|THE BRUNIE COAT OF ARMS|
Location of Brunie within the continent of Asia
Map of Brunie
Flag Description of Brunei:The Brunie flag was officially adopted on September 29, 1959. The flag features the country's national emblem. Yellow represents the Sultan of Brunei, and the black and white stripes represent the country's chief ministers.
Official name Negara Brunei Darussalam (State of Brunei Darussalam)
Form of government monarchy (sultanate) with one advisory body (Legislative Council 1)
Head of state and government Sultan: Sir Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Muʿizzaddin Waddaulah
Capital Bandar Seri Begawan
Official language Malay2
Official religion Islam
Monetary unit Brunei dollar (B$)3
Population (2013 est.) 407,000COLLAPSE
Total area (sq mi) 2,226
Total area (sq km) 5,765
- Urban: (2011) 76%
- Rural: (2011) 24%
Life expectancy at birth
- Male: (2010) 76.5 years
- Female: (2010) 78.8 years
Literacy: percentage of population age 15 and over literate
- Male: (2010) 96.8%
- Female: (2010) 93.6%
GNI per capita (U.S.$) (2008) 26,385
1Legislative Council (suspended from 1984) reinstated September 2004 and enlarged September 2005 and June 2011; all seats are nonelected.
2All official documents that must be published by law in Malay are also required to be issued in an official English version.
3Pegged to the Singapore dollar at a ratio of 1:1.
Brunei FlagFacts and Statistics
Location: Southeastern Asia, bordering the South China Sea and Malaysia
Capital: Bandar Seri Begawan
Climate: tropical; hot, humid, rainy Population: 381,371 (July 2008 est.)
Ethnic Make-up: Malay 66.3%, Chinese 11.2%, indigenous 3.4%, other 19.1% (2004 est.)
of Brunei's population; Christians are 10%.
Government: constitutional sultanate
Visitors should dress modestly. Shoes must be removed when entering mosques and Muslim homes. Some Bruneians do not shake hands with people of the opposite sex. It is impolite to point with the index finger (the right thumb should be used instead). Food may be served without cutlery: eat using the right hand only. It is widely regarded as discourteous to refuse refreshments or to eat in public during Ramadan.
Visitors should note that there are severe penalties for all drug offences, and that the legal system in Brunei is partly based on Shariah law and can, occasionally, apply to non-Muslims, including visitors. Dress is informal except for special occasions. Women should ensure that their head, knees and arms are covered.
Language in Brunei: There are a multitude of languages spoken in Brunei. The official language of the state of Brunei is Standard Malay. This came into force on 29th September 1959, with the signing of Brunei 1959 Constitution.
English is also widely used as a business and working language. It is also the language of instruction in secondary and tertiary education. Other languages spoken in Brunei include the Chinese, Indian and Native languages spoken by the minority ethnic groups.
- 1 Background of Brunei
- 2 Geography of Brunie
- 3 Demography of Brunie
- 4 Economy of Brunie
- 5 Government and Society of Brunie
- 6 Cultural Life of Brunie
- 7 History of Brunie
- 8 Bruneian Society and Culture
- 9 Etiquette and Customs in Brunei
- 10 Bruneian Business Etiquette and Protocol
- 11 Bandar Seri Begawan-Brunei
- 12 Brunei in 2004
- 13 Disclaimer
Background of Brunei
The Sultanate of Brunei's influence peaked between the 15th and 17th centuries when its control extended over coastal areas of northwest Borneo and the southern Philippines.
Brunei, independent Islamic sultanate on the northern coast of the island of Borneo in Southeast Asia. It is bounded to the north by the South China Sea and on all other sides by the East Malaysian state of Sarawak, which also divides the state into two disconnected segments of unequal size. The western segment is the larger of the two and contains the capital city of Bandar Seri Begawan. Brunei achieved independence in 1984, after having been a British protectorate since 1888. It is a member of the Commonwealth and ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations).
Geography of Brunie
Relief, drainage, and soils Brunei consists of a narrow coastal plain in the north, which gives way to rugged hills in the south. The country’s highest point is Pagon Peak (6,070 feet [1,850 metres]), in the southeast. Brunei is drained by the Belait, Tutong, and Brunei rivers in the western segment and by the Pandaruan and Temburong rivers in the east; all flow generally northward to the South China Sea. The Belait is the largest river in the country. The soils of Brunei are deeply weathered, highly leached, and generally infertile. Richer alluvial soils are found along the rivers and in some parts of the coastal floodplain, and these offer the best agricultural potential. White quartz sands are prevalent in some areas.
