One of Asia’s major financial and trade centers, the city-state of Singapore is a memorable mix of culture, food, modern convenience, and deep-seated tradition. Thinking of moving to Singapore? Here are 10 things you should know.
English-speakers have a foot up while planning their move to Singapore, it being the language of commerce and trade. Alongside English, Singapore’s official languages are Malay, Mandarin, and Tamil. However, you’ll soon become aware of “Singlish”, the country’s unofficial dialect and the neutral verbal point of contact between its different ethnic groups.
2. Go traveling
Singapore is a city-state only twice the size of tiny Malta, so understandably, cabin fever can set in. Thankfully, it’s easy to quash. Singapore’s Changi is one of the world’s great connecting airports, with flights continually departing for India, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Bali, China, the Philippines, Malaysia, Australia, and Europe and more.
3. It’s humid
At only one degree north of the Equator and with two monsoon seasons, getting about in humid Singapore can take a little planning. Be prepared for the weather with a fold up umbrella, plenty of sunscreen, and of course, a hat (the sun’s rays reach through the clouds). Another humid weather tip: Don’t leave food on the counter unless you want a moldy surprise. Yuck!
Singapore sports a lot of options for retail therapy. Its multitude of air-conditioned malls are a popular escape to dodge the heat, with store after store of electronics, clothing, luxury brands, skincare, books, homeware, records, and more. Not a fan of malls? Then venture out to the “heartlands” local communities where markets abound laden with food, knick-knacks, and endless other items to explore.
5. Public transport
Singapore’s MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) rail system is reliable, efficient, and cheap with more than 100 stations located across the island. On the other hand, owning a car is most definitely not cheap. If you must have a car, expect to pay many times more for the same model in Singapore than you would at home. Otherwise, hold off and save your pennies for food and shopping!
6. See the expat bubble
Those with the budget and inclination to spend it will find Singapore life is like a resort (think live-in nannies, serviced apartments, infinity pools). A downside of doing this is the unbreakable “bubble” that is created. Not looking for a wealthy expat bubble of a life? Choose accommodation further out of town, make an active effort to talk to locals, learn some phrases in Singlish, eat at hawker (open air food) centers, take public transport, and join special interest clubs.
Singapore’s famous fines do deserve a second glance. While they start out reasonably (don’t eat or drink on the MRT, litter, jaywalk, or spit), they move on to more memorable rules (no feeding the pigeons, walking around in the nude in your own home, or importing chewing gum). Actually, on second thought we quite like that final one. It’s largely responsible for the super cleanliness of Singapore’s streets.
Big sectors in Singapore are finance, oil, and business. These aren’t areas you’ll accidentally fall into, which explains why many expats are relocated to Singapore by their companies. Looking for work online or through an agency? Get an idea of your eligibility to work in Singapore via the Ministry of Manpower’s website (where you’ll also find information on labor practices including sick days and paid leave) and importantly, remember that you can’t apply for a work visa until you have a job offer in place.
Love eating? You’ll adore Singapore. With hawker centers and Michelin starred restaurants to choose from according to mood or budget, there’s an extensive menu of tasty treats to work through, from famous chili crab to more unusual dishes such as frog porridge and stingray with sambal sauce. When going to lunch in the central business district, you may see locals leaving seemingly random items on chairs. Don’t take them off: This is the chope system, a way of reserving a table.
Don’t stress about calculating your tip: A 10% service charge and 7% GST is already included in your bill. Of course, if you want to tip a server at a restaurant for their service, you can. Remember, however, taxi drivers and other service providers will not expect a tip.