Expat Guide: Relocating to Singapore – First Hand Experiences

3 First Hand Experiences of What It’s Like Relocating to Singapore [7-minute read]

In this post we talk with three expats who have relocated to Singapore from various countries around the world. We uncover valuable insights and first-hand experiences of what it is like to relocating to Singapore and living in one of the most dynamic startup communities in the world.

Colyn Prater: Perth to Singapore

Young, single and looking to experience life overseas, Colyn Prater took the opportunity of relocating to Singapore from Perth. After being offered a job by his previous manager, Colyn took up a role as a Software Developer for Singapore’s #1 personal finance portal, moneysmart.sg. We caught up with Colyn recently to find out how he’s been coping with the humid weather, his first impressions of the Singaporean social scene, and how he feels about the world’s most controversial fruit!

1. How did you end up working in Singapore?

My previous employer in Perth became the CTO of Moneysmart. When he reached out to me about relocating to Singapore and working for Moneysmart, I jumped at the opportunity. I’ve pretty much lived in Perth my whole life and have always wanted to get out and work overseas.

2. What do you love most about Singapore?

The people. I’ve only been here for a few months and I’ve already made a ton of friends. Also the proximity – I love Southeast Asia and all these places I’ve always wanted to visit are now just a short plane ride away.

3. What’s the social scene like in Singapore?

It’s great, you can go out late any night of the week, and there seems to be an endless choice of restaurants/bars. I’m used to Perth, where most places close early and aren’t worth going to during the week anyway. When I go out in Singapore, I meet people from all over the world and every walk of life. Meeting interesting people here is easy.

4. When people talk about Singapore a topic that always comes is the humidity. How have you adapted to the climate?

It has taken some getting used to, but once you accept that you’re going to sweat every time you step outside, it’s not so bad!

5. Name one thing you wish you’d known before you arrived?

That the Nandos in Singapore is not very good. That’s been the only real disappointment so far.

6. What has impressed you most about the SG startup community?

The work ethic and the creativity. As a developer it’s a perfect atmosphere for me to push myself and grow in terms of skill repertoire and the ability to innovate. I think for developers there’s nothing more exciting than being surrounded by people who solve problems in creative ways.

7. What areas do you think the community need to focus on if Singapore is to continue on its upward trajectory as a tech hub?

It needs to nurture its talent and position itself as a location that appeals to great developers. It’s said that having a strong team is more important for a startup’s success than its central idea, which I believe is true. Investing in awesome people should remain a focus for the Singapore tech community.

8. What is the ‘Tech Meetup’ scene like in Singapore?

Singapore has a big tech meetup scene – my inbox is always full of notifications for Ruby on Rails (RoR) events alone, so I get the impression that it’s not hard to get acquainted with other like-minded developers here. So far I’ve only been to one meetup (I plan on going more often), and the atmosphere was interesting. I was surprised to meet so many junior developers, fresh out of coding bootcamps and landing jobs quickly. I attended a coding bootcamp when I started out and it took me a long time to land my first developer gig back in Perth.

9. Have you tried Durians yet?

I can’t even be near those things, the smell is too much for me!  I’ve promised myself I’m going to try it one day, but I don’t think I’m going to like it.

10. Best place to grab a beer in Singapore?

Skinny’s lounge in Clarke Quay. A dark dingy bar on the river that plays rock music nice and loud. I’d say it’s the best bar in the world.

Alex Lawrence: India to Singapore

Alex Lawrence first moved to Singapore just over three years ago when he was assigned there by his employer in India. We interviewed Alex to ask him about his favourite spots in Singapore, his take on the local tech scene, and his top pieces of advice for expat families considering the move.

1. After relocating to Singapore, what surpirsed you the most when you arrived?

Singapore’s modern culture and multicultural society, the overwhelming food choices and the price of cars.

2. How did you find the transition relocating to Singapore from India?

It wasn’t hard, but finding a good place in Singapore at an affordable price can be a daunting task.

3. What do you most enjoy doing at the weekend in Singapore?

Marina Bay and the beaches are beautiful places to sit-down and relax. There are lots of malls & food courts if you enjoy shopping. Sentosa Island also offer lots of different activities including Universal Studios and a world-class aquarium. Jurong Bird Park, the Night Safari and Singapore zoo are well worth a visit, and there are also loads of fun activities for kids like Escape Room and the Kids Science Centre.

4. What’s the best piece of advice you can give to anyone considering relocating to Singapore with their family?

For families moving with their kids, it’s important to find the right location to place your kids in the best school. Schooling and housing are important factors in terms of monthly expenditure, so it would be helpful to look at different options in-person before you make the informed decision. For couples who are planning to start a family, it is important to check if your medical insurance covers you on this. By default, most of the companies don’t have this included and it’s very rare for pregnancy or pre/post-natal care to be covered.