The climate of Brunei is governed by the equatorial monsoon winds. The northeast monsoon typically blows from December to March, and the southwest monsoon blows from May to September. April, October, and November are transitional months. Temperatures in Brunei are warm throughout the year, typically dropping into the mid-70s F (about 23 °C) and rising to about 90 °F (32 °C) on a daily basis. Precipitation averages about 115 inches (2,900 mm) annually in the coastal areas but can exceed 150 inches (3,800 mm) farther inland. Rainfall is generally heavier from October to January and lighter from March to August.
- Plant and animal life
About three-fifths of the country is covered with virgin tropical rainforest, and another one-fifth is under secondary forest. The undisturbed rainforest consists mainly of hardwoods of the Dipterocarpaceae family (notably of the genus Shorea), most of which are of commercial value. Large expanses of freshwater and peat swamps are found in the poorly drained lowlands of the Belait and Tutong rivers, while mangrove swamps are common along the lower riverine reaches and sheltered coastal areas. The complex vegetation of the rainforest provides niches for a rich variety of animals, including proboscis monkeys, leaf monkeys, pigtail macaques, gibbons, sun bears, sambar deer, pangolins, bats, and many other mammals. Among Brunei’s most notable birds are its argus pheasants and hornbills. Numerous species of reptiles, including the large reticulated python, inhabit the country’s swamps and woodlands.
Demography of Brunie
- Ethnic groups
About three-fifths of the population of Brunei is classified officially as Malay. This category, however, includes not only ethnic Malays but also a number of the indigenous peoples, namely the Dusun, Belait, Kedayan, Murut, and Bisaya (Bisayah). Chinese make up about one-fourth of the population. The remainder of Brunei’s residents consists of other (non-“Malay”) indigenous peoples, such as the Iban (or Sea Dayak); various peoples of South Asian descent; and temporary workers, primarily from Asia and Europe. The official language is Malay, with English as a major second language. Brunei’s population is predominantly Sunni Muslim, although the Chinese usually follow Buddhism, Daoism, Confucianism, or Christianity. Some of the indigenous peoples are Christian, while others follow their own local religions.
- Settlement patterns
The forested uplands of Brunei’s interior are sparsely populated by indigenous peoples, who practice shifting agriculture. In the country’s western segment, the Iban and the Belait generally inhabit the westernmost region near the border with Sarawak, while the Kedayan are concentrated in the central and eastern areas, and the Kadazan live primarily in the rural parts of the east-central region. The Murut and Bisaya have settled mainly in the eastern segment of Brunei. The Malays are distributed in the riverine and coastal villages and towns throughout the country, and the Chinese are concentrated in the urban areas.
About two-thirds of Brunei’s population is found in and around Bandar Seri Begawan, the capital and largest urban centre. The city is located on the Brunei River about 9 miles (14 km) from its mouth on Brunei Bay. Adjacent to the modern section of the city is an older part called Kampong Ayer, where Brunei Malays live in houses built on stilts along inlets of the river. The area surrounding the cities of Kuala Belait and Seria, both in the oil-rich zone of the southwestern coast, is the country’s next most densely settled region.
Economy of Brunie
Brunei’s economy is almost totally dependent on the exploitation of its vast reserves of petroleum and natural gas. Although oil and gas revenues have allowed the state to give its citizens one of the highest per capita incomes in Asia, they also have made the country dependent on a single commodity that is subject to market fluctuations. In addition, Brunei must rely on imports for nearly all its manufactured goods and most of its food. In an effort to ensure the country’s economic stability, the government has since the late 20th century striven to diversify the economy by developing other sectors, such as agriculture, fisheries, tourism, and financial services.
- Agriculture, fishing, and forestry
Agriculture, fishing, and forestry, once the mainstays of Brunei’s economy, declined in importance after the discovery of petroleum resources in the 1920s. By the end of the 20th century, these three activities accounted for just a tiny fraction of the gross domestic product (GDP) and employed a comparably small segment of the workforce. Recognizing a need to diversify the economy away from petroleum production as well as to reduce the country’s dependence on food imports, the government subsequently embarked on a program to develop the agricultural industry. By the early 21st century Brunei had become self-sufficient in the production of poultry and eggs and was approaching self-sufficiency in vegetables. Although locally grown rice still fell far short of domestic need, production had increased markedly.
