Bermudians grapple with their national identity, which, combining British colonialism, American capitalism, West Indian roots, and dashes of Portuguese and Native American culture, is sometimes incredibly difficult to pin down. Aside from the complicated ethnic and cultural mix, there’s the deeper question of how to characterize islanders as a people—stuck somewhere, physically and philosophically, between the sophistication of the world we belong to and the insular self-complacency engendered by living on a remote island.
If generalizations can be made, Bermudians represent a rather quirky combination of small-town vice (islanders love nothing better than to gossip, and it’s easy because everyone knows everyone) and cosmopolitan sophistication (most have traveled overseas, many have attended mainland colleges and universities). As survivors in the broadest sense—of the sea, of hurricanes, of utter economic fragility and an unlikely history—Bermudians have evolved as an enigmatic and sometimes contradictory breed, both greedy and freely giving, open-minded and terribly bigoted, standoffish and disarmingly friendly. They are also an assimilation of many people and cultures over the centuries, creating a diverse society.
The debate over political independence has strong social overtones for Bermudians as a people. If we cut our ties to Britain, do we lose or gain? Would Bermudians then have a stronger sense of identity? Can such a small society so far removed from others make it alone…and should we try? While many Bermudians would gladly keep hold of the motherland’s apron strings, others feel ready to take the leap. Whatever’s decided, it’s fair to say that the Bermudian character—stoic, proud, ultimately charming, and resilient through many storms—will remain intact.