Living in Brunei... as an expat


Living in Brunei is a contradiction. Only a few hundred thousand people live here, but every corner of the world is represented. There’s nothing to do while at the same time there are so many ways to keep busy! The weather is too hot, but Brunei sometimes feels like a small country town. Bandar is the largest city and although small, offers everything you’d need in terms of food, shopping and facilities. The city can be busy at times, but Fridays from noon to 2 p.m., everything shuts down for prayers. The streets empty and the shops close while everyone heads home or to the mosque for family time and prayer. With it’s large expatriate community, food and shopping options are varied. There are tons of Indian, Chinese, Japanese and Malay restaurants. Italian eateries are popular, as are fast food favorites Burger King and Kentucky Fried Chicken. There are a wide range of shopping malls and goods from around the world are easily available. Movie theaters, amusement parks and fitness gyms are commonly used by locals and expats alike. Options may be limited, but with a little help from our friend Google you can find most things in Brunei.

Being as small as it is, sometimes life can feel a little slow. Sure there are tons of restaurants and movie theaters as mentioned above, but you can drive the length of the country in just 2 hours! At times your choice of things to do feels a little limited. An easy solution is to travel. Malaysia is just an hour away, no matter where you are in the country and there are short flights available to any part of Asia. So a Southeast Asian adventure is easily arranged, be it a weekend at the Mulu Caves or visiting Orangutans in Sepilok; a beach retreat in Bali or Thailand, or big city adventures in Singapore or Hong Kong. With no bars to entertain those that prefer an adult beverage from time to time, a lively Expat social scene is here to be taken advantage of - festivals, dinner parties and pool parties are a plenty!

Since I mentioned pool parties, I better talk about the weather. It’s hot. Hot during the day and hot at night. Hot and humid or really hot and really humid! It rarely dips below 25 degrees and is usually 30 - 35! It can take visitors a while to acclimatize while the locals are wearing long sleeve hoodies when the temperature dips below 30. Air conditioning is a must, as is slowing down and taking your time. This close to the equator it’s important to hydrate all the time and go slow so as not to overheat. Sun worshipers will love it here while those with fair skin should pack a lot of sun cream. A warm rain shower is often a relief and an overcast day without rain is a welcome break.

The standard of living is high. With lots of subsidies on commonly used items like gas, water and power, no interest car loans or mortgages, it’s really not that expensive to live here. Most expats are able to save large portions of their income while still living well and travelling extensively. Locals live a comfortable life for the most part, driving new cars and living in houses with all the modern finishes.

Brunei isn’t for everyone. But if you want a place that values families and dedicates time and holidays to them, or a place where healthy eating and living is easily found or simply an affordable jumping off place to visit the rest of Asia, then maybe Brunei is the place for you.