Brunei is among the largest consumers of fish per capita in the world. Fish imports reached a high in the mid-1990s. In an effort to curb imports, the government implemented programs to stimulate local fisheries. Within a decade Brunei was producing more fish domestically than it imported. Overfishing has been a growing concern, however, despite the government’s emphasis on sustainable development. Aquaculture has been encouraged in carefully selected areas.
With an aim of preserving the country’s abundant forest cover, Brunei enacted legislation in the late 20th century to restrict logging. Plantation programs have been implemented to provide enough sawed wood for the local market only. Timber is not exported.
- Resources and power
The petroleum industry (including the manufacture of liquefied natural gas [LNG]) generates more than half of Brunei’s GDP, although it employs a very small portion of the labour force. Nearly all of the country’s petroleum and natural gas is produced from offshore fields located off its own western segment, and all but a small percentage of the production is exported, mostly to Asian countries. A local refinery supplies domestic needs; the country’s energy is generated almost entirely from fossil fuels.
Oil was first produced in 1929, while the natural gas industry was developed after the discovery in the 1960s of large deposits. Output of oil reached a peak in the late 1970s and subsequently was reduced in order to conserve reserves. Intensive exploitation of the country’s huge deposits of natural gas in the 1970s included the construction of a liquefaction plant, and LNG has since become a major source of Brunei’s export earnings. In addition to its hydrocarbon reserves, the country has rich deposits of white quartz sand that remained virtually undeveloped in the early 21st century.
- Finance and trade
In lieu of a central bank, the Financial Institution Division and the Brunei Currency Board, both part of the Ministry of Finance, are responsible for most central banking services. The Brunei Currency Board issues the Brunei dollar. Several Islamic commercial banks, a number of foreign banks, and a few offshore banks all operate in the country. Much of the state’s financial activity is concerned with managing its substantial foreign investments, and the return on these has become an important source of income.
Revenues from petroleum and natural gas, which constitute nearly all of the country’s export earnings, have generally resulted in trade surpluses since the early 1970s. The country’s principal trading partners are in Asia and include Japan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, and South Korea, among others. Brunei also trades with the United States, Australia, and members of the European Union to varying degrees. Brunei has been a member of ASEAN since 1984 and became home to the secretariat of the East ASEAN Business Council in the mid-1990s.
- Transportation and telecommunications
Historically, Brunei has depended primarily on its rivers and the sea for transportation. Rivers have remained the main means of transport into the interior, but a good network of roads has been built in the coastal areas and continues to expand into the interior. Per capita car ownership in Brunei is one of the highest in the world. Brunei has two major ports: a large, deepwater harbour at Muara, on Brunei Bay, and a smaller port at Kuala Belait, at the mouth of the Belait River. The country’s sole international airport, located at Bandar Seri Begawan, is home to Royal Brunei Airlines. Public transport (buses and taxis) is concentrated in urban areas.
Telecommunications are regulated by the Authority of Info-Communications Technology Industry. The government operates several radio and television channels, most broadcasting in Malay. Additional channels are available through private companies offering satellite and cable services.
Government and Society of Brunie
- Constitutional framework
In 1959 Brunei became a self-governing state and adopted a constitution, although the British retained jurisdiction over foreign policy, defense, and internal security. Limited attempts at elected representative government under this constitution were abandoned by 1970. After Brunei attained full independence in 1984, an Islamic sultanate was established, and the constitution—while retained—underwent significant amendment.
Ultimate authority rests with the sultan, who is both head of state and head of government. As prime minister, he presides over a Council of Ministers (cabinet) and is advised by several other councils (Religious, Privy, Succession, and Legislative); the members of these bodies are appointed by the sultan. In 2004 the sultan approved a number of amendments to the constitution. Although a provision for a partially elected Legislative Council was among the amendments, elections have not been held.
- Local government
Brunei is divided into four daerah (districts) for local administration: Temburong in the country’s eastern segment and Belait, Brunei and Muara, and Tutong in the western segment. Each is headed by a district officer. The district officers are assisted by district councils, which are largely appointed. The daerah are subdivided further into units called mukim, each of which embraces a number of kampung (villages).
