Bermuda People and Culture
In 1609, when George Somers and his men first landed up in this island after getting their ship wrecked in a nearby reef, there was nobody living in Bermuda.
But they did find few pigs here, which were later known as Bermuda Hogs.
But that's a different story and I'll talk about the pigs later and how they came to the island.
First, how did so many human beings come to live in this tiny island?
How did population in Bermuda grow?
As Somers and his men kept retaining British claims on the island, the first official settlers came in from England in 1612. So the British were the first to start settling in Bermuda. But today, there are about 63% blacks, 33% whites and rest are Asians and other nationals. There is also a good Portuguese population in Bermuda.
So the next question is how did the blacks arrive. They were brought in mostly as slaves by the British, starting in 1617. The slaves were mostly of African origin, some were American Indians and some were Caribbean Indians from the West Indies.
In 1809, British Navy started building the Royal Naval Dockyard at the Western tip of Bermuda. Many West Indians migrated to Bermuda during that time to work in the construction of the dockyard. The general trade between Bermuda and West Indies was always quite healthy which also helped settlement of West Indians in Bermuda.
As in the whole of British empire, Slavery in Bermuda too ended in 1834 and slaves became free. From 1840, large number of Portuguese started coming to Bermuda from Azores. They easily got farming jobs in the island and served as cheap labor.
Again during World War II, there was a large influx of military, but this time it was mostly from America and Canada. All this has led to the present mix of population in Bermuda. So in short, Bermudians are descendants of slaves who were brought in from the West Indies and West Africa, and also of English settlers, Irish adventurers, exiled North American Indian prisoners and Portuguese immigrants.
Do you know that every year, large number of tourists who come to Bermuda, actually inflate the population of Bermuda by 10 times. Yes, there are about 600,000 tourists who visit Bermuda every year who make the island look far more densely populated than what it really should be.
Coming back to the story of pigs, so how did pigs come to Bermuda before Somers came? In the 16th centiry, Spanish mariners sometimes got stranded in Bermuda as their ships would have got hit by nearby reefs and got wrecked. So they often brought pigs to breed here so that these could serve as ready supply of food in case of such emergency, and also for the passing ships.
Some facts about Bermuda population
Adult literacy in Bermuda is close to 99 per cent. Majority of Bermuda population are Anglicans, Roman Catholics and African Methodist Episcopalians. Bermuda has more than 400 churches and religious centers.
As per the 2010 census, 55% of Bermuda population are blacks, 31% whites and rest are Asians and other nationals. Out of the total Bermudian ancestry, British comprises 16%, West Indian 15%, Portuguese 9%, American 7% and Canadian 5%.
Historically, Bermudians have been sea adventurers like fishermen, whalers, traders and privateers. Today you can still see their seamanship in many Sailing & Yachting activities around the island.
Bermuda has the highest density of telephone lines, computers and Televisions. It is often called the wired country. Although Bermuda had no natural resources, gold or silver mines, today as reported by the World Bank, it has the highest GDP (Gross Domestic Product). However unfortunately, provisions for the Senior Citizens and disabled are probably the lowest in Bermuda. UPDATE 2011: Senior Citizens to get a three per cent pension increase from August 2011.
There is no car rental in Bermuda. Private cars are restricted to only one per family. People mostly use the public transports like the buses and ferries.
One can not become a Bermudian by birth unless one of the parents is a Bermudian. 78% of the population are Bermudians having born in the island to Bermudian parents. Remaining are immigrants.
Are the Bermudians Friendly?
Many years back when my family and I visited Bermuda for the first time, one of our special experience was the warmth and hospitality of the islanders. One of the main reasons we keep coming back to Bermuda is for the people of the island. They honor and practice old wold manners like "Good morning" and "Good afternoon". Their natural charm and smiling characters have earned them the reputation of being one of the most gracious hosts in world's hospitality industry.
