We all know that we don’t pat the back of a colleague in Korea to thank them for a “job well done”. Or eat with your left hand in India, or sip vodka in Russia. In many countries, these actions are harmless. But in others, they can give a wrong impression or cause offense.
In fact, whatever culture you’re from, it’s likely that you routinely do something that could cause offense somewhere else in the world. So here is:
A primer on how to avoid mistakes in
Brunei is officially an Islamic state, with many large beautiful mosques across the country. Sale of alcohol is banned. Bringing in meat, (other than seafood) which has not been certified “halal”, (slaughtered according to Islamic law), is also banned. During the fasting month of Ramadan, many shops and restaurants will be open.
However, eating, drinking or smoking in front of people who are fasting is considered rude and asking permission is appropriate. The bulk of the population is Malay (67%) and there is also a significant Chinese minority of some 15% as well as a number of indigenous peoples, including the Iban and Duson tribes who inhabit the jungle upriver and the Temburong district, (the smaller eastern part detached from the rest of Brunei). There is a large number of foreign workers who work on the oil and gas production or in lower positions such as restaurant staff, field workers and domestic staff. The male to female ratio is 3:2. More than a quarter of the people are short term immigrant workers, most of whom are men.
The Brunei Government is run as a Malay Islamic Monarchy (MIB), and the Sultan of Brunei, apart from being one of the richest men in the world, is in charge and frequently appears on the front page of the two daily newspapers. At all costs, do not insult or speak badly of the Royal family.
Furthermore, though Bruneians are generally courteous and tolerant, it is a good idea to be aware of sensitivities surrounding certain topics of conversation, especially politics (domestic, regional & international) and world events, particularly those relating to Islam or Islamic countries.
With this, you had the primer on key facts about Brunei, and key facts on culture and customs. Another important part of the culture is the local food and the local drinks. Make sure you read our posts on Brunei food and drinks:
Other tips that you’d like to share on mistakes to avoid in Brunei? Please comment below.