Where is Bermuda, exactly?
That was the most frequent response from friends when I told them we were moving to the island. Shorts and Triangles have given it a place in the English language but its location in the Atlantic Ocean is most vague.
It is not in the Caribbean – that would be Barbados, the Bahamas or British Virgin Islands.
Locally you can buy T shirts with the precise latitude and longitude coordinates, but its by far the easiest to look at how long it takes to get here, which ranges from just under 2 hours from Boston, New York or Toronto, to about 7 hours from Gatwick. No other flights from Europe and only British Airways so tickets do not come cheap – in January it is around £650 (approximately $1060) for an economy return, twice that for business class and significant increases during the spring and late summer months.
But you should come – at least for a holiday, I will talk about retirement here later – there are so many reasons for visiting Bermuda, and I am not paid by the Bermuda tourist board. We had a visitor here last week and she wanted so much to stay longer – if she had been a child she would have hidden in my cupboard!
I have been here with my husband since May this year, a comparatively short time. We meet many people who came for 2 years, as we plan, but are still here some 20, 30 or 40 years later. It is too early to say how our adventure will unfold, but so far it has been fun.
Not all plain sailing though, in fact not that much sailing as joining the dinghy or yacht clubs is almost prohibitively expensive and buying a boat, even a small one, will use more than one year’s ISA (Individual Savings Account) deposits.
To begin with, one of you has to have a job and a work permit – which is why actually retiring here from elsewhere is very difficult – the job has to be one that cannot be filled by a Bermudian and while the work permit application is being considered you must not be on the island. Most ex-pat jobs are in finance, insurance or law, but there are openings in health care, hospitality or teaching. It is easier to get a work permit approved if it is for full time work, and the company applying for it has to be seen to be a good employer – which means they have to employ Bermudians, offer training opportunities to Bermudians and to give something back to the community. As a spouse of a work permit holder I hold a “permission to reside” letter, but am not permitted to work, earn money or look for paid employment. It may sound a harsh system, but if you see it as an opportunity then so many things become possible and I have only scraped the surface of activities available to me here.
Once the work permit is through (takes up to 6 weeks, requires medicals and police clearance but is paid for and processed by the company) then the two big issues are housing and transport.
When I first looked at monthly rents I had palpitations – think central London and double or triple it! Commonly the ex-pat will be here on a package that includes a housing allowance and this system results in high rents for executive properties, but for that you can expect a view of the ocean, air conditioning, balcony or deck, garden with gardener and maybe a pool. The choice fluctuates, but most places for $5000 upwards will be pretty comfortable, the differences are in commute to Hamilton with properties at the ends of the island being lower.
It is possible to retire here if not working but you have to be wealthy. To retire here you can only buy top 5% value properties with a sales tax of up to 75%. You can also rent if have references and finances to pay for health insurance which is around $3000 per person per month. So retiring here is a costly proposition.