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10 Tips for Living in Bermuda

By Betsy Burlingame

Summary: Expats in Bermuda have mixed feelings about living in Bermuda. Everyone loves the sunshine and beaches, but the high cost of living, one car per household law, limited job opportunities and gossipy expat social scene can make life challenging.

Expats in Bermuda - 10 Tips for Living in Bermuda

1. Expat Life in Bermuda

"My daughter moved to Bermuda last May. She was due to come home at the beginning of this August, but at the last minute she changed her mind and re-upped for at least another year! The detractors for her are the expense of living on the island, she misses driving her car (does not like driving that scooter in the damp and rain all winter) and the small size of this island. After careful consideration, though, the positives outweighed the negatives for her: the beauty of the island, the friendliness of the people (she has made so many friends; we visited recently and everywhere we went people were saying "hello" to her and offering us to visit with them...I don't think I have ever been to a friendlier place!), the climate (even in "winter"), the opportunities her job offers," said one man whose daughter moved to Bermuda.

"When it comes to social adjustment, it's all in your attitude. Some people highlighted about expat-Bermudian not getting along. But think about it, you're coming to a new country and should be a bit open-minded to reach out and adapt. Bermudians have zero unemployment and the government is protective of their rights. However they also grant permission to exempt companies to hire professionals from overseas. Some expats tend to stick to their group 'cos of cultural similarity, language etc but I personally met some neat people - both locals and expats. If you like the outdoors and the ocean, Bermuda waters rivals if not surpassing that of Barbados / any Carribean island. There are some that run back home to the comfort zone after a short while but who can decide for you - it's your experience and adventure," described another expat.

2. Meeting People in Bermuda

sports bermuda "Women should join the International Women's Club of Bermuda (IWC). It isn't just for Americans, and has members from all over the globe, mostly Americans, Brits and Canadians, and some Bermudians. And excellent way of meeting other women and finding out about everything you need to know in order to live on this surprisingly challenging (if beautiful) island. There is also a British Wives group. My advice - take it slowly and don't say anything to anyone you wouldn't want them to repeat," advised one expat. Another expat in Bermuda said, "join a sports team (even as a social member). There are lots such as football, rugby, hockey. Go to Front Street where all the expats hang out in the bars." Another recommended, "Alliance Francaise en Bermudes is an organization for French nationals and French-speaking locals with a strong presence on 14 July and other days. American Ladies in Bermuda (ALIB) provides information, support and fund-raising activities for new residents of all nationalities. Meets third Sunday each month at Royal Bermuda Yacht Club, 2-4 pm. Association of Canadians in Bermuda is a non-profit organization for Canadians in Bermuda, to help keep the Canadian culture alive. Association of Filipinos in Bermuda represents the approximately 600 Filipinos in Bermuda, including doctors, accountants, nurses, waiters, domestic servants and more.

3. Housing in Bermuda

sports bermuda An expat in Bermuda advised, "[I live in a] one bedroom apartment, attached to landlord's house. This is a typical set-up in Bermuda. In the past it was difficult to obtain a mortgage in Bermuda, they were not available for more than a 5 or 10 year period. So, to fund the building of a house, people built self-contained apartments on the side, to generate rental income. [The best way to find a home is] by word of mouth - good, reasonably priced apartment rentals do exist, but they never make it as far as the newspaper adverts. Tell everyone you know that you are looking for a place to rent. Keep your ear to the ground to find out who is due to move off the island - and ask if their apartment might be coming up for rent. Don't be too concerned about the neighborhood - there aren't any really bad places... even those areas with "a reputation" are far safer than anywhere in a European City!"

"I rent a townhouse in a condo complex as do most expats. Prices in Bermuda (where there are limits on what type of housing expats may purchase and which also impose a hugely prohibitive tax on expat's house purchases!) are steep. For a 900 sq. foot, 2 bedroom apartment, I consider it a great deal at $3,000 a month. Electricity also runs at about $350 a month during summer, when you absolutely must run your air conditioning. Phone, cable and internet are also higher than you are probably used to. There are also a fair number of house-shares done by expats," explained another expat.

