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Borneo Leisure

The good life of some expatriates in Brunei

By Claude Louis

Map of Brunei

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 comfortable life."

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 lives.

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 Friday.

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.

Source: Borneo Bulletin Sunday

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