The dream (that nearly became a nightmare) is over

Hello again my dear reader,

we’re back in Europe, safely in the care of my in-laws. It’s too early yet to reflect on what happened in Bermuda, how things changed from a dream of a better lifestyle to a place we had to get away from but there will be time for reflection (and blogging) soon.

I’ll be going to London tonight (starting a new job tomorrow) and will continue this blog for a month or so by trying to provide exactly the kind of information that I would have liked to have when we were moving to Bermuda. Check back soon for more.

 

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Last day at work

Hello again my dear reader,

today is my last day at work here in Bermuda. While it’s exciting to be moving on and I have been waiting for this day for a long time, it is also sad to be leaving and sad to be breaking up good friendships and colleague relationships. At the same time, it’s about time to be heading back to Europe where, whether we like it or not, my wife and I belong. We’ve missed the feeling of belonging, the ability to feel settled down and viewing the world from a longer term perspective. We will of course miss things from Bermuda too: the sun and the beach, the relaxed way of life, the easy commute. But, 9 months was a long enough period to evaluate the situation in Bermuda and it’s clear to me that it’s not the place for us, at least not under the circumstances of this experience. I can’t exclude completely the possibility of being somewhere like Bermuda again in the future. But, it’s certainly not going to happen again for a long time. And, next time, we’ll be better prepared.

Check back soon for more expat advice with the benefit of the few months of experience. The last few days of the Bermuda experience and blog will be filled with Bermuda information, warts and all.

 

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One weekend left in Bermuda

Hello again my dear reader,

as we’re flying back to Europe on Friday September 30th, we have a single weekend left on the island. I have 3 more days left at work and then a week to relax and rest. We have managed to sell almost everything and we only have to figure out a way to send a box (with things like tennis rackets and other sports gear) back home so we don’t have to pay too much in extra luggage costs.

As the end of our Bermuda days approaches, I’m not too sad, I’m excited about the new chapter in London and finally settling down. I’m also less nervous about this move since we’ve lived in London before, have a support network there and know our way around the place. So, it should be a smooth transition. At the same time, I will miss the beautiful island and its beaches, the warm evenings and easy commute. So, this weekend, I hope to go deep-sea fishing with my fishing buddy and a colleague of his who has a boat. I’m really looking forward to it and I look forward to taking some photos and spending some quality time on the water. I then expect that I will go to the beach every morning in my last week to enjoy the beach when it’s empty, assuming the weather plays along and the waves are not dangerous.

In other news, Jitka’s Canadian transit visa came through and DHL delivered her passport to us today. This is excellent news and it ties up the final tricky detail for the return. The journey therefore will be as follows:

  1. fly from Bermuda to Toronto (Athena onboard)
  2. fly from Toronto to Frankfurt (again, Athena onboard)
  3. drive a rental car from Frankfurt to Prague (Athena on the back seat)
  4. drop off the car in Prague on the way back to the airport
  5. fly to London on Sunday 2nd October
  6. 3rd October, start the new job

Tight schedule, I know but it was necessary. Wish us luck!

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What is the real Bermuda?

Hello again my dear reader,

yesterday, I had a very “interesting” time getting home from work. It provoked some thinking about what Bermuda is really like. So, this is going to be a post that future expats that come to Bermuda should read to get the real scoop behind the island.

Bermudians pride themselves on being friendly and helpful people. Most of the time, this is definitely right. I have had to ask for directions a few times in Bermuda and, almost without fail, I got the help that I needed and then some. People here do seem to care about helping others. And, they usually do it with a smile on their faces, not a frown as if it was compulsory.

Having said that, the other day I was trying to get home after work. Since I’ve already sold my bike, I had to get the bus. Usually, the buses are just bearable, almost on time and not too crowded. This one time, it was different. I was getting my ticket from the counter at the central bus station in Hamilton and it took longer than I had anticipated since I had to deal with talking to a very bored-looking woman behind the counter who didn’t realise the need for expedience. By the time she managed to provide the token and calculate what change I needed, the bus was gone. This was the 17:30 #7 bus which goes via the South Road. The next bus was scheduled for 17:45, like every other day. However, for unexplained reasons, this bus was cancelled without any announcement. Since this is part of the peak hours, the cancellation created a backlog of people trying to get home. It even created a backlog for the #8 bus which goes along the Middle Road. People were just trying to get home.

