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Learning To Communicate With The Locals In Bermuda – Some Tips For Expats

Bermuda is an attractive expat destination because it provides excellent job opportunities, tax-free saving and a vibrant social life. Its GDP per capita is among the highest in the world and many of the job opportunities available are in the financial sector due to the presence of many offshore financial service companies. There are also ample opportunities for recreation in the form of a wide array of sporting activities such as golf, cricket, field hockey, baseball, rugby and diving. Since Bermuda draws a considerable expat population to its shores every year, there’s also a chance to connect with other expats and professionals.The population in Bermuda is varied, consisting of 54.8% African-Caribbean, 34.1% European and 6.4% multiracial. The Asian community is also growing and there are sections of the population with Portuguese ancestry and Native American ancestry. The expat community is also diverse, consisting of people from different countries like the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and South Africa. The main language spoken is English, so English-speaking expats will find it easy to communicate with the locals. Bermudians have a unique accent, which is different from the other Caribbean countries. The second most widely spoken language in Bermuda is Portuguese.

Language and communication style
Since most expats will not face a language barrier, the main area to focus on when it comes to communicating with the locals is general etiquette, as this carries important verbal and non-verbal communication cues that can help or hinder the building of relationships. There are certain eccentricities ingrained in Bermudian culture which may take a while for expats to get used to. It is often considered rude to ask a question without first wishing the person a good morning (or good afternoon or evening depending on the time of day). It is very important to express a polite greeting before posing any question or query and it is possible that if you fail to adhere to this practice, you may be entirely ignored!

There are no strict rules regarding personal space or maintaining eye contact. So expats don’t have to worry about adopting any special communication style when mingling with the locals. Respect is important, as is the case in all cultures. Bermudians respect personal space and maintain a friendly, casual style during conversations. They make it a point to remain polite even when sensitive matters are being discussed.

Bermuda is quite a religious country and due to its conservative character, it is important to be respectful of other people’s religious views. Also avoid mocking any of the country’s public institutions, as this can easily offend the locals.

Dress code
Despite Bermuda being famous for its shorts, it is not always considered appropriate to dress casually. Bermudians tend to be conservative in their attire. In previous years restaurants insisted on a jacket and tie for men, but this rule has been relaxed now. However many restaurants still insist on smart casual clothing and do not admit guests wearing flip-flops or summer wear. Many nightclubs also have dress codes. At business meetings or events, it is best to stick to regular business attire.

Proper attire is a must also when playing golf or tennis. The dress code for tennis is tennis shirts, white shorts, white socks and tennis shoes. Golf is considered a formal sport in the country and players must wear collared shirts, Bermuda-style shorts and golf shoes.

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As mentioned previously, polite greetings are given great importance in Bermudian culture. A simple ‘good day’ before you start discussing a topic is always a great way to begin a conversation.

Business etiquette
When meeting people for the first time, make sure to address them as Mr. or Mrs. followed by their surnames. Most people will encourage you to use their first names, but it is polite to wait until they do so. Giving and receiving business cards is an essential part of networking in Bermuda and expats should also adhere to this practice.

Most people think of Bermuda as a laid-back island destination. It is true that Bermudian life is quite relaxed. But it’s also true that punctuality is greatly valued. In business settings especially, make sure to arrive at the scheduled time or phone in advance if you are going to be late.

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