Judicial power is vested in the Supreme Court, composed of the Court of Appeal and the High Court, beneath which are the magistrates’ courts. Although the High Court is a court of first instance for more serious offenses, it also handles appeals from the magistrates’ courts. Appeals from the High Court are heard by the Court of Appeal. The final court of appeal for civil cases is the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council of London. There also are courts of Islamic law (Sharīʿah; Syariah in Malay) that can appeal to the country’s Religious Council. When Syariah was first introduced, its jurisdiction was limited to personal or family matters (e.g., marriage). In 2014, however, Brunei began to phase in Syariah for criminal cases.
The small, well-equipped Royal Brunei Armed Forces consists mainly of an army group, with smaller navy and air force units. These forces are supplemented by the Ghurka Reserve Unit and the Royal Brunei Police. Only Malays are eligible to participate in the military, and service is voluntary. A separate battalion of British Army Gurkhas has been present in the country since 1971. Prior to the country’s independence, this unit was responsible for domestic security, but in the 21st century its chief task is to guard the petroleum and natural gas fields.
- Health and welfare
Brunei is essentially a welfare state, with well-developed social facilities. Citizens receive basic medical and dental services at no charge. Primary care is provided by a network of government health centres and clinics scattered throughout the country. Remote rural areas are visited regularly by the government’s flying doctor service. There is a state hospital in each of the four districts, including a large facility in Bandar Seri Begawan. Private clinics and a few private hospitals also operate in the urban areas.
Incidence of serious infectious diseases (e.g., tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, and cholera) is low in Brunei. Aggressive malaria-control programs have rendered Brunei virtually malaria-free since the late 1980s. The country’s death rate is well below the world average, and life expectancy is in the mid-to-upper 70s.
With education that is both free and compulsory from age 5 to 16, the vast majority of Brunei’s population is literate. Malay, English, and Chinese are the three official languages of instruction. Malay is used in government schools, although English is the medium for certain subjects, beginning at the upper primary level. In addition to the government schools are private Chinese schools and schools operated by religious institutions; all, however, generally follow the same government-developed curriculum. Following secondary school, students may further their studies at any of a number of technical or engineering colleges or vocational schools. Those with strong examination results may enroll for classes at the University of Brunei Darussalam (1985) or at the Islamic University of Sultan Sharif Ali (2007).
Cultural Life of Brunie
- The arts
- VISUAL AND PERFORMING ARTS
The visual and performing arts have for centuries been a salient expression of Bruneian culture. Brunei is particularly renowned for its metalwork. Especially during the peak of the Brunei sultanate’s power (16th and 17th centuries), brass and silver artisans were highly valued for their craftsmanship. They produced gongs, cannons, and other articles that were often embossed with designs of serpents and other animals. Bruneian metalwork has long been an important item of trade, both within and beyond the boundaries of the sultanate. Indeed, many of the gongs that constitute ritual paraphernalia and heirloom property among the remote interior peoples—not only of Brunei but also of Malaysian and Indonesian Borneo—are of Bruneian origin.
Gongs are important locally as musical instruments. The royal nobat ensemble combines a set of vertically suspended gongs with double-reed instruments (called serunai) and single- and double-headed drums to mark important palace events, such as coronations, marriages, deaths, and the reception of honoured guests. The nobat also sometimes announces the times for Muslim prayer. A nonroyal ensemble called gulintangan combines a set of seven or eight small, horizontally suspended gongs with several larger, vertically suspended gongs and one or two double-headed drums to provide music for festivals in Malay and various other indigenous communities. An ensemble of small frame drums called hadrah often is played at weddings or to receive members of the royal family in an official capacity. A popular Malay social dance is performed to the accompaniment of large frame drums, called gendang, which often are played by women.
The prevalence of Islamic arts in Brunei is particularly evident in the country’s magnificent architecture. The high golden dome of the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque (1958) dominates the skyline of Bandar Seri Begawan. It features classic attributes of Muslim architecture in its ornate domes, arches, and minarets. The mosque was built and furnished with fine materials from around the world—including marble from Italy, granite from China, chandeliers and stained-glass windows from England, and carpets from Saudi Arabia. In the mid-1990s another spectacular structure, the Jame’ Asr Hassanal Bolkiah Mosque, was built in Kampong Kiarong (near Bandar Seri Begawan) to signify the eminence of Islam in Brunei; it is the largest mosque in the country. Istana Nurul Iman, set in landscaped gardens along the Brunei River, is an enormous residential palace incorporating both Islamic and distinctly Malay architectural styles. It is the home of the sultan and also houses his prime ministerial offices. The building is particularly striking when viewed at night from Persiaran Damuan, a nearby park featuring sculptures by noted Southeast Asian artists.
