Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei

Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei 08/07/14

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No, I have lived in many places around the world.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

The United States. It takes about 2 days with connections in Singapore (overnight) and a connection usually in Tokyo.

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3. How long have you lived here?

2 years.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Work.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Houses, condos, apartments, a wide variety of types. Commute times vary with the four rush hour times each day. Without traffic you can get everywhere in Bandar in 20 minutes. With traffic it can take much much longer.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Relatively expensive because everything is imported.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Consumables- preferred brands of normal household items.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Excellent Japanese food. Many other kinds of food, of varying quality. It is tough to find restaurants because information about them is spread by word of mouth. Walk around neighborhoods and you will find lots of places. Kiulap is a great neighborhood to get to know first.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Mosquitoes and ants and many tropical bugs.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

I received some through the local mail service, which was reliable if you have a post office box. Mail delivery to home addresses is unreliable. All packages will be opened and inspected at the post office so you pay taxes and do not import things that are against the law via the mail.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Available but hard to manage because of the quota process and paperwork. Some amahs like to "freelance" but that is illegal and should be avoided. Some services like Termicam will allow you to hire someone on an hourly basis through them, which makes it much easier.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes, they are available but I don't know much about them.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Easy to use at normal shops, not usable at outdoor markets, etc.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

None really.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Yes. It is getting a bit better but still not accessible.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Public transport is relatively nonexistent. There are buses, but they are not reliable. Taxis are available at the airport but otherwise need to be called. Private car services are available.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Small and nimble, Japanese brands or Ford best.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, increased availability to fiber to home high speed, not sure how much it will cost. Cable access is about US$70 per month. Quality and speed vary by neighborhood.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Get a smart phone and learn to use whatsapp, which is used by everyone in Brunei.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

Yes, there is a quarantine. There is good pet care.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

With work permission, yes, but it's hard to get that permission.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Environmental and other organizations are available.

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Conservative.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Petty crime and crimes of opportunity, but generally quite safe.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Healthcare is cheap in the government system but quality varies. Good private clinics for routine care. Anything complicated should be managed outside of Brunei.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Good, generally very clean.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Warm, warm and warm. With rain regularly. Very humid and sunny.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

ISB and JIS, but I have no experience with them.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes, I think the schools have good sports programs.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Small, but generally welcoming.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Movies, nature, house parties, hanging out with friends, traveling, eating, diving, beach going, etc.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Great for families and couples, not great for singles.

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

No.

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5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Yes. The implementation of Sharia law has started to put a wedge between Muslims and non-Muslims, which is a sad change for moderate Brunei which used to be very open and supportive of its entire community.

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6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

ASEAN 2013 activities, visits to Temburong, Kota Kinabalu, Mulu, Kuching and other parts of Borneo.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Join the various facebook groups for expats in Brunei and they can introduce you to the best of Brunei.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Some fabric, some artwork, some specialty items.

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9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Nature, friendly people, welcoming expat community, great for families with young kids.

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10. Can you save money?

Yes, unless you travel a lot.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Non-conservative clothing, your cold weather gear, your religious books.

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3. But don't forget your:

Sunscreen, books, DVDs, cooking spices and supplies, anything that makes you happy.

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4. Do you have any other comments?

The Sultan and Royal Family are very well-respected by the whole population. If you do not show respect for them, you will not be welcomed.

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Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei 11/06/13

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No. I've lived in some of the big cities: Tokyo, London, Paris, Taipei.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Home base is Washington, DC. It takes 2-3 days to reach post and about 2 days to return back to the U.S., usually via the U.S. West coast, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Singapore, Seoul, Kuala Lumpur or Bangkok. Overnight at one of the connections, especially Singapore or Kuala Lumpur, is practically mandatory due to lack of connecting flights.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Just short of two years.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Work.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Most people live in single houses. These are generally quite spacious but show wear and tear pretty quickly. Expats generally live in the same areas, clustered together. There are a few apartment buildings that have pools, parking, and sometimes other common spaces.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Groceries are actually quite expensive especially if you are buying imported items. Fresh milk is about US$8 for half a gallon. Beef and pork is really expensive. It can be hard to get sea food and the quality of meet really isn't very good. There are a few specialty stores that sell German, Turkish, Australian, and Japanese ingredients.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Consumables, especially if you like specific U.S. brands. Laundry detergent, make-up, clothes, healthcare items like vitamins and medication.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

For familiar brands from the U.S., there's one McDonald's and many Dairy Queens, Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf cafes and KFCs. There are some very good Thai, Japanese, Italian, Middle Eastern and Indian restaurants. Most food isn't expensive. Local food can start at US$1, but expect to spend about US$15/person on average for dinner and US$10 for lunch.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

