In Bermuda: Studio Apartments For $1800/mo, 2 Bedrooms For $3000
Blame it on
the reinsurance companies and their overly generous housing allowances.
Blame it on the opportunistic real estate agents and greedy landlords.
Blame it on supply and demand. The sad truth is that housing in Bermuda
is some of the most expensive on earth. The average home price recently
hit $1,000,000. Luckily, it’s only a million Bermudian dollars. Wait –
no, that can’t be right – the exchange ratio is 1:1 with the greenback!
so much land, and it’s almost all gone. Few new houses are being built,
and those few that are “affordable” (a highly relative term) are located
either in Somerset at the far west end, or in St. David’s at the east end
of the island. Count on a good 45 minute commute. I stayed a few months
last winter with a friend in Somerset. By the end of my two months, I was
considering moving back to Canada, where the commute would only be ½
an hour. There are no highways, just a single 35km/h lane in each direction.
So how much
does it cost to put a roof over your head these days? Count on $1000
or more for a room in a houseshare (your bedroom, plus common area), $2500
or so for a basic 1-bedroom place that isn’t out in St. David’s or Dockyards.
Add $200-$400/mo for electricity, $120 or more for phone and Internet,
$30-50 for basic cable and you’re set.
Not If You’ll Fall, It’s When Will You Fall
Call them scooters,
auxiliary cycles, or mopeds, you will probably be using one of these as
your primary transportation. Selling for $2000-$4000 new, and as little
as $500 used, these Vespa-like scooters are ubiquitous across the island.
Why? Because only one car is allowed per home by law. To get around the
gridlock, the adventurous, young, and stupid among us have discovered a
hidden “middle lane” along every road. Sometimes yellow, sometimes
white, it’s always there if you search hard enough. It’s kind of narrow,
though. They say everyone falls off (or gets knocked off) their bikes at
least once. My “little incident” was thankfully barely a scratch,
but there are significantly more road fatalities per capita in Bermuda
than you would think possible for a place with a 35km/h speed limit.
6. Get To
Know Your Water Guy
and houses get rainwater as their primary source of water, for bathing,
washing, flushing and drinking! Yes, there is a reason for all those
strange looking white roofs. While this is never a problem in the winter
months – it rains quite a lot in the winter – it’s very likely that you
will need to order water from a delivery company in the summer. These
little tanker trucks carry about 900-1000 gallons per load, and will charge
you about $60 per load. Most water tanks (which replace North
American basements) will hold 4-6 loads, so this, like most things
in Bermuda, can get expensive.
with the trucked water supply is that is not unlimited, and the demand
in summer far outstrips supply. If you’re not a regular customer,
forget it. Being without water for even ½ a day is a major hassle.
Allow me to make a quick plug for our water guy – Anthony from HB Water.
Tell him Rob and Mandee sent you J
To Enter A Willing State Of Suspended Disbelief At The Grocery Store
months, we’ve finally cracked the code. Groceries cost $50 per bag. Apart
from housing, your biggest expense is likely to be groceries. For some
reason Chicken is inexpensive. But forget about just about everything else.
Bread for $4.00 a loaf. Basic shampoo (Pantene) is $9.00 a bottle. Everything
except milk, carrots, and onions, is imported. Usually it’s brought in
by boat. Fresh fruit is a real luxury – a pint of strawberries can fetch
over $5. In season.
go shopping after 7pm, your groceries are likely to be bagged by a school
kid. Unless you like the look of death from everyone around you, tips are
mandatory. About 50c per bag seems to be enough for expats to stay out
of trouble, although I’ve seen some locals giving $5! Some of these kids
earn more than the cashiers.
How Are You?” Goes A Long Way
One day, I
was hanging around in Smiths, one of the “big” Front St. department stores.
A friend of mine was serving a typical client – a rude New Jersey cruise
ship tourist. This tourist obviously hadn’t heard of the Bermudian greeting
rule. Every Bermudian expects to be asked how they are, no exceptions.