I decided that it would be best not to wait at the central bus station because I didn’t want to have to fight for a place on the bus. Queuing  (waiting in line) is different here than in the UK, people will barge into you to get ahead. So, I walked to the next bus stop, near the magistrate’s court. Since there is a bus every 15 minutes, I could make it there before the next bus came. The next bus was the 18:00 service which, of course, was completely packed and didn’t stop at my stop. Neither did the next #8 service. After this, the 18:15 buses were also cancelled (no explanation was given, they were just cancelled) so, after an hour of waiting, I got on the 18:30 #7 bus which I picked up at the bus stop by the Rubis petrol station on the road in/out of Hamilton.

Of course, there was still a backlog to be cleared so this bus was completely packed. People was standing and so did I. The bus driver was a woman who was having a chat with one of the passengers on the first few seats. To explain the setting, the bus is a single-decker bus with 3 seats opposite the bus driver (along the side of the bus opposite the driver) and 3 seats directly behind the bus driver (again along the side of the bus). Then, it changes into a central corridor and two sets of two seats abreast on either side of the corridor facing forward. I was standing in the corridor between the front sets of 3 seats.

After a few stops, people got on and off and there was an empty seat where the two-and-two part of the bus starts. I asked if anyone older than me needed the seat, nobody did so I sat in it. A few stops later, an elderly and frail-looking woman got on the bus. The first three seats opposite the bus driver were occupied by a middle-aged woman who was chatting with the driver, another young-ish woman and a very large young man who was half hanging off his seat. On the opposite side, there was an elderly woman, a nurse with a nursing book on her lap and a woman with a child in her lap. As the newly arrived elderly passenger got on the bus, I was expecting to see at least one of these people offer her their seat. Yet, this did not happen! Not even the nurse whose job is to care for people bothered. The fat man, he didn’t bat an eyelid, kept using his two phones (iphone and blackberry, I think). The woman having a chat with the driver didn’t even notice and the woman next to her, likewise. Obviously, I didn’t expect the other elderly woman to give up her seat or the woman carrying the child.

As soon as she got to where I was sat, I offered my seat (not because I’m some sort of hero but because it’s the decent thing to do) and she took it gratefully, thanking me profusely. The people around didn’t give a sh*t, I was surprised. When I lived in Prague, I remember people fighting to give up their seat for elderly passengers, pregnant women or people carrying small children. It’s the decent, civilised thing to do. The same applies in London, despite it being a large and usually unfriendly city. But, here in Hamilton Bermuda? I was shocked.

So, next time you hear about the friendliness of Bermuda and Bermudians, take it with a large pinch of salt. In some instances, this is true but in others it’s very far from the truth. Good luck, expats.

Posted in Bermuda, Buses and Ferries, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Selling is going well

Hello again my dear reader,

it turns out that the hurricane that was heading our way is going to go all the way around Bermuda and back towards the Atlantic Ocean. So, we’re safe, for now… there is still a new tropical storm (14) heading our way in 10 days’ time.

In the meantime, we’ve been quite successful in selling the things that we bought to make our life comfortable in Bermuda. We have sold both our motorcycles, most of the home things like pots and pans, glasses etc and we’re now trying to off-load the sofas, tables and bed. All the items seem to be generating interest but we haven’t managed to book a sale yet. It looks like we’re going to be sleeping on the floor and eating in our lap for the last few days in Bermuda, never mind. At least if everything goes before we leave, we don’t end up losing too much money in the relocation.

In a future post, I’ll write about our travel plans. The return to Europe looks like it’s going to be as difficult, expensive and stressful as the journey over here with the exception that we won’t have a sleepover anywhere. I’ll wait until some more of the details are set and then put up a blog entry about it.