4. Safety in Bermuda

"There are some rough areas in Bermuda and also, there is a lot local of resentment about expats in Bermuda. However, since there are about 15,000 expats working on an island of 65,000 people, there is plenty of interaction available. That said, what is called 'rough' in Bermuda would probably be a lower-middle-class environment in most places. Just two areas to be avoided at night," explained an expat in Bermuda. Another expat said, "there are unsafe areas everywhere in the world the same applies to Bermuda. True there are gangs and drugs and so do most major US cities. Very soon you'll find out what areas to avoid."

5. What to Bring to Bermuda and What to Leave Behind

"I wish I had brought: 1) Electric blanket - It gets cold in winter and the houses do not generally have any heating. With the high humidity, your bed can feel really damp and cold - an electric blanket is a necessity not a luxury! 2) Snorkel and fins - I had good quality diving gear at home and left it in the UK... Stupid! 3) Push bike - Got mine shipped out at a later stage, because good road bikes are very expensive in Bermuda. I wish I had left at home: 1. Leather jacket - not much call for this in Bermuda - it sat in the wardrobe for 6 months and got covered in white mould. 2. Rain gear - unless you've got gortext yachting wet weather gear, don't bother bringing it to Bermuda. When it rains here it really rains - and a thin hiking rain jacket will not cut it. Especially if you are zooming about on your scooter in the rain. The rain jackets and rain pants they sell in Bermuda are a much better buy - and heavy duty enough to stand up to the torrential downpours. 3. Smart clothes - I read somewhere that in Bermuda you had to look smart... and I misunderstood... smart in Bermuda means "smart casual" - polo shirt and tailored shorts... suits, ties, jackets and dresses are rarely required," advised one expat living in Bermuda.

Another expat recalled, "I moved to Bermuda from the UK with just 2 normal sized suitcases of stuff. For me this worked perfectly - I was put up in a hotel (by my employer) for the first month. I immediately took my bike test, bought a scooter, and set about looking for an apartment. Found one within a week. Furnished it over the next few weekends by zipping all over the island on my scooter from one "house-sale" to the next picking up bargains from people leaving the island."

"You can buy anything you need and contrary to most stories that have become 'Bermuda urban legends', artwork, books, etc. are safe from rot, mold, etc., as long as you keep your air conditioning on when the steamy weather occurs - July through September. If you don't, be prepared for your clothes/shoes to rapidly grow mildew! You pay a steep duty of between 22.5% and 35% on goods that you bring in. There are lots of leaving island sales each weekend where you can pick up virtually anything you need from electronics to cars, boats and furniture. With the damage that was done to the goods I imported and the difficulties in getting appropriate replacements, I wish I had left most of my furniture in Canada," said another expat.

A newcomer said, "I arrived one year or so ago with nothing but clothes and a folding bike. We bought most of our furniture from one or two leaving island sales and the landlady found us some other bits and pieces including beds. Yes, it is all second hand, but mostly decent pieces of furniture. We will hand it on when we leave as we have a furnished home back in the UK. Towels, sheets and bedding are costly -- so maybe if I was coming out again, I would bring a spare set of each. If you have quality stuff, then bring it - we can get quality stuff here but for a price. Crockery and kitchen equipment - several thrift outlets have lots on the shelves. Electrical and electronics are all very expensive - bring a computer and wiring if you can, with the necessary transformers or adapters. But electric toothbrushes won't work if you come from UK, get one here at PriceRight. If you have one, bring a folding camp chair for outings, garden and picnics - they are twice the cost out here compared to the UK or States. Clothes are limited in choice so bring plenty - but you have to have owned them for six months if you want to avoid paying duty on them - anything newer attracts 25% customs duties."

6. Transportation in Bermuda

scooter bermuda "Although Bermudians are committed to driving, bus service is excellent and one of the few real values to be had in Bermuda. I take a 15 minute ride to work each day and pay $45 a month for unlimited service on a bus that runs every 15 minutes. Also, there is only one car allowed per household. Not all apartments come with a registration number, which is necessary to own a car. Be aware that about 10 deaths occur each year to scooter riders - roads are narrow and very treacherous," warned one expat. Another expat said, "as for families, the one car per household is hard to manage, but everyone rides a scooter (a licence is easy to get if you buy a bike, but renting you won't need one). The speed limit is 25 miles an hour, so I wouldn't say it is dangerous, however loads of people drink and drive and also speed on the scooters, which they can't control, locals and tourist die every year. You have to wear a helmet, but no other safety gear so if you come of the scooter going too fast round a corner, at least the tarmac will take of your skin like a cheese grater and the injuries just worse."