A different sort of architectural masterpiece is Kampong Ayer (“Water Village”), in Bandar Seri Begawan. Kampong Ayer is a collection of long-established villages, the structures of which hover on stilts above the Brunei River. Houses, medical clinics, and schools—most made of wood but some now made of cement—blend contemporary amenities with time-tested building styles. The dwellings and other facilities are interconnected by an extensive network of elevated walkways.
- Sports and recreation
Brunei has fine facilities for a wide range of sports, including badminton, squash, tennis, field hockey, football (soccer), and aquatics, and the country’s strongest athletes are internationally competitive. Golf enthusiasts enjoy several championship courses, and polo has been popular for decades, particularly with members of the royal family; polo fields and the royal stables are located at Jerudong Park, near Bandar Seri Begawan. Ocean sports, such as yachting and windsurfing, also have a strong following.
In addition to such globally recognized activities, Bruneians practice a number of uniquely Southeast Asian sports—such as sepak takraw, a game similar to volleyball except the ball is made of rattan and is volleyed with the feet rather than the hands, and pencak silat, a type of martial art. These sports are internationally competitive within the Asian region, and Brunei has produced award-winning athletes in both events. In 1999 Brunei hosted the 20th Southeast Asian Games in Bandar Seri Begawan at the Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium, the country’s main sports venue. In 2000 the country sent its first representative to the Summer Olympic Games, held in Sydney, Australia.
Main kikik, or kite flying, remains a popular pastime in Brunei. Some kikik (kite) owners aim to fly their kites to extraordinary altitudes, to lead them through spectacular maneuvers, or to keep them airborne for as long as possible. Others, however, engage in kikik battles; with the strings of their kites coated with ground glass, competitors strive to sever in midair the strings of their opponents’ kikik.
Another local pastime is main gasing, or top spinning. Players typically throw their gasing (top) forcefully into an arena in an attempt either to keep their top spinning as long as possible or to knock their opponents’ tops down or out of the playing area. With gasing that can weigh some 15 pounds (7 kg), the game requires great strength, timing, and aim.
History of Brunie
Although its early history is obscure, Brunei was known to be trading with and paying tribute to China in the 6th century ce. It then came under Hindu influence for a time through allegiance to the Majapahit empire, based in Java. When the ships of the expedition of Ferdinand Magellan anchored off Brunei in 1521, the fifth sultan, the great Bolkiah, controlled practically the whole of Borneo, the Sulu Archipelago, and neighbouring islands. Toward the end of the 16th century, however, the territory was torn by internal strife. Brunei’s power subsequently declined through the 19th century, notably with the cession of Sarawak in northwestern Borneo to the English adventurer James (later Sir James) Brooke in 1841, the expansion of Sarawak by additional grants to Brooke, the cession to Great Britain of the island of Labuan in Brunei Bay, and the final loss of what is now Sabah, East Malaysia, in northeastern Borneo.
Brunei became a British protectorate in 1888, and in 1906 administration was vested in a British resident, whose advice the sultan was bound to accept. Despite the presence of a foreign administration, Brunei’s significance began to revive with the start of petroleum production in 1929. In 1941–45, during World War II, Brunei was occupied by the Japanese. The British returned after the war, and negotiations began for the eventual independence of Brunei.
The first step in this process occurred in 1959, when self-government was achieved and the British resident was replaced by a high commissioner. Britain remained responsible for defense and foreign policy. Brunei adopted a written constitution, and in 1962 a partly elected Legislative Council with limited authority was installed. The conversion to a representative government was interrupted later that year by a revolt, which was suppressed with the help of British forces; the sultan then called a state of emergency and suspended most provisions of the constitution. New elections were held in 1965, but appointed members still retained their majority in the council.
