10 Things I Didn’t Expect About St Helena

07/11/2017 06:47 pm ET Updated Jul 13, 2017

No. 7 has been clarified, July 13.

The best way I can describe St. Helena is that it’s like a parallel world. Things work differently here - and they have to, because there is no where else on Earth quite like this.

I knew St. Helena would be isolated, British, expensive, friendly, beautiful and just-now going digital. But here’s what I didn’t expect:

1. Litter/ garbage

One of my goals was to do as much hiking and walking as possible, knowing the terrain is stunning and diverse. What I didn’t expect was to see cans and wrappers everywhere, from the side of Jacob’s Ladder to Sandy Bay beach.

Washed up litter at the Sandy Bay beach.
Sarah PItts
Washed up litter at the Sandy Bay beach.

2. Video games are social

Sonnyboy’s Geek Boutique is a video gaming shop in Jamestown (the only one I know of in the South Atlantic Ocean at all), and the kids who go there love it. They play in teams and work together both in and out of the game. It’s a place where even bullies befriend the bullied, owner Barry Francis told us.

3. Colonialism is still apparent

St. Helena is a British Overseas Territory. While the St Helena Government has some power, the U.K. government has almost complete monetary control, as well as the power to appoint a governor, who then has the power to appoint other government positions.

Plantation House is the Governor’s residence on St. Helena.
Sarah PItts
Plantation House is the Governor’s residence on St. Helena.

4. Being introverted in a small community is nearly impossible

People start asking questions. In a tight-knit community where most people know most things about most everyone else, invisibility raises suspicion. So when we do make it out, we try to get pictures as proof!

A post shared by Emma Weaver (@emtheresa10) on

5. Honking can be polite

St. Helenian traffic jams usually have to do with taking turns on a one-lane road or with people stopping their cars in the middle of the road to chat to each other. Most of the roads on the island are thin and winding up hills and down valleys, so to avoid collision, people honk when going around tight corners.

6. An office is a luxury

Working independently means a tight budget and that our living space doubles as our working space. I didn’t expect to have quite as many days without leaving the house (or even my room) as I have. Luckily, there’s an amazing view outside the window!

The view from the back of Old School House.
Sarah Pitts
The view from the back of Old School House.

7. Asbestos is very controversial

Apparently many old houses and buildings on St. Helena still have asbestos, according to Gareth Drabble, who was born and bred on the island. But since the dangerous part of asbestos is the dust, some people just leave it be and move on with their lives and new houses are being built constantly.

Our home, Old School House, which most likely also has asbestos.
Sarah Pitts
Our home, Old School House, which most likely also has asbestos.

8. Sports cars

They seem logically impractical for this island, but there is a community of sports car owners. While many islanders think a 4x4 Jeep or Land Rover is the best choice for the island's difficult roads, souped-up Subaru's straight out of Fast and Furious are common.

One of the nicest cars on the island is for the Governor.
Sarah Pitts
One of the nicest cars on the island is for the Governor.

9. Killing insects with bleach is traumatizing

When cockroaches are on the rampage here in Cockroach Hole, and you only have kitchen cleaner with bleach, you spray like there’s no tomorrow. Consequently, you see insects move in ways you didn’t think possible as they die in total agony, twitching and squirming. Sleep tight!

Luckily this centipede was already dead when we found it.
Sarah Pitts
Luckily this centipede was already dead when we found it.

10. A machete is a very practical tool

I always used to think my weapon of choice would be an axe, but after living here, I would choose a machete any day. It’s the best for slashing through flax on overgrown trails, as well as for real life Fruit Ninja.

Learn more about how I found myself on St. Helena here.

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