HomeArticlesLiving and working in Singapore – expats guide to moving to Singapore
Living and working in Singapore – expats guide to moving to Singapore
August 19, 2019
The expats guide to moving to Singapore People from all around the world move to this beautiful bustling cosmopolitan tropical nation of Singapore Sometimes called the Lion City the city state of Singapore ranks at the very top worldwide in studies measuring stability opportunity prosperity and quality of life Despite its small land area of less than 700 square kilometers Singapore is a modern thriving city-state of 5 million people Boasting one of the world’s most advanced economies efficient transportation networks and a tolerant mix of cultures religions and ethnic backgrounds Singapore is known is one of the most cosmopolitan places to live and work It is consistently rated in the top ten for happiest countries on earth One of the safest countries and one of the best places to be born, it’s ranked high on the Human Development Index Which measures quality of life. Foreign workers named it the number one place for expats. In 2016 its students achieved the top test scores worldwide for math and science Singapore tops so many lists: easiest place to conduct business consecutively for seven years by the World Bank; World’s fastest internet speed; world’s most widely accepted Passport. Of course, It’s also ranked as the world’s most expensive city. Are you preparing to move to Singapore? This video will give you a quick guide to some Singapore essentials such as where to live, basic information on Singapore, popular neighborhoods for expats, public transportation and buying a car, schools and childcare shopping and food, health care, hiring a foreign domestic worker, local laws, bringing a pet, living in Singapore with children and disability access. Singapore basics Singapore is an island nation in Southeast Asia Its closest neighbors are Malaysia to the north just across the Straits of Johor and the islands of Indonesia to the south It’s often called the small red dot because it’s small enough that it’s usually marked with a red dot on maps It covers an area of almost seven hundred twenty kilometres this half the size of Los Angeles And a little less than half the size of London Singapore has one of the highest population densities of any country But by no means is it all skyscrapers. It had a population of 5.6 Million as of 2016 according to the World Bank It has a densely populated central business district and lesser populated outlying areas including several small islands Singapore is officially made up of 63 natural and man-made islands The main business district is in the central southern part of the island This is also where you will find the iconic sites of Singapore such as the famous Marina Bay Sands Hotel the Merlion, Gardens by the Bay, the Esplanade, Clark Quay, Chinatown, Little India, Arab Street, the Orchard shopping district and more. There are several outstanding museums devoted to art, history, Asian cultures, science and more Singapore has a lot of things to do no matter your age or interest. The island of Sentosa is also close to the downtown. Sentosa is a commercial playground of amusement parks, beaches, shopping, tourist attractions and condos The Northeast, far north and west coasts are not as densely inhabited as the downtown and have a more suburban feeling. In the center of the island is a massive Nature Reserve. Residents can hike there or visit the Botanical Gardens and the zoo. You can also see the reservoirs that provide much of Singapore’s drinking water Singapore is called the Garden City. It has 330 parks and 97 square kilometers have been dedicated to parks and green spaces Singapore has a highly developed infrastructure And is a stable free-market economy. The economy is based mostly on exports, information technology, medical technology, pharmaceuticals and tourism The currency is the Singapore dollar. Credit cards are widely accepted But some small shops only accept cash or NETS, a locally issued payment card ATMs are widely available Singapore has very high standards for hygiene and health Newcomers don’t need to worry about drinking the water or eating local food. It’s very safe However, if you travel outside of Singapore you should be cautious in some other nations without the same level of infrastructure Singapore is located one degree north of the Equator. It has a hot humid tropical climate year-round during the day temperatures average 31 to 33 degrees Celsius or 87 to 91 degrees Fahrenheit At night temperatures average 23 to 25 degrees Celsius or 73 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit It rains about 180 days a year, basically one of every two days. A light sprinkle can suddenly turn to a downpour, so you would be wise to keep your umbrella handy. There are two distinct monsoon seasons: December to March and June to September. Often the morning will be sunny and thunderstorms will develop in the afternoon or evening In general Singaporeans are warm and courteous people who will be happy to help a newcomer You can meet people who will help you in the move by joining Singapore Newcomers on Facebook or other groups. It is a very diverse country and the government encourages