Fancy living in Singapore? Here’s a whole lot of information that will – we hope! – help you make a more informed decision about coming here. Moving to Singapore means different things for different people, but the usual suspects are better career chances, warm weather, a safe and clean place to live, and interesting food! There are plenty of things to do, and masses of articles, advice and info on our website; plus, our annual City Guide and Kids’ Guide offer plenty more for you to read about before making the move.
Sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin!
Singapore fact file
Population: 5.8 million
Area: 721 square kilometres over 63 islands
Rank in size in world countries: 190th
Rank in population density: 2nd
Distance from equator: 137km
Ethnic makeup: 74% Chinese, 13% Malay, 9% Indian
Religions: 33% Buddhist, 19% Christian, 14% Muslim, 5% Hindu, 17% no religion
Official languages: Mandarin, Malay, Tamil, English
Life expectancy: 82 years
Things to consider before moving to Singapore
We asked expats living in Singapore to give us some feedback, and they’ve touched on plenty of considerations below. From our own perspective, climate always seems to be a talking point, but whether you love it or hate it, at least it’s consistent and you know what to expect! The other one is cost of living, which can give you a bit of a shock at first – what you pay for your groceries, for example, and the price of alcohol.
What other expats think about living in Singapore:
“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 a great 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 here, 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 even make any local 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.”
“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, if you have the time and resources to make the most of it. As for the 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!”
“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 friends from all over the world: Singapore, Italy, South Africa, Australia, the UK, America, Japan and more! 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 have 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. It’s a great place to make friends and for families to live in. One negative aspect is that it’s not that easy to find work.”
“Travelling around the region is without a doubt the best part. You can see and experience so much from here. The ‘work hard, play hard’ culture is really fun! One negative aspect: customer service can leave a lot to be desired.”
“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.”
“Safety! As a positive aspect, that occupies the top ten spots if you are moving here with kids. As far as negative aspects go, some people could find life here a bit sterile.”
Now hear from more expats and the great tips they contributed to our annual City Guide!
A few essentials
As a starter, here are some important numbers – from help lines and emergency numbers to business organisations, churches, taxis and more.
We’ve also got a huge list of relevant apps to assist you with everything from getting around to finding the best restaurants, doing business and making the most of your leisure time.
And here all the details you need for getting around Singapore, including info on the cheap and reliable public transport network, along with everything you needed to know about taxis … and more!
Working in Singapore
Visas: things to know
- The Fair Consideration Framework allows affirmative discrimination and employers are required to consider Singaporeans fairly before hiring Employment Pass (EP) holders.
- A quota system regulates the ratio of foreign and local workers in the workplace.
- Dependant-pass holders are entitled to work once they have a Letter of Consent, which their employer can apply for. It’s a relatively straightforward process and applications are generally processed quickly by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM).
- While it’s not impossible, those on visitor passes hoping to apply for EPs may find it more of a struggle to get a job. It is increasingly difficult for employers to get approval to hire foreigners.
- For a preliminary indication of the likelihood of obtaining an EP or S Pass, use the online Self-Assessment Tool prior to submitting the application. Also, check the MOM list of strategic skills in current demand, and skill-sets that are expected to be in strong demand in the coming years.
Tips for getting a job
- Make sure you have all your official documents including birth certificates, personal identification and university transcripts at the ready. Singapore based employers will likely ask for these and you may need to provide original copies.
- Put together a portfolio showcasing your relevant skills and experience. This can be hard copy, digital or on a website.
- Find out which recruiters are specialists in your field and go straight to them. See which company is posting jobs you’re interested in and call them. You’ll have a much better chance of breaking through the noise if they’ve met you and identified you as suitable talent.
- Get out and start networking. Many expats find jobs through their networks rather than applying for jobs blindly.
- Be realistic about your salary. Remember that Singapore’s low tax rate will often offset a lower base salary.
- Attend interviews, even if you’re not 100 percent sure you want the position. Many companies can create roles for the right person, but they have to meet you first.
- Don’t be surprised if you’re asked personal questions, including your religion and whether you have children, at interviews.
- It’s common to be asked to submit a photograph with your resume.
Get out there and make friends or career contacts – it’s a lot easier here, because everyone is in the ‘same boat’ as you! Here are some useful tips and contacts for getting started.
