Bermudas people are best described as conservative islanders. Ours is a blend of diverse cultures operating within a framework of historically British laws. Uniting this blend of cultures is a practical and positive approach to life common to island people.
Where do Bermudians come from? There were no indigenous people in Bermuda when Sir George Somers shipwrecked here in 1609 although there had been many temporary inhabitants because of similar encounters with our reefs. The first official settlers arrived from England in 1615. Two years later, in 1617, the first official record of slaves appears. The slaves brought to Bermuda were mostly African, or of African descent. There were also Native American slaves and there may have been some Carib Indians from the West Indies.
Portuguese immigrants from Madeira arrived in the 1840’s seeking agricultural work. Later many came from the Azores.
The British Army established its first permanent army garrison in 1778 and the British Navy purchased Ireland Island in 1809 to establish the Royal Naval Dockyard. Many West Indians migrated to Bermuda during this time to work on the Floating Dock that was brought to Dockyard from Britain. There were also strong connections between Bermuda and the West Indies prior to this migration due to general trade. Links were particularly strong with the Turks and Caicos Islands because of the salt trade.
Again in World War 2, there was an influx of military, this time American and Canadian. All of these human migrations are reflected in Bermuda’s population today.
Famous for their natural charm, Bermudians have earned a reputation as some of the most gracious hosts in the global hospitality industry. In fact, visitors are often pleasantly surprised to be greeted with an enthusiastic “good morning” from practically everyone they encounter.
Local dialect is colourful and in some instances indecipherable to a visitor’s ear. For example, many Bermudians enjoy a good “grease” (pronounced greeze) which means they like to eat. Bermudians are well travelled and their culinary tastes run from haute cuisine to local dishes whose recipes are passed from generation to generation. Favourites include: pan-fried fish with sweet potatoes, codfish and potatoes (with avocado, bananas and boiled egg) covered in tomato or egg sauce – for breakfast on Sunday, fish chowder with black rum and sherry peppers, broiled spiny lobster with lemon and melted butter, peas and rice. All of this may be washed down with a pot of tea, a tall glass of fruit punch or perhaps one of our world-famous libations which include the Dark and Stormy (black rum and ginger beer) or Bermuda Rum Swizzle.
Art, in all its vibrant forms, plays a significant role in Bermudian life. Bermudian and resident musicians, writers, dancers and artists enjoy enthusiastic support both at home and abroad. Island stores, galleries and theatres showcase their work on a regular basis. Check for listings in the Yellow Pages® of this Directory.
A majority of Bermudians practice some form of religion (85% according to the 2000 Census). It is often said that Bermuda has more churches per square mile than any other country. The same is also said of golf courses. Of course we are only 21.6 square miles!
While most Bermudians have embraced the computer and internet world quite happily – we have after all been designated one of the most “wired” destinations in the world – many still hold true to traditions that are reflective of a more agrarian and serene time and lifestyle. Many Bermudians still do a little fishing, keep a few chickens, grow a few vegetables, have a paw-paw tree, bananas and a lemon tree in their yard.
Bermuda’s culture is perhaps best described by the title of Hubert Smith’s beautiful song Bermuda Is Another World – the island and its people are wholly distinctive. We are not Caribbean and we are not mainland. We are a vibrant, ever-evolving melting pot.