Brunei is a conservative and highly disciplined Muslim nation in Southeast Asia. Liquor in any type or form is prohibited among citizens, and there certainly are norms in dressing up. Below are a few tips on how to dress up and what to wear in Brunei.
To start with, foreigners should not be scared about being jailed or fined for dressing or acting inappropriately in Brunei. Nobody gets punished for wearing the wrong dress or making the wrong hand shake even in this conservative sultanate. Brunei citizens and officials are generally tolerant and understanding of their international guests and non-Muslim visitors. In fact, while liquor is sternly banned all over the country, foreigners are allowed to drink, but only up to 2 bottles of alcohol and 12 cans of beer in two days. (These must be consumed in private.)
As Bruneians bend to understand foreign visitors to a certain extent, tourists must also strive to respect local culture while in Brunei. It is good cultural learning and experience for foreigners to try to adapt by wearing local clothes, eating local foods and participating in traditional activities. The local dress code is simple and easy to remember – dress modestly.
Staying covered applies more importantly when visiting mosques, palaces and religious structures. Dressing modestly applies still when swimming in some of Brunei’s inviting beaches. It is typical for local, Muslim women to swim completely covered. Even local men sometimes wear regular shirt and pants when hitting the beach. Although tourists will not be jailed for revealing some skin when swimming, it could be awkward and raise a few eyebrows when swimming in Brunei in skimpy two-piece bathing suits.
Religion plays an important role in the life and culture of Brunei. The Muslim faith is practiced and promoted in every social function, cultural norm and daily activity by everyone and every organization. In other words, Bruneians live and breathe Islam and this shows in the way they dress from sun up to sundown and while sleeping. Brunei fashion and traditional clothing is practically Muslim fashion, which includes the traditional headgear and long cotton dresses that don’t leave any skin uncovered.
Other than religion, the weather should also be considered when deciding what to wear in this glamorous Muslim country. Brunei is very near the equator, which clearly means it is hot and humid all year round. Tourists should come wearing lightweight clothes. Westerners may find it hard not to take off their top when the scorching sun is high up at noontime. It is best to stay inside an air-conditioned room for practical and health reasons, other than just fashion.
And like any other tropical country, it rains a lot in Brunei and often unannounced. When visiting during the wet months of September all the way to January, it is practical and helpful to carry around an umbrella.
Knowing what to wear in Brunei is just one of many things that a tourist should consider. The foreign visitors must also try to learn how to make the proper handshake, point at an object, sit down, or pass food. For most tourists, learning a local culture and its nuisances is part of the fun.