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A Quick Guide to... Living and Working in Singapore

Posted by: Kathie Higginson

Considering making the move to Singapore? Living and working in the Garden City is a very enjoyable experience – Singapore is clean, safe and its parks, museums and galleries are world class. Help is at hand – here’s our guide to help ease the transition into the Singaporean way of life…

Save your pennies
We’re sure it’s not exactly news to you to learn that Singapore doesn’t come cheap. Rent, schooling and a car if you have one will likely be the biggest expenses you’ll face. In fact, Singapore was recently ranked the world’s most expensive city – but living and working in Singapore doesn’t have to cost you your life savings… if you’re in a position to negotiate a good package including accommodation, housing, medical and school fees that would be a great way to save money. It’s possible to set up your Singaporean bank account before you arrive, which can make relocation a lot easier – and of course you’ll recognise a lot of the banks thanks to Singapore’s standing as a global financial hub.

Make the most of public transport
Driving in Singapore is notoriously expensive – even getting a license to allow you to drive can cost an awful lot of money, and importing a car won’t come cheap either. The good thing is that public transport is affordable and reliable – the MRT train system is excellent, and buses are an efficient way to get around (although it’s worth noting that you can’t eat or drink or public transport in Singapore). If you really hate public transport (a lot of us do!) taxis aren’t too expensive, either, although it’s wise to pre-book.

Get away
Singapore has amazing links to the rest of South East Asia and Australasia – it’s not unusual to go on a weekend break to Australia! Singapore really is the ideal base for exploring Asia, with an abundance of airlines offering deals all around the region.

Meet people

There are many organisations through which you can easily meet other expats in Singapore, such as the American Association of Singapore (which welcomes all nationalities) and the British Association of Singapore. Both of these organisations (and many others like them) host a wide variety of events, social, sporting and those for children.

Adjust to the heat
If you’re from a cooler climate, the heat might be the first thing that gets to you in Singapore, which is located just north of the equator and has a rainforest climate. The hottest, most humid months are April and May – during them you can expect to sweat, use a lot of air conditioning, and learn to come out at night! You’ll probably find that you quickly adjust and you’ll find that you’ll actually be cold when you’re indoors Our top tips for adjusting to the climate are: always carry water with you, wear sunscreen even when it looks to be cloudy out, and learn to love your unruly hair!

Choose your home wisely
You’ll probably need to use an agent, and it’s best to ask friends or colleagues for a recommendation to ensure you’ll get someone who understands your needs. Most expats live in condos, but it’s also possible to find old colonial houses a little further out at a reasonable price. When renting in Singapore it’s fairly standard to pay for air con servicing and pest control as part of your contract.

Eat like a local
If you try to replicate your lifestyle back home, life in Singapore will cost you a small fortune. The foods you’re used to may come out at 3-4 times the price you used to pay, but if you eat out locally or shop in the local supermarkets, you can live on a reasonable budget. Learn from the locals and stock up on a lot of sealed plastic food containers, as insects will get into anything in Singapore. There’s nothing worse than pasta with bugs!

Enjoy the Nightlife
Singapore really does come alive at night, when temperatures are more bearable – and there really is something for everyone. Some of the best places to explore are Clarke Quay, Boat Quay, Duxton Hill, Ann Siang Hill and Haji Lane.

Hit the sales
Everyone loves shopping in Singapore, in fact it’s such a popular pursuit that, around May to July, you will find that almost all stores partake in the Great Singapore Sale – definitely the best time of year to bag a bargain.

Learn Singlish!
Singapore has its own unique form of English, affectionately termed Singlish – if you’re shopping at the cheaper “hawker” food stalls, you’ll need to pick up a few key phrases. A great book to buy is the Coxford Singlish Dictionary, which is a fun introduction to this key part of Singaporean culture. If you’re interested in languages, you may also like to learn Malay, Tamil or Standard Mandarin, which are all widely spoken in Singapore (although for the most part you’ll get along fine in English!)

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