Living on Ascension
There are no indigenous people on Ascension. Instead, the population is mainly made up of St Helenians (known as “Saints”), British and Americans. There are a range of nationalities from other countries, although they tend to be in very small numbers. Ascension Island is a working island. That means that everyone on island is here to work or to be with someone who works.
There is no right of abode. As such, if an individual over 18 does not have a job (and is not the partner of someone who is working) they must leave the island. To reinforce this point, everyone on island will be working to a fixed term contract (normally 24 months). It can be possible for individuals to have contracts renewed again and again, so some individuals will have been on Island for many decades. However, when their contract ends for a final time, they will also need to leave the island.
Living on Ascension is a bit like living in a very small village (there are just 800 or so people living here). It’s probably fair to say that it feels less isolated than it looks on the map – Ascension has two flights a week to and from the UK and a link (currently by ship) once every three weeks to St Helena (another British Overseas Territory in the South Atlantic).
The cost of living here is low – you’ll almost certainly find that your money goes further and that you have more money left at the end of the month than you would in the UK. Other than food and drink there are limited opportunities to spend!
The stresses of modern life are less obvious here – no traffic jams, no commute to work, no fighting your way to the front of the supermarket queue on a Saturday morning. The pace of life is slower and more relaxed. For many people who come to live and work here this is one of the main attractions, along with the great climate, with temperatures between 25 and 34 degrees all year round.
But it’s not the Caribbean. Much of the island is barren; there are two small settlements and two military bases – one British, one American. (The facilities of both bases are open to the whole island). There is only one restaurant (and you need to make an advance reservation to get a table there).
Life in a small island community can bring its own challenges. A choice of activities in different locations across the island can offer opportunities to access different communities on Ascension. But you may often see the same people. You need to be comfortable living in a community where everyone knows everyone. Adaptability, resilience and flexibility are useful qualities in an environment like this.