Laid-back culture requires attitude adjustment
Days in Brunei proved to be a refuge from metropolitan stress, even though it took a while for busy young Chinese worker bees, brought up in an era believing “Time is money, efficiency is life”, to get used to the tropical country’s laid-back style.
On my way from the airport to the hotel, I was puzzled as to why there were no highrise buildings, overpasses or underpasses in a country that has Southeast Asia’s highest per capita income after Singapore.
No streams of cars crowded the expressway, although most of Brunei’s families have more than one car and the price of gas in the oil-rich country is one of the lowest in the world.
No car horns honked, no engines roared, although sometimes there were what local people called traffic jams in downtown Bandar Seri Begawan during busy periods in the mornings and evenings. But even these times cannot compare to the rush-hour gridlock in Beijing or Shanghai.
Locals drove or walked slowly. Some relaxed in the shade of the spacious courtyards surrounding their big houses to escape the sweltering midday heat, until hypnotic music called them to pray.
Then, people in traditional dress flocked into goldentopped mosques. Women donned a full black prayer robe and tudung, a kind of hijab that women in Malaysia and Brunei wear, which reveals nothing but their hands and face. Men wore songkuk, which are Malay caps.
They prayed regularly at dawn, lunchtime, in the afternoon, at sunset and in the evening, chanting and reciting verses of the Quran. The mighty mosques were quiet the rest of the time. Graceful gardens surrounded their golden domes, with soaring minarets.
At first, our delegation of Chinese reporters envied the relaxed lifestyle. But the bubble soon burst. It was hard to shake off the mentality formed by a bustling metropolis like Beijing.
We were often irritated when meals we had ordered did not appear on the table as quickly as they would have at home.
Restaurants do not have to be as efficient in the sparsely populated country as they are in China. Running a business in Brunei is not necessarily
A mother and her daughter pose in the port region, Kampong Ayer, Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei, known as the Venice of the Orient.