Let’s face it, relocation to a new country is not the easiest feat to accomplish. It might take you awhile to adjust, and you’ll spend a lot of time comparing your new destination to your home country. But if you learn to focus more on the positives and less on the negatives, adjusting to living in Singapore will be much more satisfying.
Housing in Singapore
Much of the housing in Singapore comes in high-rise condo or apartment form, so if you’ve never lived vertically, you’ll have a new experience to look forward to. Not to mention, even if you live in a freestanding home, backyards are rarities; but there are lots of green spaces and parks around the island to make up for it.
Pro: Lots of options
Whether you want to rent a HDB (government-owned) flat or a privately owned condo, you’ll have lots of choices. High-rise developments are springing up like weeds all over Singapore. Most of the privately owned condos and apartments, especially the new ones, have amenities such as pools, playgrounds, gyms, and function rooms included on site. Landed homes (similar to single family homes in the US) can be found in the heartlands (the suburbs) if that’s your thing.
Con: Rent is expensive
Because land and space are in such high demand, rent in Singapore is really expensive. Expect to pay more if you’re looking for a place closer to the CBD, Orchard Road, Holland Village, and other desirable neighbourhoods. Landed homes are usually very pricey, as well. If you’re willing to move farther away from the central parts of town, you just might score a good deal.
Transportation in Singapore
Singapore might be a small country, but its road network and transportation system are extensive. Whether you drive, take the train or ride the bus, it’s easy to get around the island.
Pro: Great public transport
Getting around Singapore by bus or MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) is a piece of cake. Public transportation is really cheap, too. More train lines are expected to be built over the next decade, making even the farthest corners of the island easily accessible. Cabs, which are also extremely affordable, are an alternative mode of transportation.
Con: Cars are costly
Owning a car in Singapore is a seriously expensive undertaking. Car owners must pay for a Certificate of Entitlement, as well as heavy customs duties, taxes and insurance fees. A car in Singapore costs at least double what it would cost for the same car in the United States. On top of that, tolls, known as ERP (Electronic Road Pricing), charge drivers for using roads. These tolls increase in cost during peak hours. Drivers must pay for parking almost everywhere in Singapore, including malls and other public venues.
Travel from Singapore
Getting to Singapore might be a long and arduous flight for most expats, but once you’re here, the vacation spots in the area are just a short (affordable) plane ride away.
Pro: Cheap, accessible travel
If you’re looking to get away for a weekend, Singapore is an ideal jumping off spot for travel in Southeast Asia. Several budget airlines offer affordable fares to neighbouring countries such as Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and more. Sometimes planning a trip at the last minute can result in extremely cheap airfare. If you’d rather not fly, the Indonesian islands of Bintan and Batam are about an hour away by ferry. Your passport will quickly fill up if you take advantage of the great travel opportunities in the area.
Safety in Singapore
Although you hardly see police officers or police cars out and about, Singapore is an extremely safe place to live.
Pro: Low crime rate
Singapore is a very safe country with low crime rates and a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to drugs. Walking alone down the street at night is not a dangerous thing to do here.
Con: Poor pedestrian and cyclist safety
Pedestrians do not have the right of way in Singapore, so it’s a smart idea to use crosswalks whenever possible. Sometimes bikes share the sidewalks with pedestrians, but sidewalks tend to be really small so this can be dangerous, too. Cyclists don’t have dedicated bike lanes in Singapore and most cars and trucks do not look out for bikes on the road. If you’re going to ride a bike, wear a helmet and be as predictable on the road as possible. Use the “Park Connector” pathways when you can to avoid the dangerous roads.
Social scene in Singapore
It won’t take long for you to make a group of friends, either expat or local, here in Singapore; meeting people is usually easy and fun.
Pro: Easy to make friends
There are several online forums and Facebook groups that provide both expats and locals with the opportunity to come together over shared interests.
Otherwise, be on the lookout for organisations which hold social events, as these are great places to meet others. Becoming a member of an expat organisation, such as the American Association or the British Club, is a great way to find out what’s on.
You can also consider taking a class, volunteering, or starting a blog about life in Singapore. These are all great ways to meet people.
Con: Pricey party scene
Singapore puts a heavy “sin tax” on alcoholic beverages, making a night out on the town a really costly experience. The nicer clubs and bars sell drinks at a premium. There are wine bars around town that offer discounts on bottles of wine. Keep an eye out for happy hour specials; some places offer pretty decent drink deals.
Healthcare in Singapore
Quality healthcare in Singapore is affordable, compared to a place like the United States, whether you have insurance or not. Even if you’re not a permanent resident, healthcare in Singapore is reasonably priced (permanent residents and Singaporeans have access to Singapore’s heavily subsidised public health care system).
Pro: Lots of doctors and facilities to choose from
There are 13 private hospitals, 10 public hospitals, and 18 outpatient polyclinics throughout the island to choose from. Along with these facilities, there are approximately 2,000 private medical practitioner clinics to choose from. If you have insurance, you can contact your provider for a list of recommended doctors and clinics.
Con: Unexpected upfront costs
However, an unexpected trip to the doctor can be a bit expensive if they do not accept direct bill settlement from your insurance company, and you’re left paying the bill on the spot. If your doctor does not accept direct bill settlement, you are expected to pay for the consultation and any other services provided at the time of visit, including prescriptions for medication. These medical bills can usually be reimbursed to you by the insurance company, but that surprise medical bill can come as a shock if you’re living on a budget. Contact your insurance company to see which doctors have a direct settlement option.
Education in Singapore
Whether you want to enrol your child in a local public school or a private international school, there are several options to consider in Singapore.
Pro: Great schools to choose from
Public schools are affordable, and your child will learn a new language (a foreign language is required of all students). Starting at the secondary level, students are also required to take part in a co-curricular activity, such as sports or performing arts. Private international schools are also a great choice, especially if you want your child to continue with a school system from their home country.
Con: Expensive school fees, hard to get into
Although public education is still really affordable in Singapore, expect to pay more than the locals for school fees. If you’re looking at private international schools, be ready to pay several thousands more. Private international schools are not only extremely expensive, they are also hard to get into. Expect long placement waiting lists for several private schools in Singapore.
Weather in Singapore
Leave your heavy coats and boots behind, because you won’t be needing them here. Singapore is a very hot, humid and rainy all year long. Don’t get caught without an umbrella, no matter how beautiful of a day it is.
Pro: Summertime, all the time
Singapore’s temperature is always hot, which means you can get away with dressing in summer clothes all year round. April is typically the hottest month of the year. The daily temperature averages from around 27 degrees to 31 degrees. You’re not limited to a few months of warm weather, like in other parts of the world. If you want to lay out by the pool on Christmas morning, you probably could.
Con: Rain, rain, go away
When it’s not incredibly sunny out, it’s probably raining cats and dogs. Singapore has two seasons: the Northeast Monsoon (December to March) and the Southwest Monsoon (May to September). Really big thunderstorms, called squalls, tend to occur during the Southwest Monsoon season. These squalls bring strong winds and powerful rainfall to Singapore, usually in the early morning. Expats should also know that hailing a cab during a rainstorm is often difficult.