Bermuda History, Language and Culture
History of Bermuda
Bermuda was discovered in 1505 by Spanish mariner Juan de Bermúdez and claimed for the Spanish Empire, although he never actually landed. Shipwrecked Portuguese and other European sailors subsequently left their marks on the land – some kept and released pigs – before the island was claimed in England’s name by Sir George Somers in July 1609.
After colonisation, Bermuda prospered and has continued to do so almost continuously ever since.
Bermuda is the oldest British colony and there are still elements of British culture and customs in almost every aspect of life on the islands although the tourist industry, which began in Victorian times, caters particularly for the American market.
In 1949 when Newfoundland became part of Canada, Bermuda became the oldest remaining British Overseas Territory and since 1997, following the transfer of Hong Kong to China, it has been the most populous. Established in 1612 its first capital, St George’s, is the oldest continuously inhabited English town in the New World.
In 1968 the island was granted internal self-government with the UK retaining control of defence and foreign policy.
For many years Bermudan political life was dominated by the United Bermuda Party (UBP), which won a string of election victories from 1964 until 1998, when the Progressive Labour Party displaced it. The PLP held sway until December 2012 when the One Bermuda Alliance (OBA) – formed by a merger of the opposition UBP and Bermuda Democratic Alliance – won the general election. Bermuda’s current Premier is the OBA’s Michael Dunkley.
The government’s recent agenda has been dominated by three issues: the economy, which relies heavily on financial services and has grown steadily; independence (the most recent plebiscite on the issue took place in August 1995 when a low turnout, produced a vote of 74 per cent against independence and in favour of remaining under British rule); and British citizenship – the British government still has to reach a final decision and it remains the subject of some irritation in the territory.
Did you know?
Bermuda was founded by the English Virginia Company, which has established the first permanent English Settlement, Jamestown, in Virginia
The island is the most northerly point of the Bermuda Triangle, an area of sea associated with the mysterious disappearance of a number of aircraft and ships.
With no corporate income tax Bermuda is a popular location for international businesses seeking to reduce their tax liability.
Religion in Bermuda
Anglican, Roman Catholic, Seventh Day Adventist and other Christian denominations.
Social Conventions in Bermuda
Many of Bermuda's social conventions are British influenced, and there is a very English feel to the islands. It is quite customary to politely greet people on the street, even if they are strangers. Casual wear is acceptable in most places during the day, but beachwear (including short tops and 'short' shorts) should be confined to the beach. Almost all hotels and restaurants require a smart casual dress in the evenings; check dress requirements in advance. Non-smoking areas will be marked. Drinking alcohol in public outside of a licensed premise is prohibited.
Language in Bermuda
English is the official language. There is also a small Portuguese-speaking population.