During our ‘winter’ months, temperatures could occasionally drop to the upper 40’s (fahrenheit) with the wind-chill from the ocean breezes; for most Bahamian residents, this is considered freezing…even our winter visitors who come to escape freezing temperatures at home complain about the chilly weather – – - we are so sorry about that, but unfortunately we can’t mandate the weather. Conversely, we also get complaints when the temperatures shift to the low-mid 90’s with relative humidity tempered again by the ocean breezes. Interestingly though, the sometimes cooler winter days and the virtual year-round sunshine and warm weather actually sells – while these conditions are not always pleasing to us personally, they have proven to be mainstays to our economic survival which is tourism-based.
Second key factor in the decision process: No matter which port you arrive at, DO NOT forget for a moment “It’s an Island” which in our case could be defined as “a SMALL mass of land entirely surrounded by water”. The Bahamas’ total land mass is just over 5,382 sq. miles (13,940 sq. km) which, by comparison is slightly smaller than the state of Connecticut (USA), and covers a total area (land and sea) of approximately 100,000 square miles (almost twice the size of the state of Florida, USA).
It is generally accepted that our Bahamian culture is a hybrid of African, Arawak Indian and European. Despite the heavy influence through commercialization, (due to our heavy tourism base), American music and television, the Bahamian culture retains much of its uniqueness. The Bahamas, like the rest of the world, is not without its challenges – shortage of affordable housing, crime (per capita, more than our share), job shortages, cost of health care, just to name a few.
You’re probably saying at this point: “this Overview is not at all what I expected”! You’re right – it’s not really what I initially intended. First of all, I really hate regurgitated facts; when I started the research, I recognized that there was so much information online; this prompted me to take a step back in-the-day about 15-20 years ago, and reflect on the many times when researching similar information to reply to a simple inquiry on doing business in The Bahamas meant reproducing hard-copy, printing, and faxing or posting it by airmail. Coming back to present day, recognising the tremendous advancement in technology, I literally had to pause to applaud the IT geniuses who have made our lives so much easier. Undoubtedly, this advancement has been one, if not the most significant contributor to the creation of the global market-place at our finger tips today. Needless to say, the proverbial light went on in my brain (happens now-and-again) at this point, resulting in this somewhat unorthodox format. As there already exists an over abundance of ‘politically correct’ online information, I thought regurgitation would be superfluous; hence, the following sites are recommended as sources of reference: www.rubysweeting.com; www.bahamas.com; www.thebahamasweekly.com.
But, I do feel a little compelled to finish this ‘Overview’ with a few of the most common questions received by my office during my tenure with the BahamasChamber of Commerce (1980-2002):
- Bahamas Traveler | Driving in The Bahamas: Remember British rules apply -“The left side is the RIGHT side” on all two-way streets. Visitors may use their home licenses for up to three months and may also apply for an international driver’s license. Note: All vehicles, including parts and accessories are imported; as a consequence speedy repairs can sometimes be a challenge as parts are often not immediately available.
- Bahamas Traveler | Postal Mail Delivery: Don’t expect the mailman; there is no home or office delivery except by private paid services. Mail is delivered to your private post office box which can be rented through the Bahamas’ Postmaster General for a nominal fee of $30 or more per year (rates vary based on size of P.O. Box).
- Bahamas Traveler | Official Language: English, however, there is the Bahamian Dialect which seems to change a bit from island to island so expect to miss a few words here and there but feel free to ask the person to repeat – they won’t mind a bit. Creole is used among our large population of Haitian immigrants.
- Bahamas Traveler | Official Currency: Bahamas’ unit of currency is the Bahamian Dollar ($B), which is based on the U.S. Dollar. As the Bahamian and U.S. dollars are equivalent (1 $B = 1 $US), residents or visitors may spend either Bahamian or U.S. dollars in the Bahamas. (If you take it with you though -except as a souvenir, you lose 50% of the value on average).
- Bahamas Traveler | Shopping: Lots of small, unique boutiques & shops, an ever-growing number of shopping malls; there are also ‘relative’ facsimiles of Wal-Mart, Macy’s, JCPenney’s, Publix, Circuit City, Toys ‘R Us and many more but none of the size and brands you might be accustomed to in a mid-size to big city; food-brands that you are used to might also be difficult to find and likely more expensive.
- Bahamas Traveler | Restaurants/Dining: The Bahamas, most particularly Nassau and Paradise Island, offers a delightful range of places to dine; no matter your budget or taste, choices range from fast-food (including most U.S. franchises) to five-star.
- Bahamas Traveler | Day-to-day Life: Like everywhere else, we have a 24-hour day – the pace is perhaps considerably slower than you’re used to which can be construed as incompetence or inefficiency when experienced in a business environment. Bahamians are generally good humored and often use it in all manner of situations. In addition to making fun of ourselves we are excellent at teasing others; poking fun at each other is seen as harmless, good-natured banter.
- Bahamas Traveler | Hospitality: Bahamians are known for being friendly, outgoing and informal but at the same time we maintain a sense of decorum and politeness; hospitality is an extension of this so we generally try to get to know people- we say hello to strangers (especially so in the smaller island communities), and invite people into our homes to share a meal – a great way to build relationships.
- Bahamas Traveler | Natural resources: salt, aragonite, timber
- Bahamas Traveler | Natural hazards: hurricanes and other tropical storms that cause extensive flood and wind damage.
- Bahamas Traveler | Environment - ongoing issues: coral reef decay and resultant threat to the survival of protected species of marine life.
- Bahamas Traveler | Geography - note: strategic location adjacent to US and Cuba