Jan 292010

It’s a place where:

  • handshakes are gentle
  • you use all four fingers of your right hand palm down to beckon.
  • you used to be able to listen to Captial FM on the radio, so you could drive along at night, hearing about early morning traffic jams on the M25.
  • one travellers’ guide I just read recommended containing any sudden urges you might have to kick up a rumpus immediately after sunset on Thursday evenings.

And here’s your picture clue:

brunei reflection by tylerdurden1.

Answer: I’m in for a treat, because next week I will be visiting the beautiful Brunei, a Sultanate on the northwest coast of the Island of Borneo. I’ve been once before, and remember it encountering some delightfully exotic customs and rituals.

That travellers’ guide also said:

 “If sent an invitation, you should arrive on time or within 20 minutes of the stated time”.

 But I remember it as being more complex than that. Lower status conference attendees arrived early, then the more important ones came a bit later, then the VIP’s and then the very big VIPs were the last to arrive. With no written rules to guide them, folks understood their place in the pecking order and schedule and timed their entrances to precise perfection.

I messed up one evening. I mistook an invitation as being a sort of casual ‘come any time’ suggestion when it wasn’t. I found myself arriving at a formal dinner after the big VIPs. Big blushes. Who did I think I was? To make up for my faux pas, I thought I should mingle for a while after dinner, until a European lady realized I was a rookie and whispered in my ear: ‘You realize nobody can go home until you have left’. Horror of horrors! Behind me was a row of my hosts, standing in line to shake hands and bid me farewell.

Luckily they seem to have forgiven me (or perhaps tactfully chosen to forget?) because they are letting me come back. So if you’re free and in the neighbourhood this weekend, please come and say hi at the E4BT (English for Business and Technology) conference at the Institut Teknologi Brunei, Brunei Darussalam. And if not, I hope to return with some stories to tell.

If you fancy some more cultural oddities reading while I’m gone, I bet you’ll enjoy the lovely new politeness worksheet over at Alex Case’s blog. Now I must go pack. Luckily Lyndsay Clanfield has vlogged some tips on that.

 Posted by at 10:44 am

  11 Responses to “Guess where I’m going”

  1. That’s a great story Vicky – learning by Faux pas. You know what would be useful – a collaborative databse of stories like this, all geotagged. Then before a trip to a new land, you could look up your destination and see what not to do!

  2. Thanks for the mention Vicki. I’ll push my luck by giving another link to myself, this time one that ties in with Jamie’s suggestion:


  3. 🙂 timing is such an issue… I can remember inviting people round for drinks when I first got here and thinking them really, terribly, terribly rude for turning up exactly on time – I mean what, I didn’t even have my shower yet – who would go to a party on the time in the invitation, LOL…

    On the otherhand, been must awfully rude in return by being completely unable to get to any social event at a required time – punctual for professional, but the Caribbean juts out in me anytime relaxing’s involved!


  4. Hi Vicky

    Thanks for the mention. Are you a one-bag fellow traveller? The place you’re going sounds great, look forward to reading more.

  5. Great idea Jamie! And wonderful start with Japan Alex. I’m a big fan of ‘Japan explained’ blog and delighted with the link. Hope folks will check the whole blog out in fact:
    Ah, timing! Karenne, I messed up big on that this time around. But I met some folks at the conference who were into blogging with their students and sent them over to your blog. Hope they make it because they were so enthusiastic.
    Alas I was a two bag traveller, Lindsay. The thing that had me scratching my head was how to get round the liquids, creams and potions rule. Got any tips for that?

  6. ta 🙂

    I have a tip on the liquid, creams etc – pop into Boots and get mini sized containers (most shops like this sell them as stand-alone) but if not buy the cheapest sample bottles, empty them and then transfer your own products into the bottles/containers. Also look for one of those special clear sample bag things (usually come from Dove (at least here) with zippers and put all the items into the clear zipped bag. Failing that, you can buy a freezer sized Ziploc bag and put the mini containers in that!



  7. Oh whoops, forgot you were in the States – Wallmart, not Boots 🙂

  8. Poste trop plaisant

  9. Yep, VERY pleasant,Putian.

  10. That last comment looks like spam to me (it’s not putian, but…)

  11. Oh well spotted Alex. Thanks!

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