Are you looking to live the expat life in Singapore, or perhaps simply curious about what it would be like living in Singapore?
Look no further for the answer to your questions, concerns and considerations about Singapore life.
Nestled near the equator in Southeast Asia lies Singapore, neighboring Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei. The geographic location makes it is an ideal place to live if you enjoy hotter climates.
This island nation is characterized by its strategic port trading location and its strong free-market economy.
Singapore is considered to be one of the four economic Asian Tigers of the East as a result, alongside Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan.
This small and beautiful city state is clean, modern, orderly and safe, among other things as you will come to discover.
Here is what a life in Singapore has to offer you:
Singapore is the Hot Pot of Southeast Asia
Singapore is undeniably rich in cultural diversity, all crammed into just over 700 square kilometers of land.
The diverse range of ethnicities and religions is reflected in the fact there are a total of 4 official languages: English, Mandarin, Malay and Tamil.
It's not just for show either. You will see translations in various different languages around you during your stay in Singapore.
There is strong religious diversity as well. The population is spread evenly between many different religions.
The biggest majority, Buddhists, comprise of only a third of the population. The remaining two thirds are 18% Christian, followed by 17% who are non-religious, 15% Islam, 10% Taoist, and 5% Hindu.
So for this reason, you will often find many different religious holidays observed and celebrated in Singapore.
Not only is Singapore a unique blend of Asia, but many aspects of Western civilization are present in the culture.
Lingering influences of British colonial rule can be seen in the architecture of older buildings and in its existing status as one of the most important ports in the world.
Singapore has a President as head of state and a Prime Minister as head of government, a reflection of the British monarchy and political system.
Like many parts of the world Singapore has adopted some Christian holidays, despite not being a Christian nation. So you can expect Christmas Day and Good Friday to be office holidays.
And let's not forget, the impact of Britain on the country is definitely seen with the prevalence of the English language.
Singaporeans Can Speak Good English Lah
Despite the variance in culture amongst Singapore’s population, there are fewer communication issues than you would think.
English was pushed hard by the government to be the common language shared by everyone in an attempt to unite the various ethnic groups.
As a result, Singaporeans are fluent English speakers.
Though many Singaporeans are bilingual and speak English as their second language, in formal settings such as school and work, you can expect it to be the go-to language.
So if you are either looking to practice your English skills or feel more comfortable living in a country of English speakers, you are looking at the right place.
However, walk among English-speaking Singaporeans in a crowd and you can find you don't always understand what’s being spoken around you.
This is due to the prevalence of Singlish in more informal settings.
Singlish is a branch of English in Singapore that has evolved as a result of incorporating aspects from the many other regional languages such as Malay, Tamil and various Chinese dialects.
As a result, Singlish will be difficult for non-Singaporeans to understand and even harder to speak.
Picking up a basic understanding of some Singlish phrases is highly recommended if you plan on living in Singapore long-term.
Check out this Singlish dictionary if you are curious to learn a word’s meaning!
Winter is Not Coming, There is Only Summer in Singapore
Singapore is undeniably hot and humid, thanks to its geographical location as a large island near the equator.
There is little variation throughout the year, with the hottest months May and June having the averaging around 27.8ºC and the ‘coolest’ months December and January only average 26.0ºC.
An average day would have temperatures ranging from 31-33ºC during daylight hours and 23-25ºC at night.
Instead of four seasons, Singapore’s climate patterns are characterized by the inter-monsoon periods.
December to March marks the period of Northeast Monsoon and June to September is the Southwest Monsoon.
Having a fold-up umbrella or raincoat on you during those times of the year will be a lifesaver in Singapore.
Natural climate aside, the Southeast Asian haze is an annual environmental issue for Singapore and other neighboring countries in Southeast Asia.
The toxic smog originates from Indonesian farmers illegally clearing farmland with slash-and-burn.
Aside from the poor vision and burnt smell, being exposed to the haze causes irritation to eyes and respiratory tracts.
The severity of the haze can result in car accidents, schools closing and generally make going outside hazardous.
The cause of the haze is unlikely to go away any time soon, due to lack of enforcement and resources in Indonesia to prevent and tackle fires. Be prepared for the possibility of seasonal haze.
