The good life of some
expatriates in Brunei
By Claude Louis
Brunei is a beautiful country, especially if you are an expatriate worker.
In addition to the job and accommodation, perks such as bonus, gratuity and mobile phones
are sometime provided.
One of my Australian friends, a quality assurance engineer, Peter, when
asked how Aussies see Brunei replied, "Australians sees Brunei as this tiny country
on the northern tip of Borneo, where expatriates can earn a lot of money and have a
My friend Jeremy said that in England, he couldn't afford to play golf and
the nearest golf course was miles from his home. Here, registering at a golf club was one
of the first things he did.
Then there's Andy, who couldn't afford a boat and live "so far from
the sea anyway" he never went sailing. Here he owns a yacht and every weekend tries
to find some excuse and an eager group of expatriate passengers to sail off to Labuan or
do some diving off Kuraman Island.
I remember when doctors from a private medical organisation left, they were
more worried about whom to sell their yachts and expensive European cars to, whereas
locals are more worried about where they would work next!
What about European expatriates who will walk to work, take the bus, train
or go on the underground mass transit system (The Tube). When they come to Brunei they
claim that their 'last' company car was a Ford Fiesta, Rover or Jaguar. Without verifying
the local employer gives them similar company cars they have never driven before in their
Ann Simmonds (not her real name) was a New Zealand teacher at one of the
secondary schools. She always seemed to be back from work between 11.30am and noon. How
she managed to leave school before her students was never explained.
She would boast that by 1.30pm she would be lazing on her deck chair at the
Royal Brunei Yacht Club looking out at the South China Sea with a glass of gin and tonic
in her hand. This was in pre-prohibition (of alcohol) days. What a privileged life for
some. Bless the half day school system which allowed her to do this.
If she were in New Zealand, Australia and England, she would be slaving at
her school until 5pm.
Then there's was this teacher who complained that flights to Kuching were
not convenient. "Kuching is a very nice place but there is no RBA flight out on
So groups of teachers cannot go to Kuching for the weekend."
As if RBA puts on its flight schedules to suit the teachers!
In days gone by, good foreign medical officers were given study leave for
professional development. They could go abroad and do specialist courses in ophthalmology,
cardiology, anaesthesiology and many more.
They would come back to work as "specialist" in their respective
fields of trainning. They would receive very high levels of pays as
"specialist". Often the pay that they got would be two to three times more than
what they received before they left.
Many years later, these "specialist" are no longer in the
country. They use the Brunei government as a stepping stone and take advantage of their
beneficence. And what did Brunei gain from this misplaced generosity? This is a more
privileged position then is being offered to local doctors.
Another thing, how come foreign teachers can work beyond the age of 55,
where else local teachers have to retire the moment they hit 55? How does my local teacher
friend explain this to her son? The fact that she has to retire at 55 when her son's
foreign teachers are still happily and gainfully employed even though they are past 55
years of age.
What about the sad cases of those foreign workers who continue to work in
Brunei after their work permit has expired or been cancelled. If caught they risk going to
jail. Yet it is a risk worth taking.
Going to jail in Brunei and receiving free board and food is preferable to
going back to an unemployed status in their home countries.
Brunei is indeed a beautiful country - especially if you are lucky enough
to be a pampered highly paid expatriate.
TO LEISURE PAGE