Bermuda People and Culture
Bermuda with its total area of 21 square miles has a population of about 65,000. In the year 1609, when George Somers and his men first landed up in this island after their ship wrecked in a nearby reef, there was nobody living in Bermuda. But they did find a few pigs here, which were later known as Bermuda Hogs. 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?
As Somers' men kept retaining British claims on the island, the first official settlers were sent 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 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.
Fast forward to today's reality... Do you know that every year these days, large number of tourists visiting Bermuda actually inflate the population of the island 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 should be. But the island really can't do much about this. After all in a remote north Atlantic island such as this, tourism is the most important survival instrument (apart from International Business
which is perhaps mostly meant for higher educated people).
Now, getting back to the story of pigs. So how did pigs arrive in Bermuda before Somers came? In the 16th century, 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.
Bermuda's Population: Some Facts
In terms of population density (i.e. population per square kilometer) Bermuda is third in the world after Monaco and Singapore. On the other hand, Bermuda is the fifth smallest country in the world, the first being the Vatican City. Year 2010 census reported a population of 64,237 in Bermuda. According to the population projection of 2012, Bermuda's civilian population was estimated to be 64,867 with a population density of 1,194 per sq. km.
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. 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.
Now the toughest question... The culture.
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 some visitors' experiences in Bermuda, which pretty much sums up the basic nature of Bermudians.
Why are Bermudians also known as Onions?
Do you know that Bermudians are also known as Onions all over the world? And they take full pride in that? Yes that's true and that has a lot to do with the trade they were once associated with. In 1800s, Bermudians started growing & exporting onions heavily (juicy, sweet & succulent ones) and the soil in the island was just ideal for that. The trade picked up so much that in late 1800s, they shipped as much as 4,000 tons of onions to the US alone. Bermuda became known as Onion Patch and Bermudians as Onions.
It's another story why such trade finally came to an end, but the fact that Bermudians once championed it made them proud and they still love to be called with that name. Visit Bermuda Onions
for the full story.
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 & drink?
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 Local food of Bermuda
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
. This is a tradition continuing from the British days of 1600s. And there are several concoctions which the islanders themselves have invented. Some of the famous original cocktails in the island include Dark n' Stormy
(black rum and ginger beer) or Bermuda Rum Swizzle
. To know about the special drinks of Bermuda, check out Bermuda drinks
Some Great Bermudians
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 read Bermudians who became legends in their own ways
Bermuda Art, Music, Dance and Sports
Music and Dance
have played an important role in the life of Bermudians. The popular 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 dancehall artist Collie Buddz etc.
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.
Cultural Festivals in Bermuda
While the islanders celebrate many cultural events and festivals through out the year, there are few that stand out in terms of reflecting on the real heritage of the island and popularity.
The first being the Bermuda Day
which is held on May 24th every year (unless it's a holiday). Major celebrations take place in Hamilton where thousands come and jam the city. The day is marked by parades that includes Gombey dancers, floats and majorettes, half marathon and several other events. Incidentally this day also marks the beginning of summer when many Bermudians take a dip into the ocean water for the first time in the year.
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 build kites and fly them at the beaches. The kites are made to geometric designs and look colorful. Bermuda kites still hold the world record for their altitude and duration of flight. Visit Bermuda Kite Festival
to know more about this tradition of Bermuda.
Visitors' Contributions & Comments
Sandy Armetta (August 2014)
Good morning. My 79 year old mother and I took our first trip to Bermuda last week, via a cruise from NYC. The island is even more beautiful than I ever expected. I met so many wonderful locals on the island. I just want to mention one disappointing moment regarding the man who took tickets to get onto the Ferry from the Naval Dockyard to Hamilton. We took the ferry on Friday, August 8th at the 10:00 or 11:00 ferry to Hamilton. My mother, who had to wear a brace because she broke her back, was moving a bit slowly trying to get her ticket out. The man who was to check the tickets was so rude to my mother that I wanted to cry. He kept yelling, "Step over here, step over here" in a very rude tone. My mother likes to make lemonade out of lemons so she just let it go but it was really bothering me, thinking how many elderly people he may be rude to. I apologize I do not have his name, but based on my information above, if there is any way you could find out who he is, based upon the time we were there, I would so appreciate someone talking with him. Other than this incident, everyone else was quite pleasant. Thank you so much,
Connie Hair (September 2013)
We lived in Bermuda when I was 5. I have been back several times. I have found the house we used to live in. Would it be rude to ask the home owner to see the home again? We are planning to go back. And I would love to see it again.
Raj (bermuda-attractions.com) September 2013
Hi, Bermudians are usually very friendly. The home owner is likely to welcome you as guests. Try to contact them in advance if possible.
Robin (January 2013)
We are coming to Bermuda and would like to bring a small gift as a thank you to the owner where we will be staying at... What would be a proper gift. And are the people of Bermuda really "friendly". I want to go to a country where saying hello and goodnight, thank you is not looked down on because we are Americans
Raj (bermuda-attractions.com) January 2013
Hi, Bermudians are in general very friendly. You can bring in any gift that you may think appropriate, like a small souvenir or so of your own country, and a Bermudian would appreciate that. However note that gift items that you plan to bring for an islander would be duty free for a value of up to $30. Beyond that, duty will be charged by Bermuda Customs Department. The rate of such duty may vary depending on the item and can be as high as 25% of the estimated purchase price. Regards,
My grandma was from Bermuda. Every thing on this page said is true. My grandmother was very smart funny in all and most of all she had grace. She taught me how to be very well mannered. Just by reading this page it gives me some insight to where my grand ma from. She came to the United States when she was young. I hope to visit one day soon. Wow I cannot believe I found what I'd been thinking and looking for. Thank you.