Bermudian People and Culture

The welcoming warmth and hospitality of the Bermudian people is legendary. With a genuine curiosity about the people around them, Bermudians will start conversations with strangers freely and easily. This of course makes it easier for the country’s visitors to get around surrounded by a 99% literate and very English speaking population.

All in all, statics show that Bermuda is a popular destination not only for a holiday but for business as well. Its sound economy encourages investments and the provision of financial services to the world is the second largest contributor to its economy. For any traveler interested to explore a different experience, Bermuda is warm, welcoming and easy to love.

Cultural Roots

Officially, the British were the first settlers in Bermuda from about 1615. Settlers from other countries started arriving later starting with the slaves, of African origin, who were brought in by the British in 1617. There were also slaves brought in from the West Indies and the Caribbean. However people from the West Indies started coming in to Bermuda in droves when the British started building the Royal Naval Dockyard.

This has contributed largely to the 63% non-white population in Bermuda. Slavery was outlawed in Bermuda in 1807 but officially ended in 1834 when all slaves were freed. By the 1840s, people from other areas especially Portugal started to settle in Bermuda, taking jobs as farmers and working as cheap labor.

Unlike slavery in other parts of the world, most of the black slaves brought to Bermuda were part of cargoes seized by Bermudian privateers. These slaves could either by purchased, or auctioned or given as a gift. On average, black and Indian men used to be sold for about £26 while women were sold for between £10 to £20 and black slave children could be bought for a little as £8.

As with all other countries that had slaves, the black slaves too rebelled against their circumstances. There were constant escapes and even plots to murder the slave owners. This reached the point that in 1674, laws were enacted requiring every slave to carry a ticket from his owner the moment he was outside his owner’s estate. Failure to produce the ticket on demand would result in a whipping for first-timers, ears being cut off if caught the second time, and being branded the third.

Mixture of Different Cultures and Heritages

People continued to migrate to Bermuda drawn by the land of opportunity and golden sun and during World War II, more migrants appeared from Canada and the United States. In terms of religion, the majority of the Bermudians are of Christian faith and religion plays a very important part in the culture of this island nation.

Interestingly Bermuda is the fifth smallest country in the world but has a population density that places it third in the world. Another little known fact is that Bermuda has the highest density of computers, televisions and telephone lines in the world, making it the best connected country in terms of telecommunication. So much for getting away from it all!

Bermudian culture comprises an eclectic mix of different cultures and heritages that make it very interesting for visitors. This is enchantingly balanced with the British influence and this influence is reflected in a passion for cricket, being loyal to the Queen of England who is the feature of their currency notes and the fact that they drive on the left side of the road.

However there is an American tinge to their culture as well as is seen from the American accents and slangs that are sported by the locals, that their currency is known as the dollar (even with the Queen of England on its face) and their television programs are primarily American based.

Unique Customs

For those of us who have worn Bermuda shorts to the beach and loitered in them on lazy Sunday mornings, a visit to Bermuda will show that it is formal attire there and can even be worn with a jacket and tie!

Bermuda Shorts

Bermudians are very etiquette conscious with a love for pomp and protocol. An extremely polite people, they are gently imposing about their Ps and Qs. This sensitivity to decorum must be influenced by the fact that so many cultures have come together on this tiny group of islands and civility has helped to pave the way to harmonious living.

Along the same lines, regardless that they are an island nation with access to sea and sun all year round, Bermudians are generally modest with their attire, so modest that topless sunbathing is illegal in Bermuda.

Traditions and Foods

Bermuda is internationally known for its arts, culture and music. An eclectic mix of all the different cultures and ethnicities that have evolved in the nation, this melting pot creates a unique platform for music and dance in particular.

The Gombey Dance is influenced by the music and dance of the early slaves. The word “Gombey” is about defining the African drums and the African rhythm and it is common to see this dance performed during all major holidays on the islands. Vibrant and full of force, it is reminiscent of African tribal dancing.

Another unique Bermudian tradition is kite flying, although these are traditionally flown in Bermuda only during Easter. The significance is religious for this largely Christian nation and kite flying at Easter is a symbol of Jesus Christ’s assent. Bermudian kites are well built and even hold world records for duration of flight and for altitude.

Bermuda holds several international Arts Festivals that allow visitors to explore works from local and international artists. In addition the Bermuda National Gallery with exhibits on African masks and sculptures, historic paintings, Bermudian furnishing and European art is worth a visit. For more intricate artistic flavor, there are opportunities to ogle at the local and traditional glassblowing talent that shapes this fragile material into a variety of colorful and delicate shapes.

The food in Bermuda is to be experienced. While almost all ingredients and fresh food is imported, primarily from the United States, there is a strong West African and European mix in the cuisine. Being an island nation, seafood is of course staple and the desserts in particular, comprising cassava pie, sweet potato pudding and johnnycakes are worth savoring. There are also a range of desserts that are made with rum as their base, leaving a throaty tingling after taste that can be pleasant.

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