If you're moving to Bermuda, read these tips from expats living in Bermuda. From what to bring (and leave behind) to culture shock, visas and more, their insight is invaluable.
Advice for Newcomers to Bermuda
Here is some advice and words of caution for expats that are moving to Bermuda:
"On paper a salary looks good but a loaf of bread is US $3 and a half decent place to live is US$3000 a month. You have to be on a good package of 100K or more plus apartment thrown in to be OP here," said one expat who moved to Hamilton, Bermuda.
"Don't, 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," mentioned another expat when asked about moving to Bermuda.
"It's too expensive. Rent, food and utilities run quite high. There is a lot of political unrest. In spite of all the outward friendliness "good day" to each person you pass on the street there is a lot of underlying tension. If you are not a church goer, or not into sports it is difficult to meet people outside of the work place. It also gets quite damp in the winter. If you are not Bermudian you are considered a threat and an enemy. Drugs and violence have entered this small island," commented one expat who made the move to Bermuda.
"Always keep in mind that you are an expat, a visitor in someone else's country. Take the time to understand how things got the way they are before making any judgement. You will make Bermudian friends as these people are extremely generous and outgoing. They all love talking politics and about social context so it is a great opportunity to learn about the history and culture. There are a tons of social events, especially in summer season. Go out and meet people," said another expat in Bermuda.
"I would say they had to make sure to get a very good package before even considering coming. Everything here is MASSIVELY expensive. Hold out for the best deal you can, as often, what is first offered is negotiable. Bear in mind that if coming here from the UK, health insurance is mandatory as there is no NHS here, and even the most basic health insurance package is costly. Rents are phenomenal, as are the cost of utilities," remarked another expat in Hamilton, Bermuda.
"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," mentioned another expat when asked about moving to 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 treacharous."
"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," said one expat who moved to Bermuda, Bermuda.
What to Bring When Moving to Bermuda (and what to leave behind)
When we asked expats living in Bermuda what they wish they had brought when moving to Bermuda and what they wish they had left at home, they replied:
"Not a problem here -- 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 con. 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, 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 one expat who moved to Bermuda, Bermuda.
Another expat wrote:
"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.
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," mentioned another expat when asked about moving to Bermuda.
Deciding Where to Live in Bermuda
When we asked expats living in Bermuda to offer newcomers advice about choosing a neighborhood and finding a home, they replied:
"I took a tour with a couple of real estate rental agents. They are frank and give you a good idea of the neighborhood and its constraints/positives," said one expat who moved to Bermuda, Bermuda.
"By word of mouth - Good reasonably prices apartments for rental 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," mentioned another expat when asked about moving to Bermuda.
Typical Housing for Expats
When we asked expats in Bermuda about the type of home or apartment they life in and whether that is typical for expats, they replied:
"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," said one expat who moved to Bermuda, Bermuda.
"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 to the side, to generate rental income," mentioned another expat when asked about moving to Bermuda.
Housing Costs in Bermuda
Here's what expats had to say about housing costs there:
"Much, much higher than in Canada and, according to my American friends, also higher than most US places. However, we pay no income tax -- although there is a 5% payroll tax levied -- nor do we have sales tax," said one expat who moved to Bermuda, Bermuda.
"Rent is expensive in Bermuda. But as the lifestyle is so much more focused on being outdoors I chose to rent a tiny one bedroom place - I only really use it to sleep anyway," mentioned another expat when asked about moving to Bermuda.
Meeting People in Bermuda
Expats living in Bermuda talked about meeting people in Bermuda and local clubs and organizations:
"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," said one expat who moved to Hamilton, Bermuda.
"Women should join the Internation American Women's Club. 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," mentioned another expat when asked about moving to Bermuda.
"Defintely not the American Women's Club, they have stopped taking newcomers, don't even advertise any more. Best bet would be church, a sports activity or volunteering," commented one expat who made the move to Bermuda.
"Golf is a major way of meeting new people on this island as there an abundance of clubs, but be warned, they are expensive if you plan on making yourself a member of one. Otherwise, there is beach volleyball on Elbow Beach, or various other sports like running clubs etc. If you're not into sport, and are male, or a brave female, just turn up at The Hamilton Princess on Friday evenings in summer and get yourself a drink at Happy Hour prices and join the drunken crowds that populate that place. You'll soon meet new friends, only they may not remember meeting you the next day," remarked another expat in Hamilton, Bermuda.
"I came to Bermuda with my wife and our two young daughters. I was working a lot although my wife started socializing through the MAMA group in which she made few very good friends," said another expat in Bermuda.
Diversity in Bermuda
We asked expats about diversity in Bermuda and whether locals are accepting of differences. They said:
"They are quite diverse. However, they do not embrace their differences, there is a lot of racial tension. The locals really dislike the expats," commented one expat who made the move to Bermuda.
"Unfortunately, Bermuda has a real need for expat, or "guest workers" as we are called, due to the island's tiny size and lack of locals to fill the jobs. Trouble is, they DON'T want us and waste no time making you aware of that, by articles in the local paper, The Royal Gazette, or by just plainly saying so. Make no mistake, you are NOT welcome," remarked another expat in Hamilton, Bermuda.
"There is racism in Bermuda. Many do not like expats, but I personally found that the racism was even worse between black and white Bermudians. Still, all expats have their own stories and personally, I did not really experience intense form of racism.
The sentiment Bermudians have towards these people is ambivalent as some think expats take jobs off Bermudians," said another expat in Bermuda.
Proximity to Hospitals and Emergency Care
Here's what expats had to say about health care in Bermuda:
"King Edward Memorial Hospital is the only general hospital on the island. It has the usual departments one would expect and most basic problems can be managed on island. Many people however choose or are advised to go overseas for surgery or complex problems.
All medical care on island is private, bar a minority of local people with just the basic government health cover.
The hospital is on the outskirts of Hamilton city and within 12 miles of any part on the island.
A second hospital, Mid Atlantic Wellness Institute looks after mental health problems and learning disabilities. This is in one of the central parishes. Psychiatric care is covered by insurance.
Locally problems such as cardiovascular disease, asthma, renal dialysis, orthopaedic surgery, childbirth, paediatrics are all covered in the same fashion as a district general hospital would cover back in UK. You do have an element of choice afforded through your insurance - for example I have one friend who had knee replacement on island and another who went to Boston," said one expat who moved to Hamilton, Bermuda.
"Boston, New York and the U.K. are the common places to go for off island medical care. Quality there is of course excellent," said one expat who moved to Hamilton, Bermuda.
"Prescription medicines are covered through your insurance. This is one area which is better than the UK as there is no co-pay for common prescription items, compared with the standard prescription charge in the UK."
"Some that are OTC in the UK are not available without prescription here - for example oral antifungals."
Others surprisingly are available OTC such as some sleeping tablets and strong laxatives. Many vitamins are available in pharmacies," said one expat who moved to Hamilton, Bermuda.