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The Expat Community in Brunei
August 3, 2018
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The Expat Community in Brunei

The expat community is a great example of how communities can form beyond family relations and cultural traditions. They travel far and wide to find work and contribute to the economy of their host country.

This is, of course, no easy task. Living in a different country can be a daunting experience due to language barriers and cultural differences.

Yet, it is within these differences that real connection and a strong sense of community can be found. The result is a community that bonds over shared interests and their different cultural values.

Brunei has a diverse cultural landscape, in part due to more than 100,000 expatriates that live and work in the country.

The story of the expatriate community in Brunei is often associated with a utilitarian aspect: to contribute to the economy and fill gaps that exist because of a shortage of skilled labour.

However, the contribution of expatriates (which comes from the Latin term ‘ex’ (meaning ‘out of’) and ‘patria’ (meaning ‘native country’) in Brunei have gone beyond just being economical.

By being involved in daily Bruneian life, expats have enriched the community through their own story and identity, at the same time, maintaining strong links with their own home country.

In 2016, over 100,000 expatriates lived in the country and are actively contributing to the Brunei economy and cultural landscape. In this article, we’ll look at five of the most notable expat communities in Brunei and explore their various contributions to the country.

We’ll take a quick look at the contributions from some of the expat communities in Brunei:

The Indonesian Community

Indonesians have played an important role in helping build the foundation for manpower that Brunei needed to develop its own industry and economy.

The Indonesian community has made their mark on Brunei through various means — from businessmen and religious teachers to tradesmen and domestic helpers. All of them have been integral to the development of Bruneian society.

The shared language, culture and religion between Brunei and Indonesia have shaped strong bonds between both countrymen.

The 60,000 strong Indonesian community also brought over elements of Indonesian culture that we now think of as everyday Bruneian life — from ayam penyet to cendol, from batik to dangdut!

To get in touch with the Indonesian Embassy in Brunei call 2330180 or send an email to bsbegawan.kbri@kemlu.go.id

The Filipino Community

Filipinos have been an important part of the workforce since the early 1980s. One of the major contributions to come out of the Philippines for Brunei was the famous architect. Leandro Valencia Locsin, who designed the Istana Nurul Iman, which turned out to be his largest single work.

There are about 32,000 Filipinos residing in Brunei, according to the latest estimate by the Commission on Filipinos Overseas.

Most of them work in the retail, hospitality and health sector, where they are anecdotally known for driving the service standards in the country.

To get in touch with the Philippine Embassy in Brunei, call 2241465 or send an email to brunei.pe@dfa.gov.ph

The Bangladeshi Community

Bangladeshis have been the backbone of Brunei’s construction industry for many years. There are about 10,000 Bangladeshis employed in Brunei’s construction sector with most contributing to a bulk of the manual labour required to build important infrastructure.

One of the major projects completed recently is the newly-built Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Isteri Bridge which is 750 metres long and connects the water village to the capital.

Apart from the construction industry, there are also many Bangladeshis who are working in the healthcare, engineering and education sectors.

You can contact the Bangladesh High Commission in Brunei by calling 2342420 or by sending an email to bdhighcom@gmail.com

The Indian Community

Indian migration to Brunei began well before Bruneian independence, with many second and third generation immigrants now running successful business empires in both retail and textile. Businesses such as First Metro, Bismi and Nazmi textiles, all of whom have had their humble beginnings, are now big companies with a large Bruneian customer base.

Up to date, more than 11,000 Indians now live in the sultanate and actively make both economic (construction, health and education) and cultural contributions (the much-beloved murtabak or roti) to enrich Brunei’s diverse community.

The Indian Chamber of Commerce in Brunei also plays an active role in facilitating a healthy trade and business relationship between the two countries.

Indian culture has influenced everything from Bruneian cuisine (murtabak or dosai for breakfast anyone?) and fashion to the passionate devotion to Bollywood films.

You can get in touch with the Indian High Commission by calling 2339947 or by emailing cons.brunei@mea.gov.in

The British Community

The expat numbers for British community may be smaller, but they’ve had significant historical and cultural influence in the sultanate that goes way back. The British presence in Brunei dates to 1888 when Brunei was under the protection of the British Empire and a British resident was installed to govern the affairs of the country.

Even as Brunei gained independence in 1984, British influence was, and still is, deeply rooted — many of Brunei’s public, educational and legal institutions are modelled on British systems.

On the economic front, the UK maintains important education links with Brunei, sending over many English teachers and teaching coaches to help build local capacity in schools.

The UK consistently ranks as the most popular destination for Bruneian tertiary students, with hundreds pursuing higher education there each year.

Not to mention, the monarchs of both countries are the longest-serving heads of state in the world.

To get in touch with the British High Commission, call 2222231 or send an email to ukinbrunei@fco.gov.uk

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