Brunei Lifestyle and Culture

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Brunei has a colourful history with a heritage of traditions and customs that are influenced by Malay, and partially by some Chinese traditions.  Islam as that is the main religion of the Malay Archipelago also greatly influences bot lifestyle and the culture of the people. Being an Islamic monarchy, religious rites and rituals are devoutly observed 

by all Muslims. Non-Muslims living in the country or who are visiting are expected to give their due respect.

General etiquette

It is considered respectful to bow your head when greeting someone who is senior to yourself in age or position. When giving foodstuffs ensure there is no gelatin or any other ingredient which is not halal.

Ensure that food wrappings do not include any images which might be offensive in Islamic terms.  Avoid using white wrapping paper as it symbolizes death and mourning. Gifts are generally not opened immediately when received.

All greetings must be formal and demonstrate respect and deference. It is not customary to shake hands with members of the opposite sex so you have to wait until, and if, the other person’s hand is offered first. A person should not touch anyone on the head as this is regarded a very disrespectful act.


Islam is the most predominant religion in Brunei, particularly Sunni Islam. According to the CIA World Factbook, 79% of Brunei's population is Muslim, 9% of the population is Christian and another 8% is Buddhist and the remaining 4.7% subscribe to various religions, including indigenous religions. Although Islam is the state religion of Brunei freedom of religion is guaranteed. Non-Islamic holidays, such as Christmas, are recognized though limited. Religious education is controlled, even in private schools, and any non-Islamic religious materials being distributed can be confiscated.

Food and cuisine

Brunei’s cuisine uses elements from various cooking traditions borrowed from their neighbors and developed from their own traditional dishes, and passed down from generation to generation. The staple food of Brunei, as in all South Asian countries is Wheat and rice. Brunei cuisine is mostly characterized by its wide utilization of chili or coconut milk and frying methods. Below are some of the dishes prepared in Brunei.

  • Ambuyat- ambuyat consists of a mix of starch, solid whites and water served sticky with a dip called cacah. It is Brunei’s proud national dish and is derived from the interior trunk of the sago palm tree. It is completely edible without chewing it. Ambuyat is also one of the dishes that has a specific method of consuming it. Using a V-shaped bamboo stick called candas.
  • Nasi Katok- Nasi means rice and katok literally means to knock. People used to have to knock on the Nasi seller’s doors to make an order and hence the name started.Though there many variations of the dish spread throughout Brunei, the 
  • basic ingredients still remain the same, which are, one serving of rice, a piece of fried chicken, and the sambal or dip.
  • Kelupis- these are rice cakes made from glutinous rice. These are served as light snacks during a wedding or a special occasion. There are plenty of varieties of the kelupis, some of which are served with dried shrimp, with anchovies or eaten with peanut or curry dip.
  • Pulut Panggang- is a snack which is prepared by having its wrapped contents grilled instead of steamed, like what is done with kelupis.
  • Bamboo Chicken- this rich and aromatic dish has long been a secret recipe to the Iban communities. It isprepared by stuffing marinated chicken, onions and other spices into bamboo poles and wedging them shut with bamboo leaves. It is then put on an open fire and the chicken is slowly cooked to perfection. It can be taken with a platter of rice.
  • Selurut- This is traditional yet popular cone shaped snack made with a floury brew of rice and sago, then drenched in salted water with a dash of coconut milk. The mixture is then poured inside a cone-rolled coconut leaf and left to steam.
  • Keropok Udang- is a traditional snack that is shared all across the country and the island as a whole. It is a blend of minced-prawn and starch; garnished with garlic, salt and pepper then baked under the sun before frying in hot oil to crispy perfection.


There is a wide variety of native folk music, and dance created by and passed down from generation to generation in Brunei. Over the years there have been some little influence from the west and international community. Adai-adai is a group work song sung by fishermen as they fish.

The Benari or Joget Baju Putih is a folk dance performed during numerous festivals, usually performed by three men and three women. Aduk-Aduk is a ceremonial dance performed by the Kedayan children at the end of the harvest season or at birthday’s celebration.

The Malay population are known for the Jipin or Zapin dance which is a dance performed by six men and women, accompanied by instruments including the gambus dan biola, dombak and rebana. Gongs like the Kulintangan, duck gongs and other instruments are played.


Football is the one of the most popular sports in Brunei and the National Team has won the Malaysia Cup in 1999. Other popular sports include silat, martial arts, badminton, polo and sepaktakraw which is a sport played with a rattan ball and gasing.

The local martial arts in Brunei is called Silat Suffian Bela Diri. Basketball is also common. Brunei also hosts the Brunei Open a golf tour, Rugby is also played in Brunei and the national rugby union is in the 6th division.

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