Note to tourists: if, after asking a shop attendant a question before The
Greeting, you get a barely perceptible delay, followed by a sweet smile
and a “Good afternoon Madam, I will be with you shortly”, you’ve Been Told.
a grouping of 60,000 people would be a town, and would depend on a much
larger city close by. Not here. Bermuda’s population hovers around
62,000. For that reason, you will start recognizing people in short order.
Back in Canada, it was a rare surprise to run into someone you knew when
walking or driving down the street. Here, it’s the opposite. Rarely does
a day go by that I don’t see at least one person whose name I know.
acceptable to stop in the middle of “dee rode”, and have a conversation
with a friend on the sidewalk. Blocked traffic be damned – you haven’t
seen this person in ages! It’s been what? A week? Hows yer momma?
3. No Matter
What Your Religion, You’ve Got To Keep It Clean
this is for you. You simply must keep your home tidy and clean. Significantly
cleaner than you could get away back in the “real world.” Sloppy living
just isn’t practical here. Leave food on the counter and it will be crawling
with ants within a couple of hours. Dog food left out must be floating
with a moat of water to keep these things out. I don’t think I’m exaggerating
when I estimate that fully ½ of all ants in the world live on this
And then there’s
the mould and mildew. We’re a small island, in the middle of the Atlantic
Ocean. The average humidity hovers from 70-85%. Without constant moving
air and sunlight in your home, things get fuzzy fast. Leather seems to
be the most often affected – a friend has lost a couple of pairs of shoes
and one really nice jacket to the warm green fuzzies. Other examples: Just
last night, I pulled out my non-organic-material sandals for a New Year’s
Eve toga party, and they were starting to go green. Home electronics are
more likely to break from rust than from any other cause.
May Call ‘em Palmetto Bugs, But They’re Not
everywhere. And they’re not tiny. Like the crabs crawling along almost
every street in Belize, these suckers are everywhere. In springtime, they
even fly a bit. This is yet another reason to keep your house cleaner than
A popular book
for new arrivals is “Tea with Tracy”. Unfortunately I couldn’t find it
at Amazon, but the book is a classic, and a must read for anyone moving
to The Rock. In the book, the author describes her first year in Bermuda,
complete with battling roaches, ants, mould, and everything else that can
get into your house. My wife loved it, and learned many pearls of wisdom.
Fever Has Nothing To Do With Sex
It’s not class
warfare, but there is a subtle yet noticeable resentment of expats by certain
Bermudians. Not all Bermudians, not even 5%. But some Bermudian’s think
we’re taking their jobs. I’m sure it happens everywhere – expats and immigrants
supposedly taking the jobs of locals. Never mind whether they have the
experience, the certifications or degrees, or the raw ability.
fever happens when you let those few locals get under your skin. Luckily,
a quick trip to NYC or Toronto for the weekend has a high probability of
curing this ailment.
I’m a pretty
easy-going guy – most things roll off my back with ease. But I knew
I had Island Fever a few months back, when I read an editorial in the Royal
Gazette. The author had an excellent suggestion for reducing the gridlock
each morning: don’t allow expats to drive! Obviously this person
of eminent intelligence has all the answers. Thank you Air Canada for
that well-timed seat sale!
I hope you
haven’t been scared away from Bermuda. If you have the urge to work in
an island paradise for a few years, broaden your horizons, and save a bit
of money, Bermuda could be just the place for you. There is no perfect
place to live, but for me, Bermuda was a significantly better choice than
staying in Canada.
I enjoy answering
questions about Bermuda, but before asking, please check out www.bermuda-online.org
– it’s full of all the dry information. Leave the colour to me J. My email
address is firstname.lastname@example.org
I have a gallery
of pictures of Bermuda and my other travels, updated regularly, at http://101.net/personal/gallery2
I invite you to visit.
is Robert's first article for the magazine:
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