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Hurricane season continues

Hello again my dear reader,

the weekend looks like it’s going to be a wash-out. Plenty of rain is predicted as well as plenty of cloud cover. This is all part of the 2011 hurricane season. We’ve already had a couple of tropical storms and hurricanes pass close to Bermuda and now we’re watching the weather channels and various storm prediction sites to see if Katia is going to make it to Bermuda. It has to be said, hurricanes don’t tend to strike Bermuda directly (Igor being a notable exception) but they still make people nervous.

From a personal standpoint, since we have only 4 weeks left on the island, we were hoping to spend it enjoying the sun that we will miss in London. But, at least the next two weekends don’t look like beach weekends. Still, with the selling going reasonably well, we can look forward to the last week, when I will have finished work too, to enjoy a real mini holiday on the island. But, for now, we keep a keen eye out for Katia to make sure we don’t end up caught by surprise.

Monday September 5th is labour day in Bermuda. I don’t know what that entails here and I doubt there will be anything as fun to wacth as a parade but it’s still nice to be off work for an extra day. This makes the total number of days left in the office until I’m done equal to 14 and there is a lot to be done in that time. Ah well, one day at a time…

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Bermuda Sale

Hello again my dear reader,

we’re having a sale! Check out this picasa album to see what we’re selling. Prices are in comments below the photos. All items are also now on emoo, the local ebay-style marketplace. See below for links:

  1. Weight scales
  2. LED lamp, runs on battery (SOLD)
  3. Pink Sym Mio 50cc
  4. Yamaha Grand Axis 100cc (SOLD)
  5. Weber bbq with cover (SOLD)
  6. 2 folding arm-chairs
  7. Pair of 2 5-pound arm or leg weights
  8. Inflatable exercise ball
  9. 8-pound exercise ball (SOLD)
  10. 2 15-pound free weights (SOLD)
  11. 2 3-pound free weights (SOLD)
  12. 2 8-pound free weights (SOLD)
  13. Sony DVD player
  14. King-size bed and mattress set
  15. DirtDevil vacuum cleaner / hoover (SOLD)
  16. Cuisinart pots and pans (SOLD)
  17. 7 short glasses (SOLD)
  18. 6 tall glasses (SOLD)
  19. Plates, salad bowls, cups, mugs, tea-pot and butter dish (SOLD)
  20. Mini food processor
  21. Blender, smoothie maker and ice crusher (SOLD)
  22. Blue kettle (SOLD)
  23. Black & Decker toaster (SOLD)
  24. Black & Decker coffee machine
  25. Set of two bedside tables and lamps (SOLD)
  26. Lovely living room lamp
  27. Panasonic 42-inch plasma TV
  28. Set of coffee table and end table
  29. Set of two sofas

Happy buying!

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Untimely publication

Hello again my dear reader,

the recent story that I had temporarily removed is back after a light edit.

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Jitka 1 – Spiros 1 (in pointless traffic fines)

Hello again my dear reader,

today I got pulled over by the police and given a fine of $50. What happened exactly is that I left my house late this morning (because I couldn’t move very freely since I’ve got a trapped nerve in my back and it hurts like hell) so, in my hurry to get to work (despite having already quit) I forgot to fasten the helmet clip. As soon as I got on the road, I realised that it was not fastened so I pulled over at the next available spot (a bus stop) to fasten it. 20 secs later, a police car pulls over behind me. I had already fastened the clip and was on my way. But, since he stopped, I turned around and asked if he was looking for me or someone else. He pointed at me so I stopped the bike and waited. He comes over and says that he will give me a $50 fine for not having the clip fastened. I explained to him that I live only a couple of hundred meters from where I stopped so it was the first opportunity to stop and fasten the clip without stopping in the road since there is no hard shoulder in Bermuda’s roads. It was clear I wasn’t going to get away with it so I waited for him to write his ticket. Then, he says:

Police officer: I see you’ve had your licence since January. This is long enough that you shouldn’t forget to fasten the clip on your helmet

Me: I’m sorry sir, I’m trying to get to work and I’m running late. I need you to finish writing the ticket but I don’t need a lecture. If you think that I deserve to pay the fine, just let me get to work. I said I forgot and I had already stopped and fastened it before you stopped behind me, I hadn’t even seen you.