In 1967 Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien abdicated in favour of his eldest son, Hassanal Bolkiah Muʿizzaddin Waddaulah, although the former sultan continued to exercise influence until his death. Brunei’s political life was stable throughout the 1970s in large part because of its flourishing economy and its position as one of the world’s wealthiest (on a per capita basis) oil producers. In 1979 the United Kingdom and Brunei signed a treaty whereby Brunei would become fully independent in 1984. Malaysia and Indonesia both gave assurances that they would recognize Brunei’s status, thereby allaying the sultan’s concern that the state might be incorporated by one of its larger neighbours.
Brunei duly gained independence on Jan. 1, 1984, and an Islamic sultanate was proclaimed. The Legislative Council, which had become an entirely appointed body by decree of the sultan in 1970, was suspended, and a ministerial form of government was introduced. The sultan became prime minister, in addition to holding several other ministerial posts, and he appointed members of his family to most of the other positions, including his father as defense minister. When his father died in September 1986, the sultan assumed the important defense post and enlarged his cabinet.
In 1990 the sultan encouraged Bruneians to adopt Melayu Islam Beraja (“Malay Islamic Monarchy”), the country’s official ideology. The movement, which celebrated traditional Bruneian values and called for more rigid adherence to traditional Islamic principles, was viewed with anxiety by non-Muslims, particularly members of the Chinese community. Nevertheless, for much of the late 20th century the sultanate experienced both political and economic stability (though it did suffer during the Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s), and its citizens continued to enjoy a very high standard of living. However, the economy’s heavy reliance on petroleum and natural gas, both nonrenewable sources of energy, led the government to pursue economic diversification more aggressively.
In the mid-1980s two political parties, the Brunei National Democratic Party and the Brunei National United Party, were legalized, but membership restrictions were imposed (e.g., government employees, who made up a significant proportion of Brunei’s citizens, were excluded) and their activities impeded by the government. After only a few years, both parties were banned. The Brunei National United Party was allowed to operate again beginning in 1995, and in the early 21st century it was joined by two new parties, the People’s Awareness Party and the National Development Party. In 2004 the sultan reconvened the Legislative Council, which had not met in 20 years, to discuss constitutional amendments. Although provision for an elected component of the Legislative Council was among the approved amendments, the sultan reformed the council in 2005 with an entirely appointed membership. Meanwhile, two of the three political parties were deregistered, leaving the National Development Party as the sole legal party by 2007.
Brunei’s movement toward stricter Islamic practices initially included measures such as banning the sale of alcoholic beverages and requiring that Muslim children receive religious instruction, Courts for Islamic law (Sharīʿah; Syariah in Malay) also functioned to help Muslims settle personal matters such as marriage. The sultan had long wanted to expand Syariah to also include criminal offenses by Muslims, and in October 2013 he announced that such a policy would become official the following year. The first phase of three—this one covering lesser crimes, such as failing to observe the fast during Ramadan—was implemented in May 2014.
At independence in 1984, Brunei’s relations with neighbouring Malaysia were strained over boundary and territorial disputes in Sarawak. Ties between the two countries gradually improved, as most of the border issues were resolved, but Brunei still claimed the Limbang region of Sarawak between the two portions of Brunei. In 2009 an agreement was reached by which Brunei would drop its claim on Limbang and Malaysia would forgo its claim to oil-rich areas in the South China Sea that the two countries had contested. However, the two countries would jointly exploit any reserves found there.
- Trade with China and India dates back at least 2000 years. Islam was brought to the region from South India in the early 1400s. A century later, the first European explorers arrived.
In the 16th century, Brunei was an important trading centre and a regional power, and its influence spread as far afield as the central Philippines. But by the 19th century, the sultanate was in decline, opening the way for the British to wrest control of the Malaysian states of Sarawak and Sabah from the sultan. Brunei itself became a British protectorate in 1888.
Oil, discovered in the Seria area in the 1920s, changed Brunei forever. It was black gold that helped fuel Japanese interest in Borneo during World War II, and in the early 1960s oil made it economically advantageous for Brunei to remain outside newly-created Malaysia.
Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah, the country's current absolute ruler and one of the world's richest people, became Brunei's 29th sultan in 1967. He rules under a national philosophy known as Malay Islamic Monarchy, which promotes Islamic traditions and values and loyalty to the sultan. The activities of political parties are severely restricted.
Brunei became self-governing, except in foreign affairs and defence, in 1971 and became fully independent from Britain in 1984. The country maintains close military, economic and cultural ties with the UK.
