Written by: DARLENE MCCARTHY-BARNFIELD
Bermuda is not for the faint-hearted when it comes to the pocketbook.
This island may be a magnet for international high finance, but after your first trip to the grocery store, you will question whether you’re actually earning enough. Tax free or not.
My first round of sticker shock occurred upon selecting a large, lovely chicken for a dinner party. The price was $42. I couldn’t believe it. I then looked at a smaller one, weighing about 4 pounds, and found it was still priced inordinately high at $38.
I love to eat. I never miss a meal. It’s the best guilty pleasure I know. My dad always questioned whether it was more expensive to clothe me or feed me (jury’s still out there). Three squares aside, there are also all those other delicious little snacks and nibbly bits to indulge in all day long. Eating is among those rarest of sensual pleasures that can be engaged in endlessly throughout any 24-hour period. How amazing is that? You can’t buy a new dress as often as you can visit your own refrigerator, can you now? So understand – I don’t mind emptying my wallet for a tasty morsel… but not my whole bank account.
What’s more, once you’ve loaded up your grocery cart, having estimated its contents to be equivalent to a small country’s national debt, you are then confronted with that audacious little ATM machine inquiring, “Is $481 okay?”
“Huh? Actually, it is NOT!” I want to scream.
I told that to my checkout clerk, who just laughed, saying, “I know girl, but you gotta eat.” She’s right, of course, and steep prices are to be expected when you live on an island where everything has to be shipped in, but it does take some getting used to.
Like when my husband wanted to buy a towel warmer (yes, in the Caribbean…), which I’ll admit, was a fancy towel warmer. To be exact, it was the Mercedes Benz of towel warmers. And it caused a little choking sound to rise in his throat when he heard the cost of keeping his fluffy Supima towels dry: $6,200. Suffice it to say, the internet was soon our friend and did supply us with an exact replica from the States for much less money but far more hassle. You have to pick your battles.
Valentine’s Day was not one of them. Sadly, I neglected to purchase any expression of spousal affection on the day and felt such a sting of guilt the morning after that I didn’t even blink at the price of the most magnificently perfumed candle I had ever encountered. It doesn’t sound like much. But my husband appreciates nose-gratifying aromas. We always kid that he is the best-smelling man on the Continent. And why wouldn’t he be, with an exotic collection of 25 different colognes occupying more than half of our available bathroom counter space. So I bought that woodsy, giant, gorgeous-smelling, and, yes, overpriced candle without so much as a backward glance. I was desperate. Happily, it was a big hit at home, so I went online to order more of those $65 pillars of scented perfection and was shocked when I found them there for just $17.99. I don’t care how heavy they are. For one-third the price, I’ll hand carry them in, pay duty, and still come out ahead!
A few other sticker-shock, high-watermark moments will include the arrival of your first electric bill. It will absolutely be more than you have ever paid anywhere in the world.
And don’t even get me going on the price of fresh flowers here. I have been forced to purchase silk ones, which lack the luxury of natural blooms but last a very, very long time.
So you see, you can adapt. There’s a learning curve here that encourages you to waste less. I don’t let precious water run too long from the tap for one thing. I buy only what I need most of the time and a little less of what I just want. And, like all things, you ultimately put island sticker shock into perspective. What is the price of paradise anyway? Is it what you’re willing to pay, or what it’s worth to you?
Interestingly, we have found that the cost of liquor is quite reasonable on the island. Now that’s the kind of thing that can take the sting out of a lot of other expenditures.
Best advice: stock up.
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Do you have any memories of the most comically expensive thing you’ve ever bought on an island out of desperation?