- Join a social club or sportsteam or an association with like-minded people
- CRCE | aasingapore.com/about-crce
- Mums@Work | mumsatwork.net
- Working Mums | careermums.com.sg
- PrimeTime | primetime.org.sg
- Athena | theathenanetwork.com.sg
- ANZA Career Centre | anza.org.sg
- LinkedIn; many successful job-seekers suggest connecting directly with potential employers | sg.linkedin.com
- Lean In Circle; facilitated group-coaching sessions focusing on career support and development for women | synovations.com
- Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations | scwo.org.sg
Where to live
Right, here’s some more of the really important stuff! Presuming you have a job and you’re ready to go, you’ll need a place to call home. Our full guide is here: Where to live in Singapore. In the meantime, though, we’ve got a quick breakdown of the areas you might consider, below. Take into consideration where you will work, and where school will be (if you have kids). It mightn’t seem far away on the map, but you need to take into account the rush-hour traffic. And remember, if you’re locked into a standard rental lease in Singapore, you will be stuck with that route for the next two years!
- Orchard: Orchard Road, Tanglin, Holland Village, Novena, Central Bukit Timah
- City: Robertson Quay and Mohammed Sultan Road
- West: Upper Bukit Timah
- South: Sentosa, Faber Park, Pasir Panjang
- North: Woodlands, Seletar, Yishun
- Central: Thomson, Braddell, Serangoon
- East: Katong, Siglap, Bedok, Tampines
Schooling is a hot topic for expat parents. Should you try for a spot in a local school or enrol your child in an international school in Singapore? For the pros and cons of both, read these guides:
- Local vs international schools
- International schools in Singapore
- Preschools and kindergartens in Singapore
There’s also plenty of info on schools in our Kids’ Guide, which you can download for free!
Things to do
Once you start feeling settled, you’ll want to get out and about an explore. For a little island, Singapore packs a huge punch in terms of activities, for young and old alike.
- Things to do in Singapore
- Things to do with kids
- Where to meet people if you’re single
- Where to eat in Singapore
- Interested in arts and crafts
Twenty things you mightn’t have known about Singapore!
1 The number of Olympic gold medals that Singapore has won in its history – Joseph Schooling won gold in the 100m butterfly at the 2016 Rio Olympics, beating a field that included Michael Phelps.
4 The number of Singapore dishes that appeared in CNN’s 2017 list of the world’s best foods. They were: roti prata (45th), laksa (44th), chilli crab (29th) and chicken rice (13th).
6 The number of times Singapore has changed its time zone since 1905.
12 The percentage of Singapore’s land that’s taken up by roads.
15 The size, in tonnes, of a single curry dish that was cooked for Singapore’s Suvai Indian Gourmet Festival in 2015.
16 The percentage of species found in Singapore Zoo that are listed as threatened.
34 The number of years that Singapore’s MRT system has been in operation.
49 The time, in minutes, it would take Lewis Hamilton to cover the equivalent distance from Singapore to the equator based on his 2018 Singapore Grand Prix average lap speed.
68 The number of backwards somersaults that Singaporean Kyra Poh performed in a single minute in the iFly wind tunnel on Sentosa.
70 The estimated size of Singapore’s otter population.
125 The age, in years, of the building that houses the Lau Pa Sat hawker centre; its origins are another 70 years older than that.
312 The diameter, in metres, of the world’s largest retractable dome, which serves as the roof of the National Stadium.
388 The price, in dollars, of set of five limited-edition coffee pods that went on sale in Singapore in 2017; they were blended with coffee beans and 22k gold dust.
500 The fine, in dollars, for carrying a durian on public transport in Singapore.
2,241 The number of people who gathered at the KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital in 2016 to break the world record for “the largest reunion of people born at the same hospital”.
8,600 The number of completed high-rise buildings in Singapore.
10,000 Singapore’s biggest bank note; while it hasn’t been printed since 2014, the note is still in circulation and considered legal tender.
26,000 The approximate size, in football fields, that Singapore’s land mass has increased by since 1960.
183,737 The number of millionaires living in Singapore, as of October 2018.
221,155 The number of passengers who passed through Changi Airport on 21 December, the airport’s busiest day of 2018.
And, for more helpful tips, head to our Living in Singapore section!