Bruneian Society and Culture
The family is the focal point of the social structure. The Bruenian family is the extended family and includes aunts, uncles, and cousins as well as close friends. Members of the extended family are expected to remain loyal to each other and the family.
As a result of this Brunei is a hierarchical culture. Age and position are revered. From a young age, children are taught to subjugate their own desires for the good of the entire family and to respect elders without question. In addition they also learn that it is through family support that they accomplish goals.
The Concept of Face
The role of face, shame and honour is crucial to Bruneians. Consequently they are very polite and well-mannered. Maintaining face is of upmost importance and they do their best not to cause issues or problems which could jeopardize this. In order to maintain face their communication style is very indirect and can come across as somewhat ambiguous to those from a culture where direct communication is the norm. By being indirect Bruneians avoid embarrassing another person, which would cause that person to lose face. Most Bruneians find emotions such as impatience, anger, or irritation embarrassing and try to avoid them since expressing them could result in a loss of face and disharmony.
Most Bruneians are Muslims and as such their lives revolve around the duties afforded to them by Islam. Alcohol is banned from the country however pork is allowed for non-Muslims. Gender relations are also governed by Islamic principles and etiquette. Shaking hands across genders is rare.
Bruneians practice a devout but tolerant brand of Islam, which includes devotion, yet allows other faiths and beliefs.
Muslims must pray five times a day – at dawn, noon, afternoon, sunset, and evening. Friday is the Muslim holy day. Everything is closed. Many companies as well as government offices also close on Sunday and Saturday afternoon.
During the fasting month of Ramadan, government staff works a six-hour day and entertainment and sporting activities are suspended. The Sultan encourages the recital of the Quran each morning prior to the start of work to obtain Allah’s blessing and guidance.
Bruneians are proud to have centuries of royal heritage and to be the only remaining Malay Islamic Monarchy in the world. The Sultan of Brunei comes from a family line that dates back to 1405. In 1967 His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu'izzaddin Waddaulah was made the 29th ruler of Brune and led the country’s independence from the United Kingdom in 1984.
Etiquette and Customs in Brunei
o The common greeting depends upon the ethnic origin and the age of the person. o In general, many men you meet will have adopted the western concept of shaking hands, although this is not always the case with older Bruneians or with women. o Ethnic Malay men shake hands with one another, but men and women do not traditionally shake hands. o Younger Bruneians may shake hands with foreign women or they may merely bow their head in greeting. o It is considered respectful to bow your head when someone who is senior to yourself in age or position. o It is considered disrespectful and rude to stare into another person's eyes, particularly those of a person who is senior to you in age or status.
Gift Giving Etiquette'
o If invited to someone's home for dinner bring good quality chocolates or fruit. o Do not give toy dogs to children. o Do not give anything made of pigskin. o If giving foodstuffs ensure there is no gelatine or anything else which is not ‘halal’. o Avoid white wrapping paper as it symbolizes death and mourning. o Offer gifts with the right hand only or both hands if the item is large. o Gifts are generally not opened when received.
o For the most part, Bruneians do not invite foreigners into their homes. o If you are invited to a Bruneian home, consider it a great honour and testament to your personal relationship. o Punctuality is not strictly adhered to. You may arrive a little late without causing offense. o Shoes are generally removed before entering a house. o Greet the eldest person first. o Wait to be told where to sit. o It is considered good manners to accept an offer of food or a beverage. Turning down hospitality may be viewed as personal rejection. o Wait to be invited to eat before starting. o Food is often served buffet style or on a revolving tray in the centre of the table. o The guest of honor may be served first or the eldest person may. o Do not eat with the left hand, as it is considered unclean. o Eat or pass food with your right hand only. o Many Malays eat with their fingers. Alternatively, they may serve cutlery for foreign guests, usually a fork and a tablespoon. o If passing a plate that is heavy, you may use your left hand to support your right wrist. o When you are finished eating, place your fork facing downward on your plate with your spoon, also facing downward, crossed over the fork.
