5 Things to Know Before Moving to Singapore [4 minute read]
Singapore has long topped the charts as a popular destination amongst international expats. This is perhaps unsurprising given the city-state’s great tax rates and long-standing reputation as the easiest place to do business in the world (a title only recently broken by New Zealand). Year after year workers from across the world are moving to Singapore seeking great career prospects, job security and a thriving work life, but how does Singapore fair in other aspects of living?
Thanks to progressive governmental policies, Singapore has become one of the safest and enriching places to set up home. As one of Southeast Asia’s most diverse cultural hubs, Singapore has a lot more to offer than just exciting career opportunities. It also ticks a lot of boxes when it comes to quality of living. In fact, the city-state has just topped the tables in Mercer’s 2019 quality of living rankings, claiming number one spot for both quality of living in Asia and personal safety.
Here is a snapshot of a few key practical things you’ll need to know if you are thinking of moving to Singapore for new career opportunities.
1 – Language
Singapore’s official national language is Malay, but the city-state also has an additional three official languages: English, Mandarin and Tamil. Whilst Malay has important cultural and historical roots in Singapore, English has become the city-state’s language of business and trade.
English is the main language used around the workplace, and children are taught in English accordingly at school. Expats moving to Singapore may find that locals sometimes speak a hybrid of English and other dialects – this is a colloquial language that has become known (and loved) as Singlish.
2 – Accommodation
It’s no secret that renting in Singapore can be expensive. Where you live and how much rent you want to pay are going to be two of the biggest decisions you’ll have to make when moving to Singapore. A wrong decision can have a long-term impact on your finances and your stress levels as it is very difficult to break a lease agreement (typically 2 years) before expiration date. Unless, of course, you find someone else to takeover your lease (which isn’t easy as it sounds).
Deciding you don’t like where you live after 6 months or opting to move somewhere cheaper is not a straightforward process. Doing your research beforehand is therefore important (we spent weeks on PropertyGuru before we moved), and I would definitely recommend putting a shortlist of preferred areas together before arriving.
Realistically, however, you’re only going to get a real feel for the ideal location once you’re on the ground and exploring. Once in Singapore, I would recommend securing flexible accommodation for the first 2-4 weeks whilst you inspect potential condos and find your new home. The costs for this should be a standard part of any relocation package.
3 – Environment
Singapore is renowned for it’s high level of street safety and immaculately clean environment. The city-state has one of the lowest crime rates in the world, with property and violent crime hitting an all-time low in recent years. You seldom spot vandalism or graffiti along Singaporean streets, and violence is a very rare occurrence in the city.
I knew many people who either left their laptop in a bar or lost their phone in the back of a taxi. In most Western countries, the chances of seeing these belongings again are slim to none. In Singapore, on the other hand, the surprising outcome would be if they weren’t returned!
What is it that keeps the streets of Singapore so safe and clean? A strict criminal justice system is definitely a factor, but it also comes down to successful social policies that have been embedded in the population from a very young age.
4 – Food
Singapore has become a haven for international food-lovers due to its eclectic mix of different cuisines. The city-state’s diverse cooking scene – which draws influences from China, Eurasia, India and beyond – is largely a reflection of Singapore’s multicultural population. Coupled with the growing influence of the expatriate community, Singapore is developing a local food scene that is second-to-none in terms of diversity.
Restaurants and local food markets are never in short supply, and you can pick up meals for under $5 SGD at local hawker centres (Highly recommend Lau Pa Sat). On the other hand if you like your home comforts, ‘On-Demand’ food delivery is very popular with expats in Singapore and is well catered for by apps such as Deliveroo.
5 – Transport
If you intend to opt for public transport, Singapore has an incredibly efficient public transport system. A contactless EZ-Link will provide you with easy access to Singapore’s bus and train systems. If you’re considering owning a car then you may want to think again.
The cost of buying, and running, a car in Singapore is one of the highest in the word. To put this into context, a 2018 Toyota Corrola Altis would cost SGD $104,998 (October 2019) to buy – and that’s before purchasing a Certificate of Entitlement and additional on-road costs. This is all part of the government’s scheme to reduce traffic congestion and minimise environmental pollution.
If you prefer zipping around in a taxi then you will have over 26,000 to choose from of which all are metered and very competitively priced.
Quick tip; Despite the numbers, flagging down a cab in Singapore can be a challenge. Always try to find one of the numerous official taxi ranks and / or book through one of the popular ride hailing apps like Grab.
There are obviously many other factors to consider when moving country. Whilst this article aims to cover basic concerns, bigger subjects such as health care, living costs and education warrant a post in themselves. In the coming months, we’ll be aiming to cover these topics in greater depth to give upcoming expats a greater knowledge of just what to expect from the Singaporean lifestyle.
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