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:
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:
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.