Bruneian Business Etiquette and Protocol
Meeting and Greeting
o Greetings should be formal and demonstrate respect and deference. o It is important to introduce the most important person on your team first. o Handshakes tend to be light. Bruneian men often raise their hands to the heart after shaking hands. o o Most Bruneians do not shake hands with members of the opposite sex. o Foreign businesswomen should nod their head in greeting. o Foreign businessmen should wait to see if a Bruneian woman extends her hand first. o Titles are important and can be confusing. Bruneians can have as many as 20 words in their title. o Titles such as “Pengiran” with several different words following it, “Awangku”” and “Dayangku” indicate the person is related to the royal family. o It is acceptable to address someone with a title by their title alone. o Honorific titles are “Awang” for a man and “Dayang” for a woman. The abbreviations for these titles are “Awg” and “Dyg” respectively. o Business cards are typically exchanged after introductions and handshakes. o Present the card with both hands or with the right hand and the left hand supporting the right hand. o Give a business card to each person you meet. o Examine any business card you receive before putting it in your business card case. o The respect you show someone's business card is considered to be indicative of the respect you will show the person in business. o It is considered a breach of etiquette to write on a person’s business card in their presence.
Bruneian communication is formal and respectful, especially to those senior in age or position. Hierarchy is revered, so older businesspeople should be greeted before younger ones.
As in much of Asia, group harmony is vital. Therefore, the communication style tends to be indirect and somewhat ambiguous. This is done to avoid embarrassing someone or causing either party to lose face. If you are from a more direct culture, you may find the use of evasive responses or insincere yeses frustrating.
Most Bruneians find emotions such as impatience, anger, or irritation embarrassing and try to avoid them. Therefore, it is incumbent upon the foreigner to refrain form showing his/her inner feelings.
Bruneians commonly ask what would be considered intrusive personal questions such as about wages or the like. If you are uncomfortable discussing such matters, it is important to handle the matter diplomatically so neither party loses face. Such conversations are meant to get to know you as a person, they are not meant to make you uncomfortable.
Tone of voice, body language, eye contact and facial expression can often be more important than what is actually said. Therefore, it is important to observe the person as they speak.
It is important to advise Bruneian counterparts in advance of who will be attending the meeting. This allows them to organize counterparts at the same level. It is also a good idea to send a brief business biography of each person.
When entering a room it is a important that the most senior person on your team to enter the room first. Doing so gives face to both parties since it demonstrates respect towards the Bruneian culture.
It is quite common for the most senior person from each side to sit opposite each other at the table.
Typically, the most senior Bruneian will offer a brief welcoming speech. Although you need not do the same, having a few welcoming words will brand you as a competent leader.
Once the introductions are complete and everyone is seated, there will be a period of small talk to enable all parties to become more comfortable with each other. It will end when the most senior Bruneian feels comfortable discussing business. Do not rush the process or you risk permanently harming your business relationship.
At the first meeting between two companies, Bruneians often do not get into in-depth discussions. They prefer to use the first meeting as an opportunity to get to know the other side and build a rapport, which is essential to them.
Meetings may extend into business meals, although business will generally not be discussed. Nonetheless, this getting-to-know you time is vital in developing and fostering a good working relationship and therefore it is important that you remain professional.
Similar to most Asian cultures, Bruneians are indirect communicators who are equally concerned with the message as with the manner in which it is delivered. Since they avoid polite and go out of their way to confrontation, they attempt to speak in a manner where both parties retain face. They will attempt to avoid communicating anything directly that would hurt or offend another since doing so would cause a loss of "face". They will gently push their ideas forward and wait for others to respond. If they disagree with an idea, they will generally remain silent rather than speak up. Therefore, it is important to watch for silences and body language.
Since Bruneians have difficulty giving an absolute negative response, they have many ways of giving a non-committal "yes". Phrases such as "it is inconvenient" or "we shall see" generally indicate a negative response.
Given the difficulty in saying “no”, it is a good idea to phrase questions so that an affirmative response can be given. If you are unsure what an answer means or think that it may be a non-committal agreement, ask the question in another fashion to see what response you receive.
It is important to remember that nodding the head does not always indicate agreement; it may simply be an acknowledgement that you have spoken. This can be disconcerting for people from more western cultures who translate the gesture differently.
Bandar Seri Begawan, formerly (until 1970) Brunei Town, capital of Brunei. The city lies along the Brunei River near its mouth on Brunei Bay, an inlet of the South China Sea on the northern coast of the island of Borneo...>>>>read more<<<<
Brunei Area: 5,765 sq km (2,226 sq mi) Population (2004 est.): 351,000 Capital: Bandar Seri Begawan Head of state and government: Sultan and Prime Minister Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Muʿizzaddin ...>>>read on<<<
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