Attitudes and Etiquette
Perhaps due to its British past, the island projects an air of entrenched conservatism, at least on the surface. Loud public demonstrations, big-‘L’ liberal sentiments, overly revealing clothing—or a lack of adequate clothing altogether—do not go down well with most Bermudians. Men and women, both black and white, tend to project a polite reserve upon initial contact—until they’ve sized you up, anyway. Like their iconic onions, they prefer to reveal themselves gradually.
Generally, things tend to change slowly in Bermuda, including attitudes and the adoption of new ideas. Outsiders are suspect—at least at first. A certain pace and ritual is expected in social encounters: The omission of a requisite “Good Morning,” or “Good Afternoon,” for example –(passkeys to any conversation with locals) can mean the difference between terse unhelpfulness and beaming cooperation. Indeed, there’s a darkly humorous local joke that describes how (fictitious) Bermudian air-traffic controllers let a plane crash because the pilot forgets to greet them properly as he makes his descent.
Mostly, playing by the rules goes a long way towards really fitting into the island’s sometimes oddball environment—just don’t expect Bermudians to consistently do the same. They are flagrant scofflaws, and nowhere is that more apparent than on the island’s roads. Local drivers break all speed limits, double-park to have a chat or grab a takeout, dump trash out their car windows, and overtake on blind hairpin bends at 70 miles per hour. These are the same folks who’ll shake their heads and tut-tut in disapproval if someone tells a bawdy joke too loudly in a restaurant, or happens to walk down the street in a bikini top.
Punctuality is not as big a problem in Bermuda as it is in more laid-back island nations to the south, but, aside from the corporate circles of Hamilton, locals often tend to avoid being overly fastidious about time. Nor are they too worried about returning phone calls immediately, turning up when they said they would, or delivering what was promised. Yet jobs get done, people make a good living, and the economy ticks around. But when 5 o’clock tolls, Bermudians head for the door. Don’t try to achieve anything important toward the end of a workday afternoon, particularly in bureaucratic environments. That goes triple if it’s a Friday afternoon before a public holiday weekend. Islanders love their holidays, and it really doesn’t matter whether it’s the Queen’s Birthday or Cup Match (although the latter sees Bermudian frivolity at the extreme), locals are like children at Christmas in the run-up to such festivities. Driving through Hamilton at such time reveals a free-for-all, a cheerful camaraderie that reverberates through “Town,” as people wave, shout, and honk their horns at each other.
© Rosemary Jones from Moon Bermuda, 2nd Edition