Brunei is a lesser-known but wealthy country with one of the lowest debt rates. With its limited taxation policies, the country has among the best business environments in Southeast Asia. On the contrary, the king of Brunei is a popular figure thanks to his luxurious life and car collections. He is so popular that people use the phrase “spend like the king of Brunei” to describe a lavish lifestyle. Here are some more lesser-known Brunei facts to make your day.
1. Bandar Seri Begawan Is The Capital City of Brunei
Located along the Brunei River, Bandar Seri Begawan is the capital city of Brunei. Originally known as Brunei Town, the city is part of the Brunei-Muara District and hosts the majority of the country’s population. Bandar Seri Begawan is Brunei’s urban, administrative, cultural, and commercial center.
2. Standard Malay Is Brunei’s Official Language
While several languages are spoken in Brunei, the country’s official language is Standard Malay. Brunei Malay is the most spoken language; it was made official in 1959 following the signing of the Brunei 1959 constitution. Other dialects used in the region include Brunei Bisaya, Tutong, Belait, Murut, and Dusun. Foreign languages include English, Arabic, and Chinese.
3. Brunei’s Economy Relies on Natural Gas and Crude Oil Production
When it comes to the Human Development Index in South Asian nations, only Singapore is ahead of Brunei. Brunei’s economy relies on natural gas and crude oil production, which account for 90% of its GDP. The country produces about 167,000 barrels of oil daily and is among Southeast Asia’s top five producers.
4. Brunei Once Had the World’s Most Valuable Banknote in Circulation
Abbreviated as B$, the official currency of Brunei is the Brunei dollar. It took over in 1967, replacing the British Borneo dollar. At one point, the country had the world’s most valuable banknote in circulation; the B$10,000 note was worth about 7,560 USD in 2021. However, it was discontinued in 2022, with the Swiss 1,000-franc banknote assuming the top position.
5. The Sultan of Brunei’s Birthday Is a National Holiday in Brunei
Held every July 15, the Sultan of Brunei’s birthday is one of the most significant days in the country’s calendar. The holiday begins with a nationwide prayer before His Majesty the Sultan delivers a royal address known as “titah.” Afterward, an investiture ceremony happens at the Istana Nurul Iman.
6. Brunei Has Among the World’s Highest Car Ownership Rates
Brunei is among the countries with the highest car ownership rates, with research showing the ratio of vehicles to people in the region is 997.8 to 1,000.
7. Brunei Has Never Won Any Olympic Medals
Even though Brunei first debuted at the Olympics in 1996 and has participated in every edition since (except 2008), the country has yet to win any Olympic medals. It has had representatives in swimming, shooting, badminton, and several track-and-field competitions. On the other hand, the country’s national soccer team isn’t the best, either; it is ranked 191st in the latest FIFA rankings.
8. One of the Richest Soccer Players is Bruneian
Ironically, even though Brunei is not popular for sports, more so soccer, Brunei’s Prince Faiq Bolkiah is among the wealthiest soccer players. With an estimated net worth of $20 billion, Bolkia’s riches place him among the sport’s elite players, including Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Kylian Mbappe. He plays for Chonburi F.C. in Thailand and Brunei’s national team.
9. It Is a Muslim Country
About 80% of Brunei’s population, including Bruneian Malays and Kedayans, identify as Muslims, making it the official religion. With beautiful mosques coloring the country, visitors are welcome to visit as long as they dress properly and it’s out of prayer times. Other faiths practiced in the region include Buddhism, Christianity, and Freethinkers.
10. Non-Muslim Celebrations Are Regulated in Brunei
While Brunei’s 1959 Constitution guarantees the right of non-Muslims to practice their faith, their prayers and celebrations are usually confined to private residences and worship places. For instance, Christmas decorations are banned from public spaces as it is against the teachings of the Sharia Penal Code.
11. Homosexuality Is Illegal in Brunei
Both male and female homosexuality is prohibited in Brunei. Men who engage in such activities are punished by whipping or death. At the same time, sexual relationships between women attract imprisonment or caning. In 2019, the government of Brunei extended the existing moratorium on the death penalty to march Islam’s Sharia law, which punishes homosexuality by death by stoning.
12. Brunei Is Home to One of the World’s Most Luxurious Presidential Suites
The Empire Hotel & Country Club in Brunei is one of the most luxurious presidential suites in the world. It has a steam room, sauna, swimming pool, and a private theater. Costing more than $23,000 a night, the hotel’s interior is covered with a 24-carat gold lining Italian marble and a Baccarat crystal chandelier. Even with the exorbitant prices, the hotel is constantly booked and was named “The World’s Leading Presidential Suite” by the World Travel Awards in 2003.
13. The Majority of Brunei Citizens Are Active on Social Media
Despite the attempts by the government to control internet use, Statista places Brunei as one of the countries with the most active social media users. Besides socializing, Bruneians rely on online platforms to get reliable news, as the government’s media outlets are often biased.
14. The Sultan of Brunei Serves Multiple Roles
In Brunei, the Sultan serves multiple roles, including being the Defense, Prime, Finance, and Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister. Additionally, he holds an honorary commission in the United Kingdom’s Royal Navy and Air Force.
15. The Japanese Attacked and Occupied Brunei after the Pearl Harbor Attack
In December 1941, the Japanese attacked and occupied Brunei, several days after their Pearl Harbor and United States Navy attack. With its 10,000 troops, Japan secured the oil source and made a deal with Sultan Ahmad Tajuddin, stating how they intended to run the country. During this time, the Japanese made their language mandatory in schools, and Brunei’s government officials were also required to learn it.
16. The Sultan of Brunei Once Owned the Largest Private Car Collections
With about 2,500 luxury cars, the Sultan of Brunei once owned the largest private car collection in the world. In what he termed “entertaining his car passion,” the locomotives cost billions of U.S. dollars, eventually landing him in trouble and the country in financial crisis. The car collection was later abandoned, with most of them being auctioned.
17. It Is One of the Least Indebted Countries
The Sultan of Brunei’s luxurious shenanigans aside, Brunei is one of the least indebted countries. The country’s public debt averaged 0.94% between 1985 and 2002. The highest annual debt percentage ever achieved was 3.20 in 2014, while the lowest was 0.00 percent of GDP in 1986. Brunei’s corruption rate is also very low.
18. Taxation in Brunei Is Significantly Low
People in Brunei do not pay income tax, value-added tax (VAT), social security tax, or sales tax. Instead, they contribute 5% of their salary to a state-managed provident fund. Additionally, Brunei has no minimum wage; pay rates are agreed upon based on collective bargaining. It offers one of the best business environments in the Southeast Asia region.
19. Obesity Is an Issue in Brunei
Most of the people in Brunei are struggling with obesity. Reports show that about 18.2% of adult women and 15.2% of adult women in the country are overweight. Further research indicates that about 30% of school-going children also suffer from the disease.
20. Brunei Observes Non-Contiguous Weekend
While most countries take Saturday and Sunday as weekends, others like Brunei take Friday and Sunday (non-contiguous). This is because the majority of the people are Muslims and Christians, so the days are for religious activities. Another country with such an arrangement is Israel, where Friday and Saturday are considered weekends.
21. The King of Brunei Threw an Over-the-top Party for His 50th Birthday
In 1996, Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei threw an over-the-top party to celebrate his 50th birthday. The event was held in one of the country’s stadiums, where a polo match was played to honor him. He also had a concert headlined by the iconic Michael Jackson, who reports say he was paid about $16 million. The event’s over 3,000 guest list included the likes of Prince Charles and other world leaders.