This same feeling is shared by hundreds of visitors that we have met in the island or had the opportunity to communicate with. Check out Bermuda's Friendly People to know about an experience of a Canadian in Bermuda, which pretty much sums up the basic nature of Bermudians.
What do Bermudians speak and wear?
English is the official language in Bermuda. Some of them speak Portuguese as well. So you will have no problems in communication at all. You will get to meet Bermudians everywhere in the island - in public buses, ferries and on the road.
You will be surprised to see how many of them enthusiastically wish you. Bermudians can easily strike conversations with anyone including the tourists. If you need any help, you just need to ask. They are all quite educated and articulate.
Having said all that, Bermudian culture is quite conservative and greatly influenced by the British traditions. They follow fairly strict social code of conduct. Queen's English is often spoken with clipped upper class accent. This is mostly seen within the whites though.
Bermudians follow proper dress code in public places. Remember there is no nude or even semi-nude beaches in Bermuda. You may like to check Bermuda Dress Code to know about the acceptable attire and clothing in the island.
What do Bermudians like to eat?
Bermudians have diverse culinary taste. You will find all sorts of food and Dining options in Bermuda. However, when it comes to Bermudian cuisine itself, there are some special favorites that we never like to miss. Here are some of them: Pan-fried fish with sweet potatoes, codfish and potatoes covered in egg sauce, fish chowder (a thick soup made of fish head) with black rum and sherry peppers, broiled spiny lobster with lemon and melted butter, Hoppin' John peas and rice. Check out Bermuda Cuisine to know all about Bermudian food preparations and the best places to try out the authentic Bermudian dishes.
All Bermudians almost habitually take Afternoon Tea at around 4pm. Almost everything in the island comes to a halt for a cup of tea during this time. Some of the famous original cocktails in the island include Dark and Stormy (black rum and ginger beer) or Bermuda Rum Swizzle. To know about the special drinks of Bermuda, click Bermuda drinks.
Bermuda Culture - Art, Music, Dance and Sports
Music and dance have played an important role in the life of Bermudians. The colorful and rhythmic Gombey Dance that are seen at many events were influenced by American Indians and African slaves who were brought into the island during the 1600s.
Bermuda has been home to many celebrities like Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones. There are many others in the list including Earl Cameron, Diana Dill, Lena Headey, Will Kempe etc.
Bermuda has also produced many Legendary Musicians like The Talbot Brothers who performed for decades in both Bermuda and US. Others include jazz pianist Lance Hayward, pop singer Heather Nova and more recently dancehall artist Collie Buddz.
Every year since 1997, Bermuda has been hosting an International Film Festival that shows many independent films.
Intricate hand carved cedar sculptures are specialty of Bermuda. You will see a 7-foot sculpture at the airport's baggage claim area created by the artist Chesley Trott.
Water color paintings from various local artists are on display at many art galleries across the island. Alfred Birdsey's paintings of Bermuda's surrounding landscapes, sailboats, homes and bays are recognized all over the world. Check out Bermuda Art to know about art and handcrafts in Bermuda.
Bermuda's national sports is Cricket - a clear indication of how strong the British influence has been in Bermuda. During the Cup Match days, the whole island virtually comes to a stand still.
Every year during the Easter, Bermudians of all age, kids and families build kites and fly them at the beaches. A Bermudian kite is made to geometric designs and are quite colorful. Bermuda kites still hold the world record for their altitude and duration of flight. Click Bermuda Kite Festival to know more about this tradition of Bermuda.
Check out Bermuda Traditions & Customs to know about all the local customs and traditions in Bermuda and have a better understanding of the island and its people.
While there have been many Bermudians who have reached great heights in their professional careers and life, made big names for themselves and some even have gone on to reach international fame, there are some who are fondly loved by the Bermudians. Because by their unique lifestyle, conviction and influence, they have made immense impact to the people of Bermuda. They are the part of "real Bermuda" as the Bermudians have known it. If you want to get a glimpse of their life stories, then visit Bermudians to Remember.
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