By MALLORY BRESOLIN
The world’s nicest people live in Bermuda.
In December, I travelled with the Niagara College International Department for the annual Bermuda International College and University Fair. Bermuda is the third most densely populated place on earth with 68,500 people living on 54 square kilometres and is the fifth smallest country in the world.
It also happens to have the friendliest people I have ever met.
Since that trip to Bermuda, I have travelled to Washington, California and Ottawa, and still haven’t encountered the type of friendliness I received while in Bermuda.
I had only been on the island for half an hour when I realized there was a different feel to it.
It was like a small town, only in this case, it was more of a small island feel.
We were greeted by Helen Dill, a taxi driver who sped through the city while singing Let’s Stay Together by Al Green. She chatted our ears off for the remainder of the drive and discovered she knew the family I was staying with. The father, Zane DeSilva Sr., had taught her how to run when she was a little girl.
The next friendly encounter I had was with a woman who worked in the perfume section of a department store in downtown Hamilton, Bermuda. She said that I could call her Chatty Patty.
After Chatty Patty and I gabbed for a few minutes, we discovered she was from Niagara Falls and would be moving back in a few weeks to attend Niagara College’s Welland campus, the same campus I go to.
I wondered, how many times would I come across incidents like this if people were more friendly to one another?
What opportunities do we miss because we are too uptight to say hello to passing people?
Chatty Patty and I parted ways and I left a trail of Givenchy Ange ou Demon behind me as I walked into the downtown.
I caught a taxi to the house I was staying at in Devonshire, which is just outside Hamilton.
I stayed with a family whose son, Zane Jr., has attended Niagara College.
When I arrived, I was let into the house and was told to roam freely. They invited me to watch television and use their Internet.
It was a very nice, very expensive house, and I had been left completely alone.
I was nervous.
I couldn’t believe that Zane Sr., and his wife Joanne had left me, a perfect stranger, alone in their house, so I felt I needed to get out for a bit.
I unpacked a few things, put my shorts on and went for a walk.
At first I walked around their property. I looked at the pool in the backyard and played with their dog, Ruby. Eventually, I ventured around the block.
As I walked, I passed complete strangers. They greeted me with a big smile and a loud hello. Even children who were riding their bikes shouted out friendly greetings as they passed.
I had never encountered anything like that before.
I didn’t even say hello back because it was so foreign to me. As a child, I was taught not to speak to strangers.
All I could muster up was a smile and a slight wave. Then I continued to fumble with my camera.
Why were these people all so friendly?
Why had a successful Bermudian businessman and MP opened his house to me, even though he’d never met me before?
Why did they trust me in their expensive house, with all their possessions — including Ruby—without knowing a single thing about me?
That’s the thing about these small islands. You get to know people.
It occurred to me that because the DeSilvas trusted Sean Coote, the manager of the International Department at Niagara College, they trusted me. A friend of Sean’s was a friend of theirs.
I wondered, would I trust my friend’s friends with all of my possessions, my dog and my home?
The answer is no. I could never do that.
But really, who could? It’s just the world we live in, and it’s completely different from the world Bermudians live in.
If a stranger was staying in my house for five days, I would lock up all my valuables and install security cameras.
I often think about my experience in Bermuda, and I am thankful for the lessons it taught me.
When I see someone who looks as though they need a smile, I try to say something friendly, just as a Bermudian would do.
It’s the home away from home idea. Whether you are somewhere sub-tropical, or footsteps away from your front door, it never hurts to throw a smile and some cheer in someone’s direction when it seems as if they feel out of place.
Those are the things I remember most about Bermuda.