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Living in Brunei

Local Area

The country of Brunei is situated on the north-west coast of the island of Borneo, the 3rd largest island in the world. Its 100 mile coastline faces the South China Sea and it covers a total area of 2226 sq miles, less than a quarter the size of the UK. 

Brunei is surrounded by Sarawak, Sabah and Kalimantan. Sarawak and Sabah are states of Malaysia (previously annexed by the UK). Kalimantan is the Indonesian part of the island of Borneo.

The Indonesian part covers some 580.000 km2 (225.000 sq mi).  This vast area is home to only 12 million people, so most of the provinces, especially the interior is very sparsely populated, and the vast rain forests here are some of the most bio-diverse areas in the world.

The country’s full name is Negara Brunei Darussalam, meaning ‘Abode of Peace’.  The water village in the Capital is often described as the ‘Venice of the East’.  The country’s capital Bandar Seri Begawan (fondly known as BSB) and international airport are located in the Brunei-Muara district, approximately 90 minutes’ drive from Seria where the Brunei Garrison is located. Seria Garrison is on the coast, near the southern border between Brunei and Sarawak Malaysia. 

Local sights include impressive mosques and a water village in the capital. For the more adventurous, there are opportunities to trek in the national parks and jungle.  

British Forces Brunei is spread over three sites: Sittang Camp (jungle training facility), Medicina Lines where Garrison Support Services are located and Tuker Lines which houses Garrison Headquarters and the Resident Infantry Battalion (RIB).  Apart from Sittang Camp, the Garrison is located just outside Seria, in the Belait district.   Hornbill School is next to Tuker Lines and is not behind the lines.

The local towns of Seria and Kuala Belait, offer limited retail outlets, local fresh food markets, supermarkets, banking facilities, tourist offices, a variety of restaurants including Chinese, Indian, Italian and open air eating in fairly basic surroundings. 

The government offices are located in Kuala Belait for processing paperwork associated with owning a car and the employment of domestic staff (Amahs).  

Brunei Garrison provides a wide variety of amenities including a  gym, swimming pool, splash pool for small children, squash courts, tennis courts, library, education centre, a post office, sport complex, volley ball courts, basketball courts, youth centre for children, NAAFI and Ram Dhani (convenience store, canteen, dry cleaners, laundry and tailoring service provided).  The Patio bar and Chautari restaurant are the focus for evening social events within the garrison.  

The NAAFI Sells a range groceries, Iceland frozen food, stationery/cards/magazines, duty free alcohol/cigarettes, bake & bite hot and cold savouries/snacks and much more. 

All MOD teachers appointed to Brunei are eligible to join the Garrison Officers’ Mess.  Most teachers also take the opportunity to join the Shell Panaga Club, which is essentially a sports and leisure club.  Sport has a very high profile in Brunei and there are numerous sports offered at Panaga including golf, football, squash, rugby, diving, sailing, tennis, bowling, weight lifting and swimming.  There is also a thriving amateur dramatics society and other non-sport groups such as bridge, photography, natural history and quilting.

The location of Brunei provides wonderful opportunities for exploring the jungles of North Borneo and exotic destinations within South East Asia, as well as being a gateway to Australia and beyond.  Miri, the nearest Malaysian town, is located one hour’s drive away in Sarawak. 

Local Laws and Customs

Brunei is an Islamic country, ruled by His Majesty the Sultan of Brunei. 

His Majesty the Sultan and other members of the Bruneian Royal Family are highly revered and public criticism of them would cause great offence.

Local laws reflect the fact that Brunei is an Islamic country. You must dress modestly and respect local traditions, customs, laws and religions at all times, especially during the holy month of Ramadan, or if you intend to visit religious areas.

Ramadan is a holy month for Muslims.  During this time, observant Muslims not only abstain from food, drinking and smoking from dawn to dusk, but in general practice restrain from all activities or behaviour that are not compatible with Islamic values.  Muslims use this time of abstention for prayer, contemplation and charitable work.

On 22 October 2013 a new Sharia criminal code was enacted. The new code sets out severe corporal penalties and punishments, including death, for a variety of offences and in some cases will apply to non-Muslims.  Phase 1 was implemented from 1 May 2014, with offences punishable with a fine, imprisonment or both.  Phases 2 and 3, which include more severe penalties, are subject to further legislation before implementation.  

Whilst applicants should recognise that the Sharia code will require them to respect local customs and comply with local laws, it does not prevent you from enjoying the experience of working in a different country and culture.  

For example, the sale of alcohol in Brunei is prohibited but Non-Muslims over 17 years of age may import duty free two bottles of wine or spirits and twelve cans of beer on entry into Brunei provided they declare them to the customs authorities on arrival and consume them in private.  There must be at least a 48-hour gap between each import.  Smoking is prohibited in most public places, including shopping and eating areas, bus stops and stations and government buildings and offenders may be fined.

