Tucked away in last night's schedule was Costa del Sol: the Last Brit Standing, a wistful take on the Brits abroad documentary with an interesting angle on this country's own immigration situation. Britons have been "swamping" the south of Spain, where "it's always guaranteed sun, sea and sausage sandwiches", for decades.
Their number includes ex-cons on the run (see 2000 film Sexy Beast), retirees looking to top up their pensions and young beach bums, extending their package holiday indefinitely with casual bar work. Since the 2008 financial crisis, however, some 90,000 have fled back to the UK, and for the few that remain, life is a struggle.
Londoner Big Dave owns a restaurant and bar in Calahonda that serves up roast dinners with burnt Yorkshire puds in the 41 degree heat. Believe it or not, that was a viable business model only a few years ago, but it was looking increasingly unsustainable as the expat community shrinks. In common with the majority of Brits in the area, Dave spoke about three words of Spanish, but he had still absorbed some of the culture: "There's an old saying we have in Spain: if you'd like to make a small fortune, bring a big one with you to lose."
A few miles down the coast in Benalmadena, 21-year-old Bronte was one of seven young British bar-workers sharing a one-bedroom flat. They took turns using a cracked piece of mirror to apply make-up before heading out to work in the area known as "24-hour square". "I think we live here like how people in Britain think the Romanians and the Polish live," said Bronte cheerily. "All in one house, all sharing everything."
The useful comparisons to "back home" didn't end there. As austerity and unemployment figures among the highest in Europe put the Spanish economy under pressure, resentment of the "ingleses" is becoming more apparent. "They're notorious slags," was the verdict of some Spanish women observing 24-hour square. "So many people came here to Spain to take advantage of our free healthcare," said a local taxi driver.
Given the fact that many British immigrants to Spain are pensioners with health care problems, like 82-year-old Elsie, he seemed to have a point. Unfortunately, since Elsie's family are unable to sell the house they bought in 1998, they are, for the foreseeable, trapped.Reuse content