Moving to a new place is exciting – but it can also be daunting and confusing. If you’re moving to Singapore or you’re new in town and trying to work out the lie of the land, who better to give advice on adapting to life in the Little Red Dot than other expats who have ‘been there, done that’! We asked Expat Living readers to reflect on some of the great things about living in Singapore – along with a few of the challenges. We’ve also compiled a list of readers’ tips to help you prepare for the move or settle in once you’re here.
Pros and cons
What are the best things about life in Singapore? What about some of the frustrations?
“Living here has opened up a whole new world for me. The social scene is lively and it’s fairly easy to make friends. I also love that Singapore is hub for travel. We can get to beautiful remote islands in a matter of hours, and visit parts of the world I would never have experienced if we didn’t make the move, such as Cambodia and Borneo.
However, sometimes I feel like we live in an expat bubble and don’t fully integrate into the local society. I’ve lived here twice; the first time I didn’t make any Singaporean friends. This time, I’ve done a much better job of meeting locals and that makes me a lot happier. I feel less removed this time around.”
“One of the best things about being an expat here is the variety of other expats you befriend along the way. Our peer group consists of people from all over the world including Singapore! The expat community here is also very welcoming. Wherever you go and whatever you get involved with, you can very quickly make friends.
One negative? The ‘expat tax’ can be a bummer. I’ve lived in Singapore a long time and there are times I know I am charged more for things – services mostly – because I’m an expat.”
“Singapore has good weather and it’s a great place for making friends, and for families to live in. The only downside is it’s not that easy to find work.”
“In Singapore, we can enjoy the privilege of living in a society that is well ordered and safe. Public services tend to function successfully; buses and trains run on time, reported crime is low, healthcare in clinics and hospitals is of a high standard, and the public areas are well maintained with many pavements sheltered from the elements. Singapore is a fantastic base for short-haul travel around Southeast Asia, too, if you have the time and resources to make the most of it.
As for anything negative: how do you feel about lizards, not to mention ants and cockroaches? After nearly eight years in Singapore, I still haven’t quite accepted that lizards appear to have the right to surprise me in my home at any time, from behind curtains, inside cupboards and under the toaster!”
“My two kids have been raised in Singapore and the environment has been outstanding. The friends we have made over the years have been gold. One negative is the lack of any variability in temperature.”
“Travelling around the region is without a doubt the best part of living here. You can see and experience so much from Singapore. The ‘work hard, play hard’ culture is really fun! A negative aspect? The customer service can sometimes leave a lot to be desired.”
Other readers’ thoughts
- “Making friends that become like family”
- “There’s an amazing mix of cultures
- “You can reinvent yourself any way that you want
- “It’s safe and has a low crime rate
- “There are lots of themed parties, functions and balls to attended
- “It’s really easy to settle down here
- “It’s a great hub for travel
- “English is easily understood here
- “It’s a fantastic environment for children to grow up in
- “The public transport is great
- “There’s a nice charitable focus in the expat community
- “The local food is delicious and cheap
- “Lots of good restaurants
- “Friends are always moving away”
- “You can’t see family all the time”
- “You can spend a lot of time on planes for work”
- “Some services are more expensive here”
- “There are no seasons”
- “Every day is hot, humid and sweaty”
- “Medical facilities are expensive (though they are top notch)”
- “A good hair day is a rare thing”
- “The cost of living is high”
- “Schools are very expensive”
- “It’s difficult to get into local schools if you’re not PR”
- “Alcohol is pricey”
Here’s a long list of tips for those who are moving here soon or fresh off the boat.
- “Buy a sturdy pair of flip-flops and a lot of moisture-wicking clothing.”
- “Don’t live in an expat bubble; interact with local people and places too.”
- “Distances aren’t as great as in many of the cities expats come from; so, don’t let that be a barrier in your school or house hunting.”
- “The public transport is fantastic, so wait and see before investing in a car, unless you absolutely need it.”
- “Try to avoid an influx of visitors in your first six months or so; instead, dedicate time for you and your family to adapt to life here.”
- “Don’t be offended if people call you ‘auntie’ or ‘uncle’; you’re not old – they are being respectful!”
- “For trailing spouses looking for jobs: network, network, network.”
- “Be prepared for frizzy hair”
- “Enjoy yourself!”
- “Take on any new challenges with a positive attitude.”
- “Hire a helper. Even if you are used to doing everything on your own, being an expat means you don’t have family around or a support network. It makes life much, much easier.”
- “Transfer your license within 12 months, even if you think you won’t drive.”
- “Try living in a serviced apartment first to see if you like it.”
- “Be open to meeting new people.”
- “Seek out green spaces across the island – nature reserves, reservoirs and small surrounding islands – to help rebalance mind and body from the daily rat race.”
- “Take a city tour; you can learn a lot from some of the great guides.”
- “Make a list of places in the region that you’d like to visit, and start planning some holidays and long weekends.”
- “Take courses and seek experiences to develop skills you’ve not been able to make time for.”
- “Bring your favourite foods from your home country each time you travel.”
- “If you have young kids, always carry sunblock, swimmers and a small towel for swimming opportunities.”
- “Shop at the wet markets for fruit and vegetables – they’re incredibly fresh and cheap.”
- “Surrender to the high prices on certain things; it’s just the way of life here.”
- “Be open to any and all potential friendships.”
This article first appeared in the 2019 edition of our City Guide. Purchase a copy or subscribe to the monthly magazine so you never miss an issue!
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