Police officer: You’re not listening, I said that it’s long enough that you shouldn’t foget.

Me: (realising he’s just another tool sticking to the rules) thank you sir, have a nice day, it won’t happen again.

So, there you have it, we’re now equal in traffic fines with Jitka, she got one for parking illegally even though she apparently had parked in the bay correctly. These guys just want to make money, it’s towards the end of the month and they probably have to pay the doughnut and coffee bills. I don’t know. What I do know is that I’ll be happy to not have to deal with them again, I can’t wait to see the back of this parochial system and move back to European civilisation.

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Today I quit my job in Bermuda

Hello again my dear reader,

this story is an edited version of a precious story…

If you had asked me a few months ago when I think I would be leaving Bermuda, I would have said in 3 to 6 years. However, life is not that simple, it seems. So, I have quit my job today and will be returning to Europe at the end of October to start working for a financial firm in London from October 3rd. This is also the reason for the delay in updating the blog, I was interviewing. But, let me start from the beginning, there are plenty of lessons to be learnt from this experience.

I was in Prague before I came to Bermuda. I worked in the most beautiful office with some really good people. I had a nice car, was renting a big flat in the best area of town and had many friends that I could count on. Plus I had my wife’s family nearby for any support needed and my folks were only a 2.5 hour flight away. It seems strange to give all that up but I did it because of what I was promised from Bermuda and from my employer who shall remain nameless for obvious reasons. Also, I was having problems with management in my job in Prague because I had very different opinions than my manager. Plus, I was doing things that I didn’t enjoy and not enough technical work.

So, in comes this offer to work for a company in Bermuda and to remain in the financial services world. That would mean that I get a 3-year break from the cold of Prague, continue to work on the kind of project that I like and, when we decide to return to Europe and in particular to London, it would be easy to find work as I would have been doing pertinent things, albeit at a different location. Naturally, I jumped at the opportunity. Also, the money looked good but noone had warned me adequately about the price of everyday items in Bermuda. Everyone says that it’s a little more expensive than London but this is very far from the truth as, in most items, it’s at least double the price from London and possibly more.

There i smuch more I’d like to say and advise those of you planning a move to Bermuda in the future. I promise to analyse the situation in depth at a later stage. You can look forward to further analysis in the next few weeks.

Let me add what I expected from Bermuda so you can be sure that I didn’t expect anything unrealistic. If you expect the same things from your life, heed my advice. All I wanted was to have a good life. I define a good life as one where you get through the month on your wages and have at least 10% of it left for savings. You have the ability to pay a pension and have the ability to go on holiday twice a year, once to see your family and another to relax somewhere. Also, when you go shopping in the grocery store, you don’t look at the price of things like apples or cucumbers, these are things that you just have to eat to be healthy and should not be a large part of your budget. Also, you should be able to afford to go to dinner once or twice a month and maybe do an activity like diving etc once every couple of months. In Bermuda, for an income of less than $120,000, you simply cannot do this. You’ll notice the price of everything from carrots to electricity to your ridiculously slow and expensive internet connection. You won’t be able to both save and live well so you’ll have to choose the life of a hermit or going out and socialising. For that income (and despite the higher taxation), you can live well pretty much anywhere else in the world.

The best things in Bermuda are free: the sun, beach, fishing etc. So, if they are not enough to keep you happy long term, you’ll need to supplement your happiness from the non-free things. As an example, I love diving and I’m a qualified diver. However, I haven’t managed to go once for a dive in Bermuda because of the prohibitive cost. These conditions make for an unhappy life in the long run. Once the beauty of Bermuda becomes an every day phenomenon and you’re no longer excited to just be here, you start to really live the real Bermuda and I’m afraid that it’s not a great place.

In short, you have to be sure what kind of life you can afford in Bermuda before you come here. Otherwise, you will come to Bermuda and return with nothing. It’s not fair but it’s exactly what will happen.

Posted in Bermuda, Lifestyle, Prices, Uncategorized | Tagged | 4 Comments