlen are still selling for ever higher prices is seen by some as a mark of enduring confidence in Swedish economic and cultural resilience; it is seen by others as indicative of the fundamental irrationality of human beings in the face of long-term existential threats.
The truth is, perhaps, somewhere between those two poles of opinion. You may want to consider the question yourself if you come to see the area… though if you chose instead just to wander between the little houses, or swim in the bracing Baltic waters, well, you wouldn’t be the first.