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The towns in Spain where Brits outnumber locals

There are towns and villages in Spain where retired Britons vastly outnumber the local Spanish population.

The towns in Spain where Brits outnumber locals
Almost half of the residents of Benahavís near Málaga are Brits. Photo: Deposit Photos

Whether it’s because of the allure of having a home away from home in the sun, the difficulties in learning Spanish in old age, or simply a preference for life in a British community, there are towns in Spain that are very much Little Britains.

Some may object to this expat philosophy, but the truth is that it’s done a lot more good than harm for Spain as a whole.

British retirees, who tend to be the ones who group together the most, pump money into often forgotten rural parts of Spain, create jobs and revitalize ailing property markets.

The Spanish government realises that, and with Brexit worrying many of these British ‘colonies’, Pedro Sanchez’s promise on March 1st to guarantee their rights in Spain has put many minds at rest.

Before we look out at these British strongholds where getting Bovril is easier than finding butifarra, here are some interesting stats.


Brits in Spain: 'We pay our taxes and want to integrate'

In 2018 Spain estimated there were 300,000 Brits officially registered as residents in the country, although the numbers have dropped by almost 50,000 in 2019. 

According to Spain’s national stats agency INE, the two autonomous regions with the most Brits are Andalusia, where they number almost 77,000, and the Valencia region, where there are 78,422.

Trailing behind are the Canaries (25,500 British residents), Catalonia (20,350) and the Balearics (14,870).

To narrow it down even further, the three provinces with the most resident Britons are Alicante with 69,289, Málaga with around 47,000 and Almería with roughly 15,000.

By contrast, in Spain’s capital Madrid there are only 10,000 British residents.

But the real surprise is that there are a couple of dozen towns and villages where Brits, often retirees, outnumber the locals.

As the following map shows, the towns and villages with the highest percentage of British residents are in Spain's Valencia region and north eastern Andalusia. Three of these 'British' municipalities in Alicante province are within walking distance of each other. 

Photo: Google Maps

Here are the eight most British municipalities in Spain:

Poble Nou de Benitachell (Alicante)

A coastal town with a British international school, the town’s population is 60 percent foreign, half of whom are British.

Photo: Joan Banjo/Wikipedia

Benahavís (Málaga)

This inland municipality between Marbella and Estepona is 64 percent foreign, 40 percent of whom hail from the British Isles.Photo: Deposit Photos

San Fulgencio (Alicante)

British retirees make up roughly a third of this town’s 8,000-strong population.

Daya Vieja (Alicante)

Just a kilometre from San Fulgencio lies this quaint village where sixty percent of its 430 foreigners are Brits. 

Photo: Abelardo Lopez Palacios/Wikimedia

Llíber (Alicante)

729 of its 1,051 residents, 70 percent of which are British and 18 percent German.

Photo: Joan Banjo/Wikimedia

Rojales (Alicante)

68 percent of it’s 16,560 residents are foreign (11,283), half of whom are over the age of 65. The vast majority are British, as seen in this photo watching Prince Wiliam and Kate Middleton's wedding in 2011.

Photo: AFP

Partaloa (Almería)

Eight out of every ten residents of the Andalusian municipality are British, almost half of whom are over the age of 65.

Photo: 19Tarrestnom65/Flickr

Arboleas (Almería)

An incredible 83 percent of the 3,054 people registered in this small inland municipality 20km from the Almería coast are British.Photo: Luis Alfonso Fernández/Wikipedia

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Rampant branch closures and job cuts help Spain’s banks post huge earnings

Spain’s biggest banks this week reported huge profits in 2021 and cheered their return to recovery post-Covid, but ruthless cost-cutting in the form of thousands of layoffs, hundreds of branch closures and the removal of many ATMs have left customers in Spain suffering, in this latest example of ‘Capitalismo 2.0’. 

A man withdraws cash from a Santander branch in Madrid.
More than 3,500 Santander workers lost their jobs in Spain in 2021 and a further 2,000 more employees working for Santander across Europe were also laid off. Photo: PHILIPPE DESMAZES / AFP

Spanish banking giant Santander on Wednesday said it has bounced back from the pandemic as it returned to profit last year, beating analyst expectations and exceeding its pre-COVID earnings.

Likewise, Spain’s second-largest bank BBVA said on Thursday that it saw a strong rebound in 2021 following the Covid crisis, tripling its net profits thanks to a recovery in business activity.

It’s a similar story for Unicaja (€137 million profit in 2021), Caixabank (€5.2 billion profit thanks to merge with Bankia), Sabadell (€530 million profit last year), Abanca (€323 million profit) and all of Spain’s other main banks.

This may be promising news for Spain’s banking sector, but their profits have come at a cost for many of their employees and customers. 

In 2021, 19,000 bank employees lost their jobs, almost all through state-approved ERE layoffs, meant for companies struggling financially.

