Christo Swart’s international teaching career has taken him from his home in South Africa, to South Korea, and most recently, Brunei. Here, he offers Teacher Horizons a glimpse of what teaching life is like in this small tropical city-state on the island of Borneo.

1. Where are you teaching? What made you choose that location?

I’ve been teaching in Brunei since the beginning of the year. Brunei is known as the “Abode of Peace” and that it surely is. It is a quiet little country on the island of Borneo. It has the most beautiful jungles and horn-bills come visit the trees in front of my house everyday. I chose Brunei because I wanted somewhere quiet where I could focus on becoming super fit!


Selfie with the students

2. What is your school like?

I teach at a public high school. It’s a pretty standard school. There are about 800 students and 60 teachers. Some classrooms are air conditioned, while others have data projectors.

The students are pretty nice. You have your normal naughty teenagers, but they are pretty chilled compared to the kids back home.

3. What is the expat scene like in your city? What do you do in your free time?

I live in Kuala Belait (KB), which is an oil town. This means there are quite a lot of expats working all kinds of jobs. Although Brunei is a dry country, (no alcohol sold) because KB has so many expats, there is always a party to go to.

But it still feels quiet. If you are looking to go clubbing and for a proper night out, Brunei is not the place for you.

In my free time I run, cycle and swim. There are a few pools available for swimming. KB is real flat, which makes it ideal for cycling. There is also a big Hash community, with hashes happening every day. Running in the jungle is a great way of breaking that monotonous routine.

4. How is the climate?

Brunei is hot throughout the year, with an average of 29C during the day. There is no winter, but you do get the wet and dry seasons.

I got used to the heat quickly enough, but other expats struggle a bit. Most buildings are air conditioned, so that helps.

It does flood a little during rainy season, but this doesn’t cause major problems.

5. What about culture shock? What parts of the culture are hard to get used to? Are there any nice surprises about the culture?

Brunei is a Muslim country.  This means all the girls in schools wear head scarves and long sleeved shirts, with long skirts. Non-Muslim female teachers are not required to wear head scarves, but they are expected to dress conservatively.

Not being able to go to the pub does take time getting used to, but you could always hop over the border to Malaysia if you are really desperate.

I was surprised by the diversity in Brunei. At first you do not notice it, but after living here for some time, you realize how many different cultures there are in this small country.

6. What’s the cost of living like? Are you able to save money?

Brunei can be pretty cheap. It is more expensive than Malaysia, but if you are willing to eat local you can save a lot. I am saving enough, although I am single and do not splurge often.

7. What’s the best thing about teaching in Brunei?

The hours. I am home by 2pm on most days and you have loads of free time to pursue your hobbies.

8. What’s the worst thing about teaching in Brunei?

Sometimes the boredom gets to you. It is a small town kind of country.  If you love big cities and loads of excitement, Brunei may be a struggle.

9. What advice would you give to someone thinking of teaching in Brunei?

Be prepared to have a quiet life. There are loads of ‘unexpected treasures’ here, but you have to go out and look for them.

If you like the sound of the quiet life, why not browse schools and check for current teaching jobs in Brunei?

photo of author
Written by Christo Swart
an international teacher who has previously taught in his home country of South Africa, followed by South Korea and Brunei.
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