tolerance and cultural acceptance as an official policy Most Singaporeans are ethnically Chinese, Malay, Indian or a mix of those. There’s also a large population of foreign workers Singapore has four official languages: English, Mandarin, Tamil and Malay. As a general rule almost everyone speaks English However, it’s often referred to as Singlish Singlish blends in words from other languages and sometimes uses a different word order emphasis or structure than the English you may be used to It may take some time to get used to the local accent as well Most people speak at least two languages, usually English and their ancestral mother tongue. Singapore has a mix of religions and is very tolerant towards those of different faiths While exploring Singapore is common to see Hindu and Sikh temples Buddhist and Taoist temples Christian churches and Islamic mosques You may also see lots of small shrines where local people make offerings of food or incense especially around holidays Singapore seeks to maintain cultural harmony between these diverse groups by encouraging cultural pride Public holidays in Singapore honor the diversity of the country. Recognizing everything from Christmas to Deepavali, and Chinese New Year to Eid. Most businesses are closed on public holidays finding a place to live Most expats live in a few neighborhoods. Many stay close to downtown in places such as Holland village Orchard, Tanglin, Novena and Bukit Timah. A little farther from the central business district Serangoon, the East Coast, Upper Thompson and Woodlands are also popular with expats. Many of these neighborhoods are close to the international schools There’s a large variety of housing available including condos terraced houses and landed houses You can search for rentals online or hire a real estate agent. As one of the world’s most expensive cities, rents are high in Singapore Condos close to the central business district can be very pricey The farther you go from the downtown the more you can get for your money The suburbs are still densely populated, but are intermixed with a lot of green space There are also many more low-rise condos townhomes and landed houses farther out from the city There are several websites where you can search for apartments to get an idea of what’s available and prices Many newcomers choose to stay in serviced apartments when they first arrive These apartments can be leased short-term and are furnished and have maid service This gives you a chance to get to explore Singapore a bit and decide where you’d like to live before signing a long-term lease Real estate agent fees are complex But typically if you take a lease below a certain amount you pay the agents fee. Above a certain amount the landlord pays the fee Clarify fees with them before agreeing to hire them For a newcomer in Singapore it may be easier to engage a realtor to help you find a home and negotiate a lease The realtor knows the areas and knows what can and can’t be negotiated. When choosing a location there are many things to consider. Singapore is not a large island But commuting can be hectic during rush hours. As a result, you should consider commuting time and commuting routes before renting Before deciding upon an area consider transportation, parking, schools, amenities, size and price. Which train and bus lines are closest to your place of work? If possible live along the same train line or bus route, so you won’t have to switch if you plan to purchase a car Check if there’s on-site parking available and find out if you have to pay extra for a parking space Consider the locations of schools, and which neighborhood amenities are important to you Would you like to be in thick of city life or in a certain neighborhood? Or would you prefer something quieter and more suburban? Are you looking for nightlife for a neighborhood bubbling with children and playgrounds or for quiet retreat with a view of the sea? Truly in Singapore you’re never that far from shops and amenities, but the density and quantity can vary greatly According to Forbes Singapore is the most expensive place to live in the world most of that is due to rental prices Expect to spend several thousand dollars per month in rent if you live downtown. If you have a lower budget consider looking farther out Deposits can be quite steep as they are equal to a few months rent Most companies provide a housing stipend so be sure your company is offering that before you consider moving here. Leases here are long. You can and should include a clause in the lease that releases you from Responsibility if your company moves you out of the country or you have to leave Singapore without having a choice in the matter when seeing pictures and videos of Singapore you may see the ubiquitous HDB flats HDB’s are public housing for Singaporeans and some permanent residents. The HDB’s are self-contained communities that have shops restaurants daycares and clinics on the ground floors and condos up above Most Singaporeans and permanent residents live in HDB’s however most temporary residents can’t live there Transportation The public transportation network in Singapore is efficient cheap and easy to use The mass rapid transit or MRT train network winds its way around the island with