There are actually fewer mosquitoes than expected, but a lot of ants!!! If you don't use insecticide or refresh it every 2-3 months, you will have infestations of ants. Really big cockroaches and bees have also been an issue. Also, during various times during the year, there are large flying black ants that swarm, but they'll go away if you turn off the lights for a few minutes.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

I send it through DPO/Pouch or FedEx but have used the local post office before. DPO/Pouch takes 1-2 months. They're once a week each. FedEx is much more reliable and fast, but very expensive. UPS also has an office in BSB but I haven't used it. The local mail is super slow and very, very unreliable.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Domestic help is readily available but the hiring process can take awhile. Most domestic help hired by expats work exclusively for expat families and have a lot of experience but may be rather set in their ways.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

There's one chain and a few dance/spinning/arobics/yoga studios.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

There really isn't a culture among the locals for using credit cards but the chain stores, hotels, and most popular restaurants take them. Most small establishments won't be able to accept them. ATMs for Standard Charter, HSBC and Citibank (the international banks, basically) take international debit cards and can be found around town.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

There are 2 Catholic churches, a Baptist church, an Anglican church, 2 Buddhist temples, a Hindu temple, and of course, lots of Mosques.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

None. Basically everyone speaks English. It helps to have some basics for bargaining and getting the "local price" versus the "tourist price."

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Yes, there is a very noticeable lack of handicap access. Almost all buildings lack elevators even the mall and airport. There are more sidewalks now than when I arrived but they're often in disrepair. There are no handicap accessible bathrooms.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

There is a local bus system that only costs US$1/trip on average but it is not reliable. Drivers will make random stops and often don't follow their route. Buses aren't maintained very well so often their speedometers don't work or have been tampered with. Taxis are safe but have to be called except at the airport where there's actually a taxi stand. They can be fairly expensive, though. My 10-15 minute trip from the airport is usually US$30-40 depending on the time of day.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Small Japanese cars are ideal for Brunei. Parking is very narrow and can be hard to find. Try to get something with a higher clearance since there are a lot of potholes and high speed bumps. You can bring a car older than 5 years, but you'll have to work for it. Right-hand drive cars are prefered (UK style) but you can bring left-hand drive cars. You'll just have to get a special sticker for it.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Internet really isn't high speed. Brunei still uses copper cables versus fiber optics. You get about 2mbps at best. It's about US$50/month.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Bring one! They're really expensive to buy here.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

Pet's can be hard to bring in especially dogs as they are taboo for Muslims. It's also very expensive. Expect to spend about US$3,000 to bring along a medium sized pet such as a cat or similarly sized dog. There are, however, a number of pet stores.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

If you're a teacher or work in oil/gas/finance, then yes. Otherwise, decent job opportunities are very limited.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

There really aren't any.

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Dress is fairly formal and conservative at work. If you're a woman, you're expected to avoid shorts, sleeveless shirts/dresses, and skirts above the knee.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

There isn't a lot of high level crime, but petty crime is fairly common. Thieves will break your car window to get things left out such as bags and electronics. If you're a woman, there can be quite a lot of harassment (whistling, calling out, honking, stalking, inappropriate suggestions and sometimes even being propositioned) particularly when you're alone on foot. There are also roaming packs of stray/feral dogs that have attacked or chased people aggressively.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

It can be hard to get prescriptions. Health care for common illnesses is fairly good, especially at the private hospital. Anythings more requires a trip to Singapore.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

It's moderate. Good compared to say Jakarta, but if you're a walker, it can get fairly unhealthy because of all the cars on the road, half of which are run on diesel and stuck in traffic. There are open sewers and some locals practice open burning of trash that smoke up the surrounding areas.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

It's about 80-95F degrees all year round and sunny, but there's usually a downpour every day. Mostly it rains around noon or at night.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

There are two major international schools JIS and ISB. They both follow an English system but ISB offers an international baccalaureate. Schooling is fairly high standard but may lack the wide range of extra curricular options that are common in the U.S.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

There are some preschools/daycares, but I haven't heard much about them.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

There's a sizable group of expats especially in Kuala Belait where the oil/gas companies are. However, there's only about 400,000 people in Brunei, so even sizable can seem small at times.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Have dinner at a restaurant or watch a movie at one of the 3 theaters. There's also the hash and some hiking trails for those interested.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

This is definitely a city for families particularly with small children. Almost all events are child-oriented. Couples without kids may find it okay particularly if they like hiking and other outdoors activities. It's hard to be a single here because there isn't much social life and the majority Muslim population is afraid to associate with non-family members of the opposite sex for fear of being arrested for Khalwat, close proximity between the sexes when not close family.

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Really not. Locals are very traditional and sexual relations between people of the same sex is a jail-able offense. Any locals that may be gay or lesbian keep it quiet.