Alcohol and cigarettes may be purchased from the NAAFI but all MOD personnel are required to respect and comply with local laws and customs.  The British Forces Brunei Garrison takes measures to ensure the sale and consumption of food is conducted with sensitivity to local religious customs during fasting.

You may wish to look at the latest advice from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on Gov.UK for further information.

Further Information

For more information on living and working in Brunei, there is lots of information on the internet.  The following websites may be helpful:

Hornbill School Website –

Foreign & Commonwealth Advice –

Brunei Tourism –



BBC country profile –

Brunei on Wikipedia –

An Experience of a Lifetime

Brunei is some 8,000 miles from the UK and therefore flights can take between 17 – 24 hours dependent upon stop-over times.  For some the prospect of being across the other side of the world experiencing a new culture is the adventure of a lifetime.  Despite the obvious constraints of living in a Muslim state, if you are adaptable, have a sense of adventure and, if necessary, can manage without British television, this is a wonderful opportunity! 

Strong friendships are formed and the Garrison support services recognise the challenges of being so far from home but our teachers are resilient, resourceful and independent, confident of living in a Muslim state with a tropical climate.  Life in Brunei is certainly pleasant and working with the Gurkha community is unique and extremely rewarding but it can also be more challenging than working in many other overseas areas.  

Many of our teachers came for a couple of years and have stayed for five to ten years.  We hope you will embrace and enjoy life in Brunei and stay at Hornbill School for quite some time but when you feel the time is right to move on, then we hope you will consider working at one of our other MOD schools.

Hornbill School offers exciting continuous professional development opportunities (CPD) and personal development.  We are able to deliver both internal and external high quality development opportunities to staff through our own programmes and through links with FOBISIA.  Whilst with us you can be certain that you will have the opportunity to develop in line with UK and international best practice.


Teachers with families are provided with furnished Service Families Accommodation (SFA), which could be either a flat or a house.  Service Families’ Accommodation (SFA) for all Brunei serving personnel and their dependants is located between 5km and 15kms from Tuker Lines and Medicina Lines. 

Single and married but unaccompanied teachers are entitled to accommodation in the Officers’ Mess (in a single room with shared facilities), in same sex shared accommodation or in small self-contained units consisting of a living-room, bedroom, kitchen and bathroom, depending on availability.  The Mess is located approx. 6km from Tuker Lines and Medicina Lines.  It is located on the beach front and the garden is fringed by palms.  There is a tennis court, basketball court and a table for outdoor informal dining.  A large patio is used for Mess functions.   Where Mess accommodation is unavailable same sex shared accommodation may be offered.

As accommodation provided may be some distance from the place of work and public transport is limited, it is essential that applicants have access to their own daily transport.  Working and living in such a small community demands emotional resilience at an individual level as well as having the ability to form and maintain appropriate relationships and personal boundaries at all levels.

Please note that in Brunei a number of families are housed in 3-4 bedroom flats. Families can not assume that they will be given SFA with gardens.

Teaching staff will be provided with accommodation in accordance with eligibility criteria. Accommodation is rent free for the first 5 years of employment. After that rent will have to be paid but rents are reasonable compared to what you might expect to pay in the UK.

Whilst there are welfare facilities available to families in Brunei, the Garrison has a basic network of facilities that are professionally delivered but small in size. There are also minimal welfare facilities within the local community. The welfare support structure is much reduced from that available in the UK and Europe. 

Even within the UK, increasingly the trend is for families to be dispersed but it can be challenging to establish a life in a new country without the back-up of other family members.  This means that there is a requirement for increased self-reliance so you should carefully consider the needs of your family in relation to working in Brunei.   However Brunei is considered a quiet and safe country with a tranquil pace of life, hence the reason why it is called the “Abode of Peace”. Many families with younger children enjoy this and capitalize on the range of sporting activities on offer.

Opportunities For Spouses

Job opportunities for a spouse are good; roughly half of our teachers’ spouses currently have dependant posts within BFB. Hornbill School employs supply teachers and support staff throughout the year.

HQ Brunei Garrison provides a further, although very limited, opportunity for employment, usually for those with secretarial or office experience.

Other Factors to Consider

UNMARRIED PARTNERS: Service or Civilian single personnel and single lone parents may not  co-habit with a partner who is not their legal spouse in either Single Living Accommodation (SLA) or Service Families Accommodation (SFA).

SPECIAL NEEDS:  The majority of special needs, including special medical needs, can be met.  However, there are some needs which cannot be met.  It is therefore important that you notify us in advance if you or any member of your accompanying family have special needs, including health concerns, and you will need to obtain further advice before confirming acceptance of a post with Hornbill School. Please see our SEND information in admissions for more information.

RELIGIOUS WORSHIP AND TEACHING: British Forces Brunei staff are required to display religious symbols sensitively.  Evangelising is forbidden under the new Sharia criminal code. The Sharia code does not restrict religious practice – only proselytising on behalf of non-Islamic religions.

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