Hamilton, Bermuda Report of what it's like to live there - 10/24/09

Personal Experiences from Hamilton, Bermuda

Hamilton, Bermuda 10/24/09

Background:

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

No - St. Petersburg, RU.

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2. How long have you lived here?

3+ years 2006-2009.

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

US Consulate posting.

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4. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

About 2 hours from the East Coast of the US via Philly, Newark, Atlanta, Miami or Boston. Surprisingly only summer flights from DC (USA3000).

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Smallish (and expensive) but with very short commutes. Our family of four lived in the top half of a duplex. (The whole island is chain is 22 miles long and ~1 mile tall. You're never more than 45 minutes from anywhere.)

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

Everything is available -- but it's definitely the most expensive place I've ever lived. I'd say it's about 150% as expensive as a DC-area Giant.

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

I was very happy I brought my treadmill. There are very few sidewalks on the island and weather was sometimes exercise-prohibitive.

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

Only one fast food chain on the whole island - a single KFC downtown. There are definitely restaurants all over the island. It does have some mediocre "Ethnic" cuisine restaurants -- House of India was probably the best. Upscale restaurants it has in abundance. I recommend the Specialty Inn for pizza (carry-out). Delivery was prohibitively expensive.

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

Ants attack the kitchen.

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Daily Life:

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

We got it through diplomatic pouch mail. But there is a normal post service.

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

Expensive, expensive, expensive - not highly available.

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

There are - but they're dreadfully expensive - like most things on the island.

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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?

Never had a problem.

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

In droves.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Yes and yes. The paper we got through the consulate, but TV had three primary options, Bermuda Cablevision, WOW and Dish satellite. We lived with Cablevision for ~$100 a month

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

English is primary. Portuguese is the secondary language on the island

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

It really isn't very handicap-friendly. (But I wasn't looking for that.)

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Transportation:

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

Buses, ferries and taxis here (no trains) are very safe. (Unless the ferry operator is drunk* :) ) They're relatively affordable - but nothing here is cheap. *There was one incident in Bermuda while I lived there - no one was hurt

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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?

Small and new. There are severe import restrictions and you drive on the left side of the road (ala Great Britain) We bought here. The roads are cramped and tiny. Expect bumps and scratches.

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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?

It ain't cheap. A high-speed DSL connection went for ~$200 a month. (There were cheaper options, but I need it for work)

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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?

I didn't bother. Coverage is spotty.

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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?

No.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Yes.

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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?

Job market is geared toward Bermudians first, but there are definitely jobs available.

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

Slightly more formal than you'd expect for an island - but still an island.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Good.

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2. What immunizations are required each year?

None that are special.

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

Not really. Crime is on the upswing, but I never felt in any danger during my entire stay there.

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

Yes.

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

Paradisical - except from January to March where you'd have your coldish rainy patches. But there would always be your 72 degrees and sunny day interspersed.

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Schools & Children:

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

From second hand, I understand that they are acceptable, but not overwhelming.

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

I'm not sure, but the island is not very handicapped friendly in general.

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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. We had an excellent experience with "Once upon a Time" on Church St. in Hamilton. There are a lot of options.

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

Our children were too young, but there's definitely dance, soccer, cricket and swimming programs.

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Expat Life:

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

Large and plentiful.

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2. Morale among expats:

Laid-back.

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

Bermudians a very friendly, but they also already have their own social circles. They are used to living around large numbers of ex-pat cyclical dwellers and it may be difficult to break into their entertaining club.

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

It's good for families and most people would enjoy it.

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

I would highly doubt it. It's a very conservative society and I didn't notice any vestige of a scene.

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

Interpersonally -- no. Politically, there's still a large historical racial problem. Religiously, everything is swimming as long as you're a Christian. (You're a Christian, right?) But this doesn't come up too frequently in day-to-day life.

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

Beaches and beaches, golf, tennis, decent bridge club, tourist at the Dockyard and St. George's, boat trips around the island, walks on the railroad trail and Spittal Pond, visit the plethora of old forts, but it does get boring - especially when the weather is bad. I do recommend the Bastille Day dinner and the international Rugby tournament.

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

Not too much in the way of unique local crafts.

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9. Can you save money?

This is very hard. The island is very expensive and "Rock Fever" dictates several trips a year off the island.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Absolutely.

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

snow shoes (it never gets below 50),

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3. But don't forget your:

sun screen (pretty much everything is available there)

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

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

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

Be careful with the scooters - that's where the road fatalities come from. Pros: Beautiful weather, friendly locals, English-speaking. Cons: Expensive, small roads and a trifle boring.

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