several lines The downtown area in particular has many stations with new stations under construction all the time The outlying areas also have MRT service, although the stations are a bit more spread out the island also has an extensive bus system Buses run frequently and are generally on time public transportation gets very crowded during rush hour Buses and the MRT both accept the EZ link card which can be purchased at MRT stations Children under seven years old can qualify for a child concession card which allows them to ride the MRT and buses free Many people also use bicycles, electric scooters and electric bikes to get around or walk. There are extensive sidewalks and bike paths Rental bikes are also common, and there are usually a few available near most bus stops MRT stations and other popular spots Taxis are relatively cheap and are a very common way to get around Uber, Grab and other companies offer another option. All taxis in Singapore are metered and most cabs can also accept credit cards in In Singapore, people drive on the left. Traffic signs are similar to those in Europe or Japan The road system is good with the highway system and wide well paved roads Owning a car in Singapore is extremely expensive to the point that most people do without a car The Singapore government wants to limit the number of cars on the road to avoid traffic deadlock To get permission to buy a car you must first purchase a certificate of entitlement which can cost in the tens of thousands of dollars depending on the car The average COE in 2017 cost 50,000 Singapore dollars, and that’s just for permission to buy a car The COE lasts for 10 years at which point it expires and a new COE must be purchased. Add to the COE the price of buying or importing a vehicle, plus fees, road tax, car maintenance and gas car insurance averages about 1,500 Singapore dollars a year in Many areas you will have to pay for a parking spot in a garage as well as pay parking fees everywhere you go and pay Tolls when you use certain roads. It all adds up quickly. As a result most people are simply priced out of being able to own a vehicle COEs for motorcycles are much lower than for cars, but still require the other costs such as road tax parking and so on education Singapore consistently ranks at the very top worldwide for education especially in math and science At 95 percent their literacy rate is among the highest in the world However most foreigners in Singapore cannot use the Singapore school system which is primarily for citizens and permanent residents Most foreigners use the private school system which is also excellent. However it can be very expensive Running in the tens of thousands of dollars per year Many companies pay for private schooling so check with your company if they offer tuition payment or reimbursement Schools are mainly separated by country. These schools Tend to follow the curriculum and holiday schedule of the home country There are international schools focused on educating children from Australia, the United Kingdom, United States, India, Japan, Germany, China, Canada, France, South Korea and Switzerland, as well as Singapore-run schools that cater to the international children. however children can apply to any international school regardless of country of origin Children must be accepted for a spot in the school which can take some time Many parents wait to find out which school their children are accepted to before signing a lease Homeschooling is also an option, but it requires approval from the Ministry of Education You can learn more about homeschooling at the Ministry of Education website Most schools ask for an application application, fee And you may have to pay six months to a year’s tuition in advance, or arrange a payment plan. Most schools offer extracurricular activities such as sports, art or music on a for-fee basis and before- or after-school care If your child requires special education you can try to enroll them in an inclusive private school that will provide accommodations Or you can apply for private school specifically focused on special education State-run special ed facilities are only for citizens and permanent residents. A few schools to consider for special ed services are the Windstedt school, Saint Gerard’s, Integrated International School, Dovercourt Singapore American School and Stamford American International School. children attending private schools can be brought to school either by their parents or by private school bus The school buses can cost a few hundred dollars per month depending on how far your child has to travel The schools can suggest which company to use Childcare costs can vary widely from a few hundred dollars a month to a few thousand. Many childcare centers offer bilingual daycare Specialized methods such as Montessori or focus programs like art music or technology Cost is largely based on how specialized a program you’re seeking and how much time the child will spend there. shopping There are lots of options for grocery shopping for fresh produce meat and seafood you can go to a wet market Wet markets are typically cheaper than supermarkets and contain very fresh products. However some wet markets are only open in the mornings and they can be crowded