On Bermuda Time: Reflections on an expatriate life in the Caribbean

Moving to Bermuda was never my idea, but when my wife followed her career to the City of Hamilton I hardly protested. After all, who wouldn’t want to relocate to an idyllic archipelago in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean? Bags packed and container full, we waved goodbye to our metropolitan apartment and soon discovered what so many island ex-pats already knew: Bermuda is a wonderful place to call home. Of course, living outside one’s country has its perks. Ex-pat life stokes reinvention, exploration and the willingness to try new things. With it comes unforced cultural exchange and memorable firsts like when I tried carting home groceries on a scooter.

It was a few days after my arrival when I initially drove my 50cc rental bike to the market. Not yet the bag-packing veteran I am now, I neglected to bring a backpack for my groceries so I stuffed them in my scooter’s rear wire basket. I did my best to cram it all in, but after driving over one of the island’s ubiquitous speed bumps my locally-grown squash up and popped out. No harm done, really. I safely pulled over and retrieved what I’d lost, but had it been my jar of roasted garlic tomato sauce I might be singing a different tune. The next day I made a beeline for the hardware store and purchased three bright-yellow bungee cords, gear I now know is indispensable for island life.

It’s all part of the Bermuda learning curve I suppose, but I’ll take tropical hiccups over big city headaches any day. Consider the tree frogs. I’ve since had visitors who couldn’t imagine falling asleep to a cacophony of amphibians each night but I wouldn’t have it any other way. In the U.S., chirps from the tiny beady-eyed frogs would probably drive me crazy. But in Bermuda I somehow think they’re charming-certainly better than listening to honking horns and police sirens. Since relocating to tropical climes, I now have similar thoughts about rain. How can I fault the occasional shower when it provides the very water I drink? In Bermuda, rainwater is collected on whitewashed staircase-shaped roofs then funneled into cisterns below. If there’s no rain, you pay to have water delivered to your home. And guess what? It’s not cheap.

The trick is to celebrate the subtle differences instead of grumbling about them. Ex-pats may make up more than twenty percent of Bermuda’s residents, but it’s important to realize that we’re all just guests. Sun-drenched, lucky-as-clover guests but guests nonetheless.For example, you’d think buying a car would be easy but the process has its share of hurdles, beginning with obtaining a driver’s license. Paperwork needs to be filed, doctors need to be seen, tests need to be taken. Sure, it’s frustrating, but car ownership is a privilege afforded to the very few-literally, since island car rentals are verboten and residents are permitted only one per household-but I’m just grateful to be part of the process. No huffing and puffing here and that’s exactly my point. Living abroad allows you to experience a dynamic new life. Who am I to bellyache about how it unfolds? Much to the contrary, the varied cultural differences are the main reasons why being an ex-pat is so wonderful. Although living in such a beautiful place doesn’t hurt.

In summer, Bermuda’s temperature rarely rises above 85 degrees and in winter, it averages a balmy 65. From the desk of my home office I see palm trees swaying in the breeze, the pale blue Great Sound and lush bougainvillea dotting the hillside. The island’s infamous pink sand beaches are nearby too-in fact, my home is just a five-minute walk to some of the finest slices of sand I’ve ever seen. Flanked by majestic rock formations and teaming with tropical fish, Bermuda’s beaches are unrivaled and certainly a pleasant backyard to call my very own-at least for a little while.

David LaHuta reports on travel, tourism and the great outdoors for the New York Times, Caribbean Travel+Life and Outside Television among others. His island blog, Bermuda Shorts, can be read daily at http://davidlahuta.blogspot.com.