British or Brutish?


DEPENDING on your reasons for being on the Costas the ‘it’ll do’ culture of its leisure scene is either a good or bad thing. I concede that many expatriates and tourists are comfortable with venues that are set in their ways despite the passage of time and changes in fashion.

For others the industry’s laissez-faire is a turn-off. A Sunday Times poll reveals that 27 per cent of British tourists are repelled by the Costas’ Britishness. Do they mean brutishness?


This revelation doesn’t stack up because there’s much about Britain, even recessionary Britain that is modern and vibrant. In most towns and cities there is a bistro-ambience and vitality about its nightlife; a modernity that the Costas could learn from.

These watering holes are the preferred choice of young professionals; metro-man and his lady. They’re cool, civil and dress stylishly. Much of what passes for nightlife (and attire) on the Costas would have them retching.

A Dying Sub-Culture

No names, no pack drill but we all know of bar strips on Spain’s Mediterranean coast that could be used as a 1960s film set. Episodes of Auf Wiedersehn Pet find Dennis and the lads in Marbella’s bars.

Ironically their tackiness was used to add humour. Even twenty-five years ago, when the filming was done, such bars were considered 1960s naff. Fifty years on and those bars are still here.

Yesterday I strolled past three urban centro commercials: The names over the bars were embarrassing; their interiors cringe-making. Around each the litter was strewn and weeds were cracking the flags.

The Best of British to Them

Someone described parts of the Costas as a dumping ground for Britain’s trailer park trash. Another says, “If I hear Sweet Caroline or Singing the Blues one more time I will scream.”

Not for much longer because the naff bars are empty; they are a dying sub-culture. Britain’s occupation of Mediterranean Spain may soon be as anachronistic as its colonisation of the Gold Coast (now Ghana). One might occasionally see a relic of a lost period. Hapless bar owners blame the recession whilst the Turkish Tourist Board celebrates a 22 per cent spike in their tourist graphs: The best of British to them.

Fewer British holidaymakers are coming here and many expatriates are leaving. My friends in real estate tell me the buyers are now Russian and Scandinavian; northern European but rarely British.

If the British presence; its working class stereotype as depicted in the television series Benidorm is lost, then it will be a sad day for Britain and Spain. Britain will have defaulted on what could have been its very own Cote d’Azur.

The Costas’ desperately need the best of British to reinvigorate the region. Our failure is not a British problem, it is an image problem.

By Mike Walsh


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