I’m a Brit who’s living it up in Benidorm – here are 11 things they do better… it’s like the UK 50 years ago

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BRITAIN has had one of its worst summers ever with wind and rain putting a damper on the school holidays.

Let’s face it, coupled with the cost of living crisis, the summer of 2023 has been a damp squib all round.

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Michelle loves her beach walksCredit: Benidormforever facebook

Meanwhile holiday-makers are enjoying 30C on the Costa del Sol while we await a long-promised heatwave.

Around 15m Brits head for Spain every year and Benidorm – immortalised in the hit ITV sitcom – has long been a favourite.

But have you ever wondered what it would be like to live there full-time?

Mum-of-five Michelle Baker has been living it up in Benidorm for 40 years. 

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Her parents – Pat, 78, and Clive, 83 – moved to the sun-soaked destination from Solihull in the Midlands when she was 13.

Michelle, who runs the Benidormforever Facebook page, reckons life is miles better abroad.

Here she shares 11 reasons why fellow Brits should swap home for away.

Top nosh

Benidorm is a great place for food – whether you’re buying it or growing it.

Michelle loves her life in Spain

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Michelle loves her life in SpainCredit: Benidormforever facebook
Michelle says the local grub is delicious

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Michelle says the local grub is deliciousCredit: Benidormforever facebook

Everything is so fresh here. If you go to a restaurant in the UK the food is nice, but you’re sometimes served up a pre-made, portioned meal from a supplier. 

Here, all the local restaurants and Tapas bars make everything fresh – and the added bonus is that there’s lots of staff on hand to serve you.

We love Spanish food like paella and mussels.

We have a bit of land with our house, which is just outside the town, and at the minute I have about 50 avocados I’ve grown lying on my kitchen side.

My husband Paco keeps telling me to crack on with eating them but I’ve had avocado with everything!

You can go into Benidorm and have a famous full English breakfast but most locals have a toasted baguette with grated tomato and olive oil.  

It’s relatively cheap to eat out here and my parents go out every morning and have their baguette and coffee for €3.50.

Entertainment

Michelle says venues compete with each other to put on the best shows

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Michelle says venues compete with each other to put on the best showsCredit: Benidormforever

Benidorm really knows how to put on a show and all for the price of a beer or cocktail.

There are around 800 bars in the town and most try to attract tourists through its entertainment.

If they can’t compete on shows then they will compete on the price of drinks.

The acts are amazing and you can watch five or six great quality shows one after the other with tributes to big names like Adele, Queen and Elton John. 

Sunny skies

Michelle and her kids, aged between 25 and nine, have a sun-soaked lifestyle

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Michelle and her kids, aged between 25 and nine, have a sun-soaked lifestyleCredit: Supplied

It goes without saying but the weather is incredible. We enjoy 320 days of sunshine every year.

My parents started coming to Benidorm over four decades ago. They would save up all year to book the cheapest first two weeks in January, just to enjoy the sun.

They loved it so much that they moved here. It was a real struggle financially when my brother and I were young, as they established a bed and breakfast, then an excursion business.

Whenever they complained to their family back home they’d say, ‘Well, at least you’re poor in paradise,’ and we’d realise how lucky we were.

It’s amazing to get up at 6am, take a walk along the beach to watch the sun rise and know it’s not going to rain on your parade. 

You can also plan a weekend BBQ and not worry about the weather! 

Afternoon naps

The town has been immortalised in the comedy Benidorm

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The town has been immortalised in the comedy BenidormCredit: Getty

The heat makes you sleepy, especially in the summer, so we just succumb to it with an afternoon siesta.

In our house, the kids come back from summer school at 2pm, we have lunch and nobody goes out until 6pm because it’s too hot.

Brits come here for 15 days and want to get a tan so they are out in the heat all day, and I don’t blame them, but the locals think they are mad!

The work-life balance here is great. Everyone takes a little siesta and walking along the beach at sunset is just lovely. 

That’s why you see Spanish kids running about at midnight – to let off steam.

The older generation go out on the steps of their home at dusk and they are up until three or four in the morning, having a chat and enjoying the al fresco. I love the Spanish traditions.

