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Local Do's and Taboos
Customs of the Country
Bermudians tend to be quite formal in attire as well as in personal interactions. Casual dress, including bathing suits, is acceptable at hotels and resorts, but locals seldom venture into Hamilton in anything less than long shorts and sports shirts for men, and slacks-and-blouse combinations or dresses for women. Some restaurants and clubs, particularly those connected to hotels, request that men wear jackets, and more formal establishments require ties during dinner, but there are plenty of places in Hamilton and beyond where you can dress casually and dine well. If you have dinner reservations you should arrive promptly on time, but be aware that in other situations the phenomenon known as "Bermuda time" prevails. If you make plans to meet a local, don't be surprised if they're 20 minutes late.
In downtown Hamilton, the classic Bermuda shorts are often worn by banking and insurance executives, but the outfit always includes high black socks, dress shoes, and jacket and tie. When it comes to dress, err on the formal side. It's an offense in Bermuda to appear in public without a shirt, even for joggers. This rule may seem arcane, but most Bermudians appreciate this decorum. Decorum is also expected at the beach.
Courtesy is the rule when locals interact among each other. In business and social gatherings use the more formal Mr. and Ms. instead of first names, at least until a friendship has been established, which sometimes takes just a few minutes. Always greet bus drivers with a friendly "Good morning" or "Good afternoon" when you board public buses. This is an island custom, and it's nice to see each passenger offer a smile and sincere greeting when boarding and exiting the bus. In fact, saying "Good morning" to people on the street is also a custom. Obviously if you're walking down a crowded street, you needn't say it to everyone you pass, but in less crowded situations, especially when eye contact is made, some recognition should be given. You'll be surprised at the friendly response you receive.
In general, respect and appreciation are shown quite liberally to public servants in Bermuda. Although one underlying reason may be the fact that the residents of this small island seem to know everyone, and personal greetings on the streets are commonplace, it also seems that a genuinely upbeat and friendly attitude is part of the national character.
Out on the Town
The key to interaction with any Bermudian is to be polite and formal, and that goes for your waiter or any other person serving you. Rudeness will get you nowhere. Public displays of affection are quite okay, but you might want to keep it in moderation; generally people are fairly reserved. Gay and lesbian travelers in particular may experience some negative reactions when showing affection in public, such as holding hands.
Bathing suits are best kept for the beach only, and overly skimpy attire is traditionally frowned upon, though attitudes are more tolerant of tourists. While the problem is far less prevalent than in most places of the world, there are a few street beggars and it's best not to give them anything—for one, due to Hamilton's small size, you're likely to see the same beggar again and again, and if you give them something once they'll repeatedly approach you. A firm, but polite, refusal is best. You shouldn't eat or drink on the buses, and you'll gain approval by giving up your seat for elderly or pregnant women.
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