Moving to Brunei for Work – What It is Like to Live and Work There
Expatriation has become increasingly common in recent years. That being said, expats have formed sizable communities in many areas. For this reason, many expats have tried to find alternative locations that are more appealing for their expatriation that provide a more authentic experience. Brunei is one of those locations where expats have relocated to with a unique experience in mind.
Brunei’s thriving economy attracts many foreigners to the country, primarily for work. But based on the experiences of many expats who have settled in the country, Brunei offers more than just better employment and pay. It might be a new home for your entire family.
Consider the reasons below when trying to ascertain whether relocating to Brunei is the ideal fit for your expatriation.
Living In Brunei As An Expat
Brunei is home to a large expat community. A whopping 40% of Brunei’s population is made up of expats who first visited the country and then decided to settle there after learning about the country’s tax-free income and rewarding job offers.
Foreigners have abundant employment opportunities, particularly in multinational companies engaged in the gas and oil industries. Larger construction companies also employ foreigners because of their ability to negotiate and confidently offer inputs to first-world infrastructures.
Brunei’s public healthcare system is one of its most impressive features. Locals have access to it at no cost; expats are only charged minimum rates and still get quality healthcare. Expats with comprehensive and global health insurance can go to private hospitals, which offer higher standards, but the drawback is these hospitals are situated in major cities.
Expats who start living and working in Brunei may experience culture shock, especially since it is a strict Islamic country. Before accepting a job offer in Brunei or deciding to move to Brunei for work, it is highly recommended that you familiarize yourself with the customs of Islamic countries.
Malay is Brunei’s language, but don’t worry; you’ll only experience minimal language barriers because most businesses transact in Chinese or English. And a good percentage of the population can speak and understand basic English—enough to get by.
Working In Brunei
Brunei is an attractive country to relocate to, especially for expats. Despite being smaller compared to its Southeast Asian neighbors, it is one of the richest, with commensurately competitive salaries and high-quality living standards.
Foreigners have a wide array of job opportunities in the gas and oil industries and education, tourism, and banking. Skilled professionals are always in high demand.
If you are a foreigner who wants to work in Brunei, you need to secure and process your work permit. But you can also opt to enter the country using a different visa and, once in Brunei, find work there.
Several partner countries, such as the US, UK, and Australia, have reciprocal visa agreements with Brunei, allowing foreign nationals from these countries to enter the country without a visa, but only stay for a specific period, for example, 90 days.
Those wanting to work in Brunei should understand that overseas work follows a skill-based quota system. This means that your work permit in Brunei is issued but is only valid for a specific period before it needs to be renewed. Also, employers and companies that employ foreigners are required to pay the government a security deposit.
Even self-employed foreigners need to secure their work permits and a business plan. Instead of operating as a sole proprietor, using local labor from Brunei will make it easier to obtain these.
The Expat Community In Brunei
Strong ties exist between the foreign community in Brunei and the locals, particularly with English-speaking locals. Usually, communication between locals and foreigners happens at work and in school.
One of the customs that foreigners look forward to is the open house visit, where they welcome Muslim families at the end of Ramadan or Hari Raya. They also share their homes with the Chinese community over the New Year.
As the Bruneians are naturally polite and friendly people, you might get invited to a traditional Malay wedding, one of the most important family events in the Malay culture.
So far, expats have formed a harmonious relationship with the locals, and the perfect balance of politeness and mutual respect makes the friendship work. Foreigners make an effort to learn about the locals’ traditions, political system, religion, and culture, and everything else falls into place.
Is Brunei Safe?
Brunei is a safe place for expats who want to relocate or even work there. Opportunistic crimes far outnumber violent crimes, mainly because Brunei is a Muslim country that upholds Islamic Sharia Law, which imposes severe punishments for particular offenses. Some examples are flogging for alcohol consumption, amputation for theft, and stoning for adultery.
While expats and non-Muslims are permitted to bring specific amounts of alcohol into the country, the ban on public consumption applies to everyone in Brunei.
Women planning to work in Brunei need not worry because the country is safe for females, whether they are traveling alone or in a group. Just make sure to observe the dress codes and learn about the customs that the country follows, like wearing conservative and loose-fitting clothing in public.
Overall, the safety risks are very low for foreigners visiting and staying in Brunei.
