Hamilton, Bermuda Report of what it's like to live there - 12/23/18

Personal Experiences from Hamilton, Bermuda

Hamilton, Bermuda 12/23/18

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No, fifth overseas posting, past posts were in Africa, Europe, and the Middle East

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

East coast. Bermuda has non stop flight to many east coast hubs. Many flights are fewer than two hours.

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3. How long have you lived here?

15 wonderful months.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

US Consulate.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

There really is no typical housing, and it is spread all over the island. There are single-family homes, or condo type places. No one lives in downtown Hamilton. The commute can vary based on where you live, and while locals complain about the traffic, in all honesty, it's a piece of cake. Even at its worst you are "stuck" for 25 minutes at most looking at lovely scenery, so how can you really complain?

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Virtually everything is imported from the US. There is really nothing you can't get here, but it is mind-bogglingly expensive. Bermuda is consistently ranked as one of the most expensive places in the world to live (it rarely makes the list of most expensive cities to live because Hamilton isn't really much of a city). $7 for half a gallon of milk, $6 for a loaf of bread, $5 for a pack of hamburger buns. You get the idea. It's crazy expensive.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

If you are able to do a shipment from the US before you arrive, you would be best to ship as many liquids as possible, to include all of your toiletries, laundry products, liquid cleaning products, basically anything that you can't ship through the pouch, ship. You will thank yourself later for it.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

The only chain here is KFC. As far as fast food there are local pizza chains, a few chicken places, etc, and some deliver. Then there are the high-end restaurants which are good for a nice meal but very expensive.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Sure, we have cockroaches and ants and it's a constant battle to keep them out.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Pouch mail comes in about 3 weeks or so. For outgoing mail you can send merchandise returns through the pouch (goes out about once a month) or give your package to someone headed Stateside. The Bermuda mail service is also possible; I used it to send my absentee ballot and cards back home and it works fine, too.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

The standard rate is US$30 an hour, and most cleaners will want to work at least a half or full day minimum to make it worth their while.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

There are a couple Cross fit places and several gyms; they are not cheap.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Yes. Pretty much the only thing I routinely need cash for is to tip the grocery baggers at the store. You can use ATMs, or cash a check at the Consulate.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

There is a little bit of everything here.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Yes, especially the consulate, as half our offices are upstairs in a building with no elevator.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

There is a bus system, but it is not very reliable. Sometimes the bus just doesn't show up. Taxis are very expensive. Buses and taxis, like everything in Bermuda, are very safe.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

The rules for importing a car to Bermuda are very strict. It must be brand new, fewer than 6 months old, you must be the first owner, and it must meet Bermuda's size restrictions. Make sure to check with post before you ship or commit to anything. They drive on the left here, and I imported a left hand drive car, but I find it to be an advantage, since the roads here are very very narrow, I always know how close to the wall I am when I am driving. It's also possible to buy a car on arrival here (but like everything else, very expensive).

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

The internet is fine and I pay about US$150 a month for it. Installation is fast (within a couple days)

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Phone provided by post. If need a phone for a spouse or partner, bring an unlocked phone with you.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

There are strict pet import rules, but read the rules and follow them and you will be fine. There is no quarantine. There are excellent vets here. Boarding is very expensive here, better to find someone who can pet sit for you. Dogs are only allowed on the beaches in the winter and there are no dog parks on the island, but people walk their dogs on leashes everywhere and there are plenty of places to go with dogs.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

It is possible to work on the economy here but I don't really have any details about that. This is a good question for the Community Liaison Office (CLO).

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Plenty. You can help at the SPCA, Meals on Wheels, and other places.

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Business attire is fine. No Marines here means no Marine ball, no need for super fancy attire.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

No. From time to time there are break-ins, but Bermuda is far safer than pretty much anywhere in the US. I walk my dog alone in the dark every morning and have never had the slightest concern.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Medical care here is fine, but again, very very expensive. The hospital here is excellent; I spent several hours there for a sinus infection and it cost $1900. There are US trained doctors here and most medication is available as well.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

There are no air quality issues here whatsoever.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

There are gluten-free and vegan options sold in stores here.

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5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

Absolutely not.

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6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

The weather here is heavenly. It gets down to the 60s and low 70s in the winter, and the water becomes a bit too cold to swim in, but for the rest of the year it is lovely here.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

There is no DOS supported school here, so families use several local private schools. Do your research to find the one that fits your family best. There are excellent schools here.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

I can only speak for Warwick Academy, but they have worked well with my son and I have been very pleased with the support he receives here. Bermuda also has excellent OT, Speech, and child development resources here too.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Yes, they are available but I don't have any experience with them. The school my son goes to offers before school care starting at 7:30am and after school running to 5:30 which I use every day.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes there are plenty of activities for kids: swimming, sailing, rowing, soccer, cricket, you name it.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

We are the only Consulate on the island but there are plenty of expats living here. Morale is great: we are in Bermuda!

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

There is a women's group, but I don't know much about it. This island is so small I would think it would not be hard to meet others.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Yes, great for all. This is an amazing place to live, and when it gets too small for you, just fly back to the US.

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4. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?

Yes, again, Bermudians are wonderful people.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Although Bermuda recently made the news for allowing and then repealing same sex marriage, don't let that fool you. Bermudians are warm and welcoming people and there is no hostility towards the LGBT community.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

No.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

The beaches are wonderful and this is a paradise for anyone who likes any kind of water sports or outdoor activities.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

This is a small place so there isn't much that is hidden. Bermuda is an amazing island with a fascinating history.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Not really. Maybe sherry pepper sauce? Gosling's black seal rum?

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Well, first of all, Hamilton isn't really much of a city, and no one from post lives inside Hamilton. We are all spread out around the island, but living in Bermuda is wonderful. The weather is lovely, my neighbors are locals who are very nice, there are plenty of places to walk my dog and/or go jogging from here, and I am not far from work.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

I lived here ages ago on the military base and I had been wanting to move back ever since. I had never had to shop on the local economy before and was not really grasping how insanely expensive it is here until I arrived. Ship as much as you can.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

YES!

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Winter clothes (well, you will need them if you go back to the US in the winter).

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4. But don't forget your:

I brought an Oru Kayak with me to post; we can't ship watercraft in our HHE but this item is foldable and no one knew what it was when I shipped it. I am so glad I have that kayak here, it has been fantastic to explore the beautiful water here with it.

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

There are plenty of travel books about Bermuda.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

I am cherishing every day here. I love this place and am so glad to be here!!!

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