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5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Yes - the government definitely promotes its Muslim Malay Monarchy system, and the attitude in the country has become increasingly conservative in many aspects. There is also significant preferential treatment for Muslim Malays over other ethnicities. If you're a Caucasian Westerner, racism/prejudice isn't as much of a problem, but otherwise expect to encounter issues. If you're a woman, also expect to encounter a lot of gender issues.

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6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

The food is really good and the expat community is close.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

You can do the canopy tour with a local indigenous guide. The museums aren't very good and are small. The mosques can be quite breathtaking, but make sure you go when it's not prayer time or a religious holiday.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

There really aren't any unless you want to take home a drop of crude oil encased in glass for your nearest and dearest.

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9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

It's quiet, the weather is summer all year, and you can save a lot of money if you don't travel all the time.

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10. Can you save money?

Yes; most people don't buy much aside from groceries in Brunei. If you don't get island fever and travel all the time, then you can save a lot.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

It would have been nice to know how lacking the evening/night life is and the restrictiveness of being a woman.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Likely no.

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Winter gear unless you want to go somewhere cold for vacation or a business trip.

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4. But don't forget your:

Hobby items and enough clothes for the entire time of your stay. Clothing is really hard to buy here. The quality of sports equipment really isn't great, so bring that, too. Also, bring your own alcohol if you drink. Brunei's dry and restaurants don't sell alcohol. You can bring in 2 bottles and a 12 pack every 48 hours.

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

There really aren't any. Even travel guides are sparse.

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7. Do you have any other comments?

It's a great post for career opportunities but you'll burn out pretty fast from the workload (it's surprisingly busy at work), and life can get really hard because it's truthfully rather boring. If you have small children, it's likely ideal. It's safe, quiet, and very young family friendly. Your teenager, however, will likely be pleading to leave asap.

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Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei 12/29/08

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No. Kuala Lumpur, Italy.

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2. How long have you lived here?

11 years.

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3. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

BSB to London via Dubai. 11 hours.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Teacher.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

High standard. Commute to work is 10 minutes.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Cheaper than the U.K. Most things are available.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

I would bring a lot less, as everything isavailable here.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Wide variety of restaurants: Malay, Chinese, Thai, Korean, Indian etc. Also fast food.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Local post office.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Cheap and high standard. Easily available.

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3. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Easy.

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4. What English-language religious services are available locally?

One church in capital - Catholic.

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5. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Local newspapers in English - 2. Astro TV - cheap, Br$40 per month

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Little. English widely spoken

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Not geared for wheelchair access. Would be very difficult.

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Transportation:

1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?

Left.

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2. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

No trains. Buses fine. Most people have their own car. Very limited taxi service.

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3. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Not worth bringing the car - get one in Brunei.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes. Br$68 per month

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

One provider - very good.

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3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?

Skype.

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Pets:

1. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Excellent vet - Irish. No kennels.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Teaching, banking. Limited opportunities.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Err on the conservative side.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Excellent.

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2. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

None. Excellent.

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3. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Excellent healthcare.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Hot and sunny. Or hot and wet.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

Two main ones. Had bad experience with the cheaper one near the airport. Very good experience with more expensive one near Jerudong.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

There is one special-needs school for serious disabilities. The special needs department in the international school near Jerudong is good.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Excellent. Easily available.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Large.

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2. Morale among expats:

Generally good.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Lots of it. Privately organized. Also at swim clubs

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

For families -- excellent. Some singles like it -- some don't. No pubs or night clubs, but lots of outdoor activities and 'home grown' social life.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Fine, as long as no open displays of affection.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

No.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Outdoor life -- sports, trekking,etc. Swimming, beaches, expat clubs, restaurants, etc. Lots to do, unless you want pubs and nightclubs.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Batiq.

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9. Can you save money?

Depends on your lifestyle. I do.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Certainly.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Most things available here.

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3. But don't forget your:

Personal belongings, such as photos, etc.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

I take exception to the perception that Brunei is boring... Certainly not my experience - there is loads to do (unless you want nightclubs and pubs)! A great country offering a unique lifestyle!

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Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei 01/02/08

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No. Previous stays include Yerevan, Armenia and Manila, Philippines.

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2. How long have you lived here?

The author has been living in Brunei for 5 months.