Specific Cultural Nuances to Be Aware of Before Relocation
Brunei is a Muslim country, which is important to note for women that are considering relocating there. Be sure to take the time to research and learn the proper protocols for conservative dress and workplace standards. In doing this, a great deal of unfortunate cultural misunderstandings will surely be avoided.
When contemplating the linguistic differences that Brunei possesses, it is wise to note that Malay is the primary language that is spoken in Brunei. English and some Chinese dialects are also utilized in business, which will make expats working in Brunei have a smooth transition in the workplace. The lack of language barrier is a major asset that Brunei has over other prospective expat destinations.
The Local Currency in Brunei
The currency in Brunei is called the Bruneian Dollar. Historically, the currency has been quite strong; however, in recent years, it has grown quite weak in relation to the United States Dollar since 2014. For expats that are currently residing and working in Burma, this is a very important factor to consider. If the expat is being paid in Bruneian Dollars, then it is going to be a major disadvantage to transfer money back to the United States because there will be a great potential loss. That being said, if the expat is being paid in United States Dollars or other strong currencies, it absolutely is possible to make substantial gains on the exchange rate while residing in Brunei.
Taxation In Brunei
In Brunei, personal income taxes are nonexistent, which is why it is such a great place to work. There are no export, manufacturing, payroll, or sales taxes.
Employers are mandated to give 5% of their local employees’ wages to the Employees’ Trust Fund. Besides that, employees get their actual wages without the frustrating deductions.
Cost Of Living In Brunei
Expats from America and Europe will find the cost of living in Brunei lower than what they are used to. But if you come from other Asian countries, you may find it more expensive in Brunei.
But overall, the cost of living here is manageable, and expats who earn their income in their own currency, like US dollars or euros, can expect a comfortable life and a high standard of living.
Here is an estimate of your basic expenses in Brunei and their US and UK estimate conversions.
Renting a one-bedroom apartment in the city costs about B$686.93 ($516.09) per month, while renting the same apartment outside the city costs about B$601.82 ($452.15) per month. Meanwhile, renting a 3-bedroom apartment within the city center costs about B$1610.88 ($1210.25). It is cheaper outside the city at B$1182.21 ($888.19).
Purchasing an apartment in Brunei would cost at least B$2381.55 ($1789.26) per square meter if the property is located within the city and B$1,598.18 ($1200.71) if outside.
The Brunei system offers free education to its nationals from pre-primary school until university. Even expenses like food, hostels, textbooks, and transport are free for Brunei’s citizens. Free public schooling is not available for foreigners aged 5 to 18.
Expect to pay more for the first year of education because of one-time additional fees. Based on the academic year 2022-2023, the cost of nursery schooling for a two-year-old is B$6840 ($5138.89)
Here’s an overview of the annual school fees from Nursery 2 through Grade 12.
|Age||Grade||Total Fees||In USD|
Source: Tuition and Fees for International School Brunei 2022/2023 (international-schools-database.com)
A regular monthly pass in Brunei costs B$29.97 ($22.52). Gasoline is relatively cheaper at B$0.51 ($0.38) per liter. Buses, specifically the Franchise Bus and water taxis (boats), are Brunei’s most common mode of cheap transportation.
The average fare per ride is B$1 ($0.75) for the bus and B$2 to B$5 ($1.50 to $3.76) for the water taxis.
Final Remarks on the Subject
Relocating to Brunei for an employment assignment is a wonderful employment opportunity to pursue. There are many attributes that Brunei possesses as a country that is a great service to expats that have capital in United States Dollars. Since the recent decline in the Bruneian Dollar has occurred, there are major gains to be made while living in Brunei. Another incredible gain to be made is the fact that many of the expat salaries are tax-free. Having taxation eliminated is a major benefit that is an asset for expats to consider that are contemplating relocating to Brunei. From a cultural standpoint, relocating to Brunei can present its challenges; however, on the whole, the linguistic climate there makes it easy for expats who speak either English or Chinese. Lastly, Brunei is one of the safest places in the world to be, which is another benefit of relocating for an employment assignment there. For the expat that is looking for a unique employment opportunity that is also fiscally lucrative, relocating to Brunei is absolutely an option that should be carefully considered.
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