The ‘Saints’ of Saint Helena have a favourite phrase: “Who do you belong to?” Despite having no indigenous people, a sense of belonging has always been important to the island’s residents. Speak Up spoke to Nicole Shamier, a British immigrant working as an economist. She shared her impression of the people.

Nicole Shamier (English accent): I’ve lived in Saint Helena for five years and the Saint Helenian people are extremely friendly and very welcoming. It takes around five years to apply to become a Saint legally, although Saints are fiercely proud of their heritage, their mixture of cultures and their belonging. So, really, when do you become a Saint? Possibly after several generations of your DNA mixing in with other DNA from the island, is probably the answer.

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While proud of their Saint status, do Saint Helenians consider themselves British?

Nicole Shamier: Yes. Saints very much consider themselves British. They have a British passport, many of them go to the UK to work, to increase their skills... Any university student will go to the UK to do their university. Saints also like to go to the Falklands and Ascension Islands and other British Overseas Territories to work, as well, so they very much see themselves part of the British community.


Nicole Shamier started working for the Saint Helena government, looking at how it could develop sectors like fisheries, coffee and tourism. However, as an immigrant, one sector was of particular interest to her. 

Nicole Shamier: The part that I most enjoyed working on was increasing the potential of the digital sector. So looking at connecting the island with the rest of the world through fibre-optic cable, ensuring there was super-fast broadband and then attracting companies and people to come and live and work on the island.

a good life

The high-speed broadband goes live next year, but some digital nomads, like Nicole Shamier, got there early. While internet costs are still quite high, prices are likely to drop and these are offset by affordable living in beautiful surroundings.

Nicole Shamier: Rent is quite a lot cheaper than it is in the UK, for example, and the travel is very cheap. Because the island is small, you don’t have train fares to pay. Your fuel bill will be a lot less. And because the island is warm, as well, you don’t have gas heating to pay, there’s no council tax... So actually, all in all, it works out being a digital nomad in Saint Helena. Plus, you get the work-life balance and the really, really beautiful landscapes that you get to see and enjoy every day.

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Saint Helena has a rugged, volcanic terrain with small scattered plateaus and plains, among which Prosperous Bay Plain is the largest. Precipitous cliffs offer incredible vistas out into the ocean. The capital Jamestown is located between the Atlantic and the steep sides of a ravine. Climbing destinations include the 699 steps of Jacob’s Ladder (the remains of a cable railway built in the 1800s) and Diana’s Peak mountain. There are no native land mammals, only sea mammals such as whales and seals. Over the centuries, several introduced mammals have gone feral, such as cats, dogs, rabbits and rats. The official language is English; however, it is often spoken with a strong accent and using words in unusual ways. A few much-used Saint words or expressions are: luvie (friend or relative), how you? (how are you?), tank you (thank you), Oh la! (Oh look!), phew ya (expressing exasperation) and, nuff! (that’s enough!).