and chaotic for a newbie Supermarkets are usually located in the basements of malls. They are typical of grocery stores, and any other first world nation Stores will deliver groceries for a small charge or free if you spend a minimum amount Supermarkets here carry a large variety of products, but typically don’t carry a lot of dairy. Alcohol is very expensive due to local taxes There are a few big supermarket chains Cold storage, NTUC Fair Price giant and Sheng-Siong are some of the most common chains Cold storage is known for carrying lots of Western foods, but Singapore has so many foreigners that almost all supermarkets will have some international foods For online groceries with home delivery try Red Mart or QB food If you need to buy some hardware items most malls have a do-it-yourself store. These tiny shops carry items such as basic hand tools locks glue light bulbs batteries and other essentials Most malls also have a store for pet items stores such as IKEA, Lazada.SG and Amazon.SG Sell and deliver home products. To save money head to the Mustafa Center in Little India This 24-hour super center sells everything, but he can get very crowded especially on Sundays Singaporeans love their malls and malls are everywhere Malls offer what you’d expect, from clothes to shoes, books to electronics, salons and a place to buy phones and phone cards. Malls also have a food court locally called a hawker centre with large. Supply of cheap fast food places Many MRT and bus interchange stops are co-located with malls, so it’s very quick and convenient to stop in and buy what you need Most malls have a playground often on the roof and some have commercial play areas inside Malls downtown carry a lot of luxury brands and Singapore is known for great shopping. If you want stores with lower prices or non designer Brands head to the suburbs for cheaper options health care Healthcare and Singapore’s world class and people travel from across Asia to access its medical facilities and specialists Bloomberg rated Singapore’s healthcare system as the most efficient in the world in 2014 and the World Health Organization ranked their healthcare system is the sixth best worldwide in 2000. Facilities are easy to access with a short waiting time for appointments There are 25 hospitals and specialty centers in Singapore. If you need to see a specialist you can contact a hospital for a referral Singapore also has a vast easy-to-use network of small medical clinics spread throughout neighborhoods across the island in MRT stops, in malls and on the first floor of HDB apartment buildings are a few of the places you will find medical and dental Clinics. Many of these are on a walk-in basis or you can schedule an appointment The doctors there handle basic care prescribe medications and do immunizations Singapore operates a state-run non modified universal healthcare system Most Singaporeans use the public system. As a foreigner you can use the public facilities or the private system But you must purchase insurance or pay out of pocket Some companies here offer health insurance to the employee, but do not cover dependents. You can buy plans to cover dependents from several companies Some insurance companies will deal directly with the healthcare facility and in some cases you must file claims yourself the Centers for Disease Control Suggest that travelers get their routine Vaccinations before traveling to Singapore as well as hepatitis A and typhoid if you plan to travel in neighboring countries Though the risk of transmission is very low Zika virus and dengue fever have been reported in Singapore Take precautions in parks and forests to avoid getting mosquito bites. There is no risk of malaria or yellow fever here food Singapore has an amazing variety of delicious foods you can find all kinds of international restaurants especially in neighborhoods near the downtown That are popular with expats and tourists. The downtown restaurants are ritzy But can be very expensive if you’re looking to try some authentic local cuisine for a great price head to a hawker centre They are located either on the top floor or basement of most every mall and an open-air markets Hawker centers are food courts with several small food stands selling fast food first little as two to five Singapore dollars There’s an open seating that is first-come first-served People tend to reserve tables by placing a packet of tissues on the table or leaving their bags It’s common to share tables with strangers, so don’t be shy to ask if a seat is free Hiring a helper. Many people in Singapore hire live in foreign domestic workers to work in their homes Locally called helpers, they mostly come from Indonesia, the Philippines, Myanmar, India or Sri Lanka. The helpers can assist with childcare caring for the elderly or people with disabilities Cleaning cooking and other domestic tasks in and around the home Salary varies with experience and abilities, but typically wages are between 600 to 800 Singapore dollars per month plus You must pay a monthly levy of a couple hundred dollars to the Singapore government and pay for the helpers medical insurance Health insurance for helpers is quite low costing only 150 to 250 dollars per year Altogether you could expect to pay between 