Expats moving to Brunei will find a small, tropical country with a tiny population of just over 400,000 residents. Brunei has one of the highest standards of living in the world and the country’s economy is booming thanks to its thriving oil and gas industries.
Brunei has a large expat contingent of around 40 percent of the country’s population, with most foreigners having been enticed by the prospect of lucrative employment packages and tax-free income. Expats moving from Western Europe and North America are likely to find the cost of living in Brunei relatively low.
New arrivals are sure to experience some culture shock. Brunei is a strictly Islamic country and expats should always take the necessary steps to adhere to local standards. All expats should dress modestly and refrain from physical contact between members of the opposite sex in public. It is also worth noting that any sexual contact or compromising behaviour between non-Muslims and Muslims can lead to severe punishment and deportation.
While Malay is the official language of Brunei, English and certain Chinese dialects are commonly used in business. As such, most expats won't experience much of a language barrier.
Brunei is generally a safe destination for expats and crimes tend to be opportunistic rather than violent. The country has strict laws when it comes to alcohol and drugs. While expats are allowed to import small quantities of alcohol for their personal consumption, they are not allowed to possess more than their designated allowance or sell alcohol to others. Drugs are illegal in Brunei and being caught in possession of any banned substance can have severe consequences. Police carry out regular checks along busy roads to search cars for drugs and alcohol.
Brunei has one of the world’s top public healthcare systems. Public medical care can be accessed by locals at no cost and expats are usually charged low rates. For expats with a comprehensive health insurance policy there are a number of private hospitals which are also of a high standard, but these tend to be located only in major urban areas.
Although Brunei’s public education system is relatively young it is of a high standard and is continually improving thanks to large government investments. Expats generally opt to send their children to international schools, most of which are located in the country’s capital city, Bandar Seri Begawan.
While expats moving to Brunei may need to make some adjustments to their lifestyles and overcome elements of culture shock, they will likely be rewarded with a high standard of living and an array of new opportunities.