Bonus – Check out our guide here on: 5 Things To Know Before Relocating to Singapore

5. If you had to recommend one country, within a 2 hour flight of Singapore, what would it be?

Phuket, in Thailand, and Vietnam.

6. What has impressed you most about the SG startup community?

Singapore is home to world renowned universities like NUS which provide top talent for the startup ecosystem. The fact that the Singaporean government provides multiple subsidies to promote innovation and encourage the development of start-ups is great.

The number of innovative startups is always growing, which is a very encouraging sign.  It’s also nice to see that people want to get involved in the tech meetup scene. You get to know lots of interesting people at different tech conferences.

7. How far away do you think Singapore is from producing a truly global technology brand to mentioned alongside the likes of Facebook, Google, Apple etc?

Over the years, Singapore has produced global brands in pretty much every sector the government has decided to invest in including banking and the semi-conductor space. Given the government’s investment in technology, I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before Singapore produces a globally recognised tech brand. I would bet that this could be in the Big Data / Analytics space.

8. What’s the most exciting piece of tech innovation you’ve seen in Singapore?

The world’s first Self-Driving Taxis ‘Aptiv’ made its debut in Singapore and beat Silicon Valley to the punch. Data.gov.sg is also great – this is the government’s one-stop portal which provides data visualizations, analytics and publicly available datasets based on data from multiple public agencies.

9. Kopi or Coffee?

I order Kopi-C Seiw Dai (hot coffee with evaporated milk and less sugar). 

10. Best place to grab a bite to eat in Singapore?

Any food court to try out different cuisines. Lau Pa Sat in the heart of the CBD is great, and  Little India has an awesome selection to choose from.

Leon Sun: China to Singapore

Leon Sun from Yantai, China, relocated to Singapore 3 years ago to join Grab as a Software Engineer. We caught up with Leon to find out what he loves most about Singapore, the challenges and perks of working in a multicultural startup environment, and his top money-saving tips for fellow expats.

1. How did you end up relocating to Singapore?

I was extremely attracted by the beauty of Singapore. Curiosity about life in another country also drove me here.

2. What most surprised you about Singapore when you arrived?

Most drivers actually obey traffic rules!

3. What do you love most about Singapore?

The clean air and water, and of course it’s diversity.

4. How did you find the process of setting up bank accounts, utilities, mobile phones etc when you first arrived in SG?

I searched online and asked some friends in SG for advice. The process of opening a bank account is a little tricky in SG. To open a bank account for foreigners, you need either a phone bill or a stamp duty paid rental agreement to prove your address. You then need to wait for your Employment Pass to open a post-paid phone number and to rent an apartment. The good thing is you can get a stamp duty paid rental agreement in one day. I would recommend opening an OCBC 360 bank account and getting a Singtel phone contract.

5. What are the main benefits and challenges of working in a multicultural software delivery environment?

The biggest benefit is that we can learn from different ideas and opinions from people of different cultures; outcomes are usually best from all perspectives! Challenges are that we can easily misunderstand each other, so we need to be more patient and tolerant when it comes to communicating.

6. What do you think is the single biggest challenge the SG tech scene is facing today? 

It’s currently not easy to attract and retain the most talented tech people in the world (compared to Silicon Valley).  More high-standard universities, increased financial resources for startups and tech-friendly governmental policies may bring more talented people to SG.

7. What are your thoughts on the increase in popularity of automated coding tests as a way of assessing engineers during the interview process?

I think it’s a good way to screen candidates. Problem-solving, data structure, algorithms and coding speed etc. are the most fundamental skills for every professional software engineer. I know the automated coding tests can only cover very few subsets of all aspects of software engineering, but they do screen very efficiently.

8. How far away do you think Singapore is from producing a truly global technology brand to mention alongside the likes of Facebook, Google, Apple etc?

I would say still quite far. To build a truly global technology brand, we need global tech people. Think about why Silicon Valley can produce so many excellent companies – they have Stanford University, lots of VCs and start-ups, and they can attract the most talented tech people from across the world.

9. If you had to pick one app to make your life easier in SG what would it be?

Grab… I use it every day!

10. Best money saving tip for Singapore?

Use credit cards as much as possible. There are a lot of credit cards offering cash back or rewards. Using a card that best matches your purchase behaviour can save you a lot of money!

Functionn are a boutique recruitment company specialising in the recruitment and relocation of elite technologists for APAC’s leading startups and technology companies.

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