800 to a little over a thousand Singapore dollars monthly. You must also provide the helper room and board and cover her basic necessities The helpers usually have every Sunday off and many employers also give public holidays off There’s some additional costs such as paying for flights at the end of a contract and other incidentals. Before hiring a helper You must attend a government training to learn the rules of being an employer The easiest way to hire a maid is to engage an agency that will help you find someone and do the paperwork for a fee maids with experience in Singapore command a higher salary But they are already accustomed to their jobs and know how to function in Singapore. For a lower price You can hire a fresh maid, which means she has never worked in Singapore and may need more help understanding expectations getting acclimated speaking English and may suffer from homesickness You can also hire a transfer maid This is a maid who is already working in Singapore, but would like to move to a new employer Transfer maids can be hired more quickly than helpers hired from overseas. Be sure to use a reputable agency that hires helpers Who are at least 23 years old which is the minimum age for helpers in Singapore. Reputable agencies will also have filed the appropriate paperwork have ensured health tests are accurate and Shouldn’t be cheating the helpers with exploitative contracts. Whomever you choose to hire these women come from very poor countries They are typically very hardworking and sacrifice a lot to come to Singapore to work including leaving behind families. There are cases of helpers being treated very poorly through overwork neglect endangerment Or abuse and the Singapore government will prosecute those who mistreat mates You can learn more about hiring a helper at the Ministry of Manpower website laws Singapore has a reputation is both a very safe place to live and is having a very strict penal system Its ban on chewing gum is internationally famous Residents sometimes joke that Singapore is a fine City, emphasis on “fine”. For instance smoking at a bus stop, eating or drinking on public transportation, littering, feeding wildlife such as pigeons or monkeys, Jaywalking, or spitting could land you with a heavy fine Traffic violations also bring fines, but they are more in line with what you’d expect to pay in other countries Occasionally people may be a victim of petty theft such as pickpocketing and crowded places or bars or bag snatching when people leave items unattended Naturally you should follow common sense precautions such as locking up bikes protecting valuables and not leaving your belongings unattended Some items are illegal in Singapore that you may not expect. Along with gum, E-cigarettes, chewing tobacco and pornography are illegal and should not be imported Likewise do not attempt to bring firearms or alcohol across the border. It’s said that no matter where you are in Singapore You are never in a dangerous neighborhood Violent crimes and drug use are very rare and strictly punished. To reach the Singapore Police the emergency number is 999. To call an ambulance or the fire department Call 995 Other helpful information Bringing a pet to Singapore is possible, but very expensive and time-consuming with lots of paperwork Unless your pet is small enough to fit under the seat on an airplane Expect to pay a few thousand dollars in airline costs and fees You can visit Singapore’s animal management website for the latest requirements fees and required forms Be sure that your pet will not arrive in Singapore on a Sunday, or public holiday as the customs facility will be closed Singapore is generally very accessible for people with disabilities and parents using strollers MRT stations all have ramps and elevators where people with limited mobility are supposed to have priority Trains have disabled sections where seats have been removed to accommodate wheelchairs There are also reserved seats for people who are elderly, have trouble walking or standing, pregnant women and those with small children Train riders are supposed to offer their seats to those who need them and many people do Accessible buses are marked and have wheelchair ramps, which the driver will deploy as necessary. parents with children and strollers can board the bus with an open stroller, but must fold But if someone using a wheelchair needs the wheelchair space The electrical system uses the 220 to 230 volt 50 cycle with three-prong outlets Electrical outlets are the same as those in the United Kingdom expats from Europe, Australia, New Zealand and most of Asia and Africa will only need an adapter. Which are widely sold in local shops. People from countries with a different voltage such as the US, Canada, and most of South America will need to use a power transformer Unless the electronic item is dual voltage Car seat usage is mandatory in Singapore for children under 1.35 meters or 4 feet, 4 inches tall Taxis are exempt from the rule We hope this video will be helpful to make it easier for you to move to Singapore. If you like this video Please click like and subscribe to Education World for more great videos. For language tips to help you fit in like a native check out our language learning videos.