7. Bermuda is EXPENSIVE

An expat living in Hamilton said, "don't [move], unless you have a very good remuneration package, with a housing allowance of at least $2500. You will not be able to rent ANYTHING for less than that, and a decent appartment will cost $5000 up. Everything is VERY expensive, especially food. The island is VERY small, and you will get "island fever" and need to leave periodically. This is also quite expensive as there are no cheap flights off the island. Go and have a look first, and be prepared for culture shock." Another expat said, "you will need up to $2500 per month for housing if living alone, $400 for mobile, internet and TV, $500 per month for gas, electricity, which leaves you with enough for food and clothes. Plus capital outlay of $3K for moped or twice that for car." One member suggested, "for anyone moving to Bermuda, the best place to get second hand items is on eMoo ... it's Bermudas Ebay..."

8. International Schools in Bermuda

Saltus Grammar School is a co-ed, independent day school for kids from ages 4 through 18 located in Hamilton. The Bermuda High School for Girls is a girls, private school in Pembroke, Bermuda. Despite its "high school" name, The Bermuda High School for Girls serves Year 1 through Year 13 (similar to K-12), which offers the IB program in Years 12-13. Warwick Academy is the oldest school on Bermuda. It's a selective, co-ed school that serves Year 1 to Year 13. Mount Saint Agnes Academy is a Catholic, co-ed school that serves students from Kindergarten through Grade 12. Somersfield Academy is a Montessori school that serves students from ages 3 to 16.

9. Obtaining a Work Permit in Bermuda

hamilton bermuda "IT computers, accounting, law, reinsurance, banking, those as the big ones," said one expat when asked about career opportunities in Bermuda. Another expat said, "offshore insurance and tourism. Government has a policy of actively recruiting Bermudians so any expat here must be better qualified than a local (not hard!) and there must not be a local who can do the job. Very few opportunities to move jobs once here - permit is issued for specific job for specific time frame."

"I obtained my work permit through the company that hired me. Make sure you have all of your documentation available for HR and be patient -- it takes a long time. Temporary work permits are a real money maker for immigration. Also immigration is presently in a do-nothing mode, they won't do a thing if it isn't vital. In other words, if you're already working and your work permit is up for renewal, immigration is likely to let your work permit expire and leave you hanging for as long as they feel like it. Don't panic, but don't leave the island. Immigration wants people who can't wait for them to get off the wall to leave -- that way they don't have to deal with you any longer. It's like making a decision that never comes. As long as you're on the island, you're working and the company you're working for is trying to get your work permit, you're OK. At my last job, I waited 6 months and two temporary work permits later before I got my 3 year permit. You just have to be massively patient," said an expat living in Pembroke, Bermuda.

10. Working in Bermuda

"Research all regulations before taking the job. Some policies in Bermuda are not like those in the US. Remember, expats have no rights here. It is hard to get ahead and they want to take as much from you without giving you much in return. Listen to what Bermudians have to say so you can learn about their frustrations. The educational system is not geared towards them holding jobs with significant responsibility. That can create alot of frustration with expats who have the education they may want. So be open, share some of what you know and that will create a more workable atmosphere," recommended one expat living in Paget, Bermuda.

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About the Author

Betsy Burlingame Betsy Burlingame is the Founder of Expat Exchange. She launched Expat Exchange in 1997 as her Master's thesis project at NYU. Some of Betsy's more popular articles include 6 Best Places to Live in Costa Rica, 12 Things to Know Before Moving to The Dominican Republic and 7 Tips for Obtaining Residence in Italy. Betsy loves to travel and spend time with her family. Connect with Betsy on LinkedIn.

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First Published: Jan 27, 2015

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