Community spirit

Spain is still a place where people actually talk to each other and pass the time of day exchanging pleasantries.

To walk through our village takes about half an hour because everyone stops for a catch-up. I describe it as being like Britain in the 1960s.

I really enjoy being able to go to a bar and have a coffee and a chat.

Quality fashion

Michelle says Spanish people buy 'quality' clothes

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Michelle says Spanish people buy ‘quality’ clothesCredit: Supplied

The Spanish have a very different attitude toward buying clothes.

They very much buy like the French, investing in something expensive that will be worn again and again, changing it up with accessories. This means the women always look quite polished

Primark has only been here about 10 years and the Spanish are not really ones for fast fashion.

When I first moved here you couldn’t get clothes from Zara in bigger sizes. It was as if the manufacturers were telling you that crop tops and mini skirts couldn’t be worn by larger people, but that’s all changing now.

I think the European influence also contributes to the sense of style here.

In Spain, people dress for the month, rather than the weather, so in April children still have woolly tights on because the summer hasn’t yet arrived, even if it’s warm.

Secret ‘Miami’

Poniente beach is the place to go says Michelle

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Poniente beach is the place to go says MichelleCredit: Getty

Brits have a preconceived idea that Benidorm is some sort of Blackpool by the beach, but explore a little further and you’ll be blown away.

You can get your kiss me quick hats and eat in breakfast alley if you want, but there’s a side of Benidorm that’s like LA with luxury hotels and lovely properties by the sea.

The Old Town and harbour areas are just lovely and the Poniente beach is beautiful.

It’s like the Miami of Benidorm and the real estate prices are astronomical – that’s where the future is, in my opinion.

Kids’ paradise

Test your nerve at one of the theme or water parks

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Test your nerve at one of the theme or water parksCredit: Supplied

There’s something for everyone here and the theme parks are incredible.

We have the Terra Mitica park which is a bit like Alton Towers but with no queues! We can never work out why this is but I think it’s because there’s so much to do in the town and the competition for tourists is fierce.

We have two water parks. Aqualandia is the busiest but I like Aqua Natura where you can see the whole park at once and keep an eye on the kids. It’s much quieter and there’s also a zoo attached. 

Then there’s the Mundomar animal park where you can swim with dolphins and watch a sea lion show. It’s just wonderful.

Party time

Michelle says fiesta time is amazing

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Michelle says fiesta time is amazingCredit: Alamy Live News
The fiesta ends with a huge fireworks display

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The fiesta ends with a huge fireworks displayCredit: Alamy

Every town across Spain has a week when locals let their hair down for the annual fiesta.

In Benidorm, we wait until most of the visitors have gone home so it’s in the second week of November.

There’s marching bands, parades and fireworks with everyone just having a really good time. It’s a bit like Mardi Gras and there’s never any trouble.

We also have a fancy dress party which gets bigger and better every year. There were 50,000 people at it last year and some of the costumes are just wow. 

If you don’t wear fancy dress you feel a bit ridiculous so everyone has loads of fun dressing up.

Family ties 

Michelle's parents Pat and Clive moved to Benidorm when she was 13

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Michelle’s parents Pat and Clive moved to Benidorm when she was 13Credit: supplied
Michelle as a teen in Benidorm

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Michelle as a teen in BenidormCredit: Supplied

Family is really big in Spain. Generally, people look after their old ones and kids rule and get a welcome wherever you go.

People tend to stay near their families. You do get people moving away but they tend to stay in the same area for generations.

I always joke that I’m introducing fresh blood to the area!

Great healthcare

Michelle says health is everything.

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Michelle says health is everything.Credit: Supplied

In Spain all employers pay for their staff to access the NHS which means it’s really well funded.

The typical wage is around €1,100 a month, which is quite low, but your bosses pay another 50 per cent on top toward your healthcare.

If I need a doctor because one of the kids is poorly, I can walk into the emergency room and be seen in 20 minutes.

If it’s not urgent we can get an appointment the next day.

If you lose your job you get a sick card so you can access care. 

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If you’re self-employed you pay around £320 a month. It might seem a lot but your health is your wealth.  

Since Brexit, Brits can no longer use their European health cards, but if it’s an emergency they will see you.





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