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Society and Culture
The family is the focal point of the social structure. The Bruneian family is the extended family and includes aunts, uncles, and cousins as well as close friends. Members of the extended family are expected to remain loyal to each other and the family.As a result of this Brunei is a hierarchical culture. Age and position are revered.
Most Bruneians are Muslims and as such their lives revolve around the duties afforded to them by Islam. Alcohol is banned from the country, however pork is allowed for non-Muslims. Gender relations are also governed by Islamic principles and etiquette.
Due to Brunei’s rich history, which has seen the country become the seat of the Malay empire and the subject of European invasion, Brunei is a melting pot for international languages. The official language of the state of Brunei is Standard Malay. English is also widely used as a business and working language. It is also the language of instruction in secondary and tertiary education. Other languages spoken in Brunei include the Chinese, Indian and Native languages spoken by the minority ethnic groups.
The Concept of Face
The role of face, shame and honour is crucial to Bruneians. Consequently they are very polite and well-mannered. Maintaining face is of upmost importance and they do their best not to cause issues or problems which could jeopardize this. In order to maintain face their communication style is very indirect and can come across as somewhat ambiguous to those from a culture where direct communication is the norm.
Etiquette and Manners
The common greeting depends upon the ethnic origin and the age of the person. In general, many men you meet will have adopted the western concept of shaking hands, although this is not always the case with older Bruneians or with women. Ethnic Malay men shake hands with one another, but men and women do not traditionally shake hands. Younger Bruneians may shake hands with foreign women or they may merely bow their head in greeting.
Bruneian communication is formal and respectful, especially to those senior in age or position. Hierarchy is revered, so older businesspeople should be greeted before younger ones. Most Bruneians find emotions such as impatience, anger, or irritation embarrassing and try to avoid them.