BBVA employees protest against layoffs in May 2021 in Madrid. Spain’s second-largest bank BBVA is looking to shed 3,800 jobs, affecting 16 percent of its staff, in a move denounced by unions as “scandalous”. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP)

Around 11 percent of bank branches in Spain have also been closed down in 2021 as part of Spanish banks’ attempts to cut costs, even though they’ve agreed to pay just under €5 billion in compensation.

Rampant branch closures have in turn resulted in 2,200 ATMs being removed since the Covid-19 pandemic began, even though the use of cajeros automáticos went up by 20 percent in 2021.

There are now 48,300 ATMs in Spain, levels not seen since 2001.


Apart from losses caused by the coronavirus crisis, Spain’s financial institutions have justified the lay-offs, branch closures and ATM removals under the premise that there was already a shift to online banking taking place among customers. 

But the problem has been around for longer in a country with stark population differences between the cities and so-called ‘Empty Spain’, with rural communities and elderly people bearing the brunt of it. 


Caixabank laid off almost 6,500 workers in the first sixth months of 2021. Photo: ANDER GILLENEA/AFP

Just this month, a 78-year-old Valencian man has than collected 400,000+ signatures in an online petition calling for Spanish banks to offer face-to-face customer service that’s “humane” to elderly people, spurring the Bank of Spain and even Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez to publicly say they would address the problem.

READ MORE: ‘I’m old, not stupid’ – How one Spanish senior is demanding face-to-face bank service

It’s worth noting that between 2008 and 2019, Spain had the highest number of branch closures and bank job cuts in Europe, with 48 percent of its branches shuttered compared with a bloc-wide average of 31 percent.

Below is more detailed information on how Santander and BBVA, Spain’s two biggest banks, have reported their huge profits in 2021.


Driven by a strong performance in the United States and Britain, the bank booked a net profit of €8.1 billion in 2021, close to a 12-year high. 

It was a huge improvement from 2020 when the pandemic hit and the bank suffered a net loss of €8.7 billion after it was forced to write down the value of several of its branches, particularly in the UK. It was also higher than 2019, when the bank posted a net profit of €6.5 billion.

Analysts from FactSet were expecting profits of €7.9 billion. 

“Our 2021 results demonstrate once again the value of our scale and presence across both developed and developing markets, with attributable profit 25 per cent higher than pre-COVID levels in 2019,” said chief executive Ana Botin in a statement.

Net banking income, the equivalent to turnover, also increased, reaching €33.4 billion, compared to €31.9 billion in 2020. This dynamic was made possible by a strong increase in customer numbers, with the group now counting almost 153 million customers worldwide. 

“We have added five million new customers in the last 12 months alone,” said Botin.

Santander performed particularly well in Europe and North America, with profits doubling in constant euros compared to 2020. In the UK, where Santander has a strong presence, current profit even “quadrupled” over the same period to €1.6 billion.

Last year’s net loss was the first in Banco Santander’s history, after having to revise downwards the value of several of its subsidiaries, notably in the UK, because of COVID.

The banking giant, which cut nearly 3,500 jobs at the end of 2020, in September announced an interim shareholder payout of €1.7 billion for its 2021 results. “In the coming weeks, we will announce additional compensation linked to the 2021 results,” it said.


The group, which mainly operates in Spain but also in Latin America, Mexico and Turkey, posted profits of €4.65 billion ($5.25 billion), up from €1.3 billion a year earlier.

The result, which followed a solid fourth quarter with profits of €1.34 billion, was higher than expected, with FactSet analysts expecting a figure of €4.32 billion .

Excluding non-recurring items, such as the outcome of a restructuring plan launched last year, it generated profits of 5.07 billion euros in what was the highest figure “in 10 years”, the bank said in a statement.

In 2020, the Spanish bank saw its net profit tumble 63 percent as a result of asset depreciation and provisions taken against an increase in bad loans due to the economic fallout of the virus crisis.

“The economic recovery over the past year has brought with it a marked upturn in banking activity, mainly in the loan portfolio,” the bank explained, pointing to a reduction of the provisions put in place because of Covid.

In 2021, BBVA added a “record” 8.7 million new customers, largely due to the growth of its online activities. It now has 81.7 million customers worldwide.

The group’s net interest margins also rose 6.1 percent year-on-year to €14.7 billion, said the bank, which is undergoing a cost-cutting drive.

So far, it has axed 2,935 jobs and closed down 480 branches as the banking sector undergoes increasing digitalisation and fewer and fewer transactions are carried out over the counter.

At the end of 2020, BBVA sold its US unit to PNC Financial Services for nearly 10 billion euros and decided to reinvest some of the funds in the Turkish market.

In November, it launched a bid to take full control of its Turkish lending subsidiary Garanti, offering €2.25 billion ($2.6 billion) to buy the 50.15 percent stake it does not yet own.

The deal should be finalised in the first quarter of 2022.