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3. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

Lengthy regardless of where you're coming from in the United States. Connections are usually through Hong Kong, Bangkok, or Singapore.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Work.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Housing is typically apartments and single family homes.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Groceries are cheap! Local produce is CHEAP and good. Some western items (pasta sauce, etc) is a little more than US prices, but hey it's available (mostly Australian brands). Cleaning supplies are plentiful and cheap. BND $2.90 for a mop or broom.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Nothing really. Maybe a Home Theater system because the vast majority of your time will be spent at home.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

The food here is great. Pork only in non-Halal Chinese places. There are even a few 'western' restaurants, one MacDonald's, KFC, etc. Dairy Queen! Lots of yummy restaurants available - Thai, sushi, Malay, Chinese, etc, etc.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Access to both pouch AND APO twice a week from Singapore.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Sore point here. We were again lied to through omission. There's a quota on house help here. It's a lengthy and painful process to hire someone to work in your home. If you're not choosy (we are) I'm sure you can get a cleaner, part time in relatively short order. Otherwise be prepared to wait. And wait. And wait. The local government needs to keep lots of (local) people employed, they don't want to be overrun by foreign workers,so they make the process long and difficult. Our staff has been little help.

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3. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

We use credit cards and our ATM cards here with little trouble. Sometimes our banks balk when they see charges here and online (US-based) on the same day - but that's a feature, not a bug right?

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4. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Unknown. A church or two exist here - we don't attend.

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5. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Astro Satellite. Censored for Brunei market. HBO, Discovery channel, MTV.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

None. A little. Everyone educated here speaks excellent English. Market Malay would be helpful.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

None really. Infrastructure is good to great.

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Transportation:

1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?

On the left (opposite of the US, same as the UK).

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2. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Buses seem affordable and prevalent, safe too. Taxis are more expensive, but then again where is there to go that is not within walking distance of downtown?

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3. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

We were lied to by omission. You CAN bring a US-model newer than 5 years into this country. It takes a little longer to clear but it's possible as a diplomat. We bought a newer Toyota sedan (Thailand built, right-hand drive) for much more than a comparable US model would have cost. The roads here are great, people obey traffic laws - though they do tailgate all the time.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Better than other places we've been. Nowhere near US quality and it is expensive for what you get. Roughly US$50 per month for DSL.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

It's Asia! Buy a cool new model in Singapore or Hong Kong on your way through! Consumer electronics (especially) in Brunei are marked way up. More than 100 percent in some cases for hot newer models.

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3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?

Any way. Direct dial isn't much. We use Skype with lots of success.

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Pets:

1. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Unknown but we have seen a number of veterinarians that look very nice.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

There are lots of jobs it seems. Our situation isn't such that we want to work outside. The pay is decent but not great.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Conservative. Normal western dress for tropical climate. I see men wearing shorts here and there. Western women need dress only a little more conservatively than normal. The Chinese girls here sometimes wear skimpy outfits. They look out-of-place by doing so. We wear jeans and t-shirts all the time. Buy several pairs of flip flops!

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

The air here is just fine. Clean even.

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2. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

None really - It's really quite safe and boring here.

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3. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Medical care seems pretty good. Most doctors are UK, AU, or GB trained.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Warm and wet. Always.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

We have our toddler enrolled in a preschool. Very inexpensive in comparison with US prices.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Small. Large if you live in Kuala Belait. We see tourists in Bandar sometimes. Where do they come from?

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2. Morale among expats:

Hit and miss. This place is SUPER easy to live in (nice roads, little traffic, safe, good food), but it's been difficult to keep up your morale. Our community is small and it seems difficult to meet other expats. I'm personally going to start to Hash soon to meet some people.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Ha. Hah ha. Movies and pizza at home. Mocktails at the mall if you're in to that sort of thing.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

There's no real dating scene unless of course you're Muslim. Families? Sure...although our experiences with support from work and various local government bureaucratic issues has been poor.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

None that we've seen. Bruneians seem to treat non-Bruneians as inferiors. With subtlety but that reflects much of Asia too.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

There is nothing to do here. Nothing. Canopy walks and flying to nearby holiday destinations for beaches/resorts/etc.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Hrm. Nothing really. Hand-woven rice baskets for a few bucks? No art to speak of (like in Vietnam), no carvings (like in Philippines), and no trinkets (like in Thailand). We've not been to Malaysia yet - I'm willing to bet it's more fun.

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9. Can you save money?

Sure. Especially if your housing is paid for.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

No. Work possibility for spouses is limited to two positions and we've had such a hard time obtaining house help that I would not return to this post. Admittedly we thought that we were going back to a Philippines-like situation. Many of our support staff here are incompetent or under-managed or have never had proper direction (maybe all of the above).It's an out-of-the way post with out-of-the-way problems. Comparatively, our Mission in the former Soviet Union was top notch.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Skis - unless you plan on R&R in New Zealand.

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3. But don't forget your:

Flip flops and sunscreen.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

It's very isolated here. Not like Iraq or Afghanistan isolated, but it's lonely here unless you have a family. But then your family will be so bored that they will drive you nuts when you come home from work. It's mind-numbingly boring here. But hey it's safe!

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