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Answer to questions about living in Singapore for Expats

9 Questions About Living in Singapore Answered

With a wealth of opportunities on offer and English as the first language, a growing number of professionals have made moving to Singapore the next stage in their working life. The foreign-born community living in Singapore is one of the largest per capita in the world, with 27% of the entire population being non-residents.

“What about the Culture Shock?”

Because of Singapore’s multicultural history and presence, cultural considerations are less comprehensive than in other Asian business hubs like China and Japan.

Guanxi, or the development of interpersonal relationships is still very important in Singapore- even today. The exchange of business cards is an integral part of the business process and is seen as an exchange of gifts- especially amongst the Chinese. It may be taken as an offence if you do not provide a business card in exchange for your acquaintance’s card.

In general, as long as one holds an acceptable level of respect then there is little to be concerned about. Learn more about working in Singapore.

“Will I make a decent living in Singapore, compared to home?”

Your disposable income will be much the same in Singapore, if not greater than in other international hubs. Though the salaries are a little lower, the taxes compensate for this substantially- Singapore has one of the lowest income tax structures in the world. Have a more detailed look at income tax in Singapore.

Healthcare facilities in Singapore rank among the best in the world. It is very much advised that those travelling or moving to Singapore get Global Health Insurance before they leave their home country, in case there is an emergency.

“What is the cost of living in Singapore?”

Singapore is an expensive place to live in, with high rent and high socialising costs. Find out more about the cost of living in Singapore.

living in singapore moving to singapore

Taxes here are some of the lowest in the world, making the cost of living in Singapore less than you may think.

“How easy is it to find a place to rent in Singapore?”

It is becoming rarer and rarer that the employer sorts out accommodation for the jobseeker moving to Singapore. On some occasions the employer will arrange temporary accommodation, for around a month. Those considering the move should be prepared to take the responsibility themselves.

Finding short-term accommodation with the likes of LMB Housing is expensive compared to permanent accommodation but can give you the opportunity to get used to your surroundings and save on hotel bills while you decide on where to live in Singapore.

Having said that, renting in Singapore is very straightforward and the choice is fantastic. The requirements for renting a house is generally one month’s deposit for every year of contract (e.g. 1  month’s deposit for a 1 year contract, 2 month’s deposit for a 2 year contract) passport copy and visa documentation.

Using a flatshare site like EasyRoomMate can save you a significant amount time and money when looking for your first home in Singapore. This is also a great way to make new friends when moving to Singapore.

To kit out that your home there are a number of options ranging from affordable to luxurious. Renting furnished apartments are very common and the standard of furnishing is often very high. If you still prefer to have your own furniture then there are two IKEA outlets and a number of high-end options spread across the city.

For more information on renting accommodation in Singapore visit our accommodation guide.

“How do I find a Job there?”

In the past, most foreign workers or expats would move to Singapore having been transferred for work by European or American multi-national firms but nowadays it is becoming more and more common for jobseekers to apply direct for roles in Singapore. There are numerous recruitment consultants in Singapore but many will only offer work to locals, or those physically present in Singapore.

The Ministry of Manpower has made a Skills- in-Demand list emphasizing roles in ICT, Healthcare and Engineering, among others that welcome foreigners. One consideration is that the role you apply for will have to pay you in excess of S$3000 per month in order for your Employment Pass to go through. Even though the minimum requirement states a need for a minimum salary of $3000, many applications will be rejected due to tightening immigration quotas in Singapore.

There is no minimum wage in Singapore. To get more information on finding work and industry profiles visit our working guide.

“How will the Interview Process pan out?”

The interview process for jobs in Singapore can take a number of forms, but most people go through multi-national firms or recruitment agencies. This may require a visit to your local branch for an interview, or in some cases moving to Singapore for an interview. An approach that is growing in popularity in transnational recruitment is to arrange an online interview. Interviewing firms like Irish-based Sonru have opened this possibility.

“What about Visas?”

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) website gives details of the various visas that a foreigner can apply for. In general the employer will arrange this for you. Visa restrictions are getting tighter as of January 2012. For more information on visas, please consult our Visa section.

“What is Driving like in Singapore?”

Driving in Singapore is more straight-forward than many other places in Asia, with great roads and very little traffic congestion. The difficulty though is the price of driving in Singapore. Buying an average car and putting it on the road in Singapore can cost north of $100,000. Learn more about driving in Singapore.

“What should I bring to Singapore?”

One thing to remember when moving to Singapore is that the temperature remains above 25 Celsius year-round. This means that heavy winter clothes are something NOT to bring when moving. There is nothing you can’t get here that you would have back home. Most of the top international brands are here- for clothing, food and other products. For western grocery shopping, check out where your closest Cold Storage will be.


4 Responses to 9 Questions About Living in Singapore Answered

  1. William Mitchell June 6, 2013 at 5:13 am #

    I had a ton of questions, but this answers most of them! Cheers! Will

  2. Steven A. June 12, 2013 at 5:51 pm #

    Excellent article once again. But I’d like to expand just a little bit on a couple points that people have asked me after my 3 month visit to Singapore. You are completely right about the driving but, also know that Singapore has a first class public transportation system. It’s clean, punctual, and a great value! Certain popular stations can be very crowded at peak times and it doesn’t run 24 hours a day but I had no trouble using it almost exclusively. And for late night or quick trips, taxis are plentiful and decently priced. As far as food cravings go, you can find almost anything. No shortage of your favorite Western fast food joint. But do try the local joints too! Look for places with lines of locals or ask someone. Singaporeans are friendly and know where to find great food!

  3. Jamaica Sanchez October 9, 2013 at 5:00 pm #

    This is a great guide for anyone looking to move to Singapore for work or retirement. My husband and I are currently travelling around Asia for business and we’re strongly considering staying in the region for a couple of years. I’m wondering though, do you have any tips on hiring domestic helper Singapore? A couple of our expat friends suggested that we look into it since our household has become rather busy when our baby girls were born. Thanks!

  4. Sharon January 8, 2014 at 1:41 am #

    I’m a Singaporean and I saw this post from the Guanxi Group in LinkedIn. What Steven said is right. Transport is easy to get and there’s lots of cuisine from all over the world (incl. local food) you can enjoy. As for Jamaica’s question on domestic helper, there are tons of maid agencies to cater to this need. It shouldn’t be difficult to get one, from Filipino to Myanmar.

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