Authorities in Singapore encourage use of special masks to filter out dangerous and fine PM2.5 particles.
The haze will typically occur around June to August, but poor weather can extend the duration to October.
For more information on the haze in Singapore, visit the official government website.
One Ez-Link Card to Rule Them All
Getting around Singapore is a simple matter, thanks to the comprehensive and modern public transportation infrastructure.
To make things even simpler, you only need one card to do it all, the Ez-link card.
All of Singapore’s public transportation; the MRT, LRT and bus system, use ez-link stored value cards.
Avoid time wasted counting coins and queuing for single trip tickets with this card. Especially since buses only accept exact fare and don't offer change.
Your card can also be used at some restaurants and retail stores, on top of transportation and various other applications.
Tickets can be purchased at train stations as well as 7/11 convenience stores and have a minimum top up value of SG$10.
Additional information about EZ-Link cards is available on their website.
When public transportation isn’t convenient or your cup of tea, you can grab a cab.
Ez-link cards also cover some taxi services, like SMRT and CityCab as well.
Taxis can be expensive, depending on surcharge and additional fees that may increase your fare. So if you are looking to save money, taxis are not recommended.
A safe and easy method of getting a taxi is locating a taxi stand. Look for them around hotels and malls.
Alternatively you can try to hail a cab, but keep in mind they will drive past if they aren't allowed to stop.
You can also call or use an application to bring a taxi to your location. Here are some of Singapore’s taxi services to get you started:
- CityCab: +65 6552 1111
- Comfort Taxi: +65 6552 1111
- SMRT: +65 6555 8888
- Grab: https://www.grab.com/sg/taxi/
- UBER: http://www.driveuber.sg/
Get Your Own Wheels
Unfortunately for those who dream of driving their own car, Singapore is not the place for you.
It is tedious and expensive, as a result of heavy regulations.
Even with the resources available like OneMotoring available for current and future drivers, it is still a complicated and convoluted process.
Before you can even think of purchasing a car or motorcycle, you need a Certificate of Entitlement (COE). COEs are only open for bidding twice a month.
Depending on the demand and bids, COEs can end up costing as much as the car itself.
Following that you have to deal with registering a vehicle number, obtaining car insurance, paying road tax, installing in-vehicle units to use tollways, finding parking space and much more.
Investing in a car is exceptionally costly, needless to say, and not recommended for everyone.
Provided you are willing to brave the elements (hot, very hot, hot and humid), you can opt for a more a non-motorized form of transportation.
The sight of bicycles, scooters and hoverboards, even among adults, are not uncommon.
It is a lot cheaper than owning a motor vehicle.
What also makes them so popular is you can bring them with you on public transportation if you comply with the rules.
Carrying around your bike gives you more flexibility and you can easily take it out again to break the monotony of walking.
Just be careful where you ride and abide by the rules. Otherwise you will learn the hard way how Singapore earned its nickname as the country of fines.
Law and Order: Singapore
Singapore takes the law and its enforcement very seriously.
Singapore’s streets are very clean and remain so for a reason. The act of littering can incur a fine of up to SG$10,000 along with additional punishment.
Other seemingly innocuous acts that are punishable by law in Singapore include smoking in public, chewing gum, spitting in public, not flushing a public toilet, and jaywalking.
To put the image above into perspective, any eating or drinking, even a candy, will cost around USD$350. Smoking in non-smoking areas has a fine of USD$700 and bringing flammable goods is a whopping approximate $3,520.
Even higher fines are given to repeat offenders.
So, heed the signs you see around Singapore to avoid breaking the law.
It is incredibly easy to unknowingly break laws in Singapore.
There are some obscure and strange laws that may not be immediately obvious to tourists or newer residents.
Connect to someone else’s WiFi network and you are a hacker, as defined by Singapore’s “Computer Misuse and Cybersecurity Act”. If caught, it will result in SG$10,000 fine, 3 years in jail or both.
Even in the confines of your own residence, if you are nude and visible to the public, you will be guilty of being a public nuisance and police can lawfully enter your home.
Homosexual acts are a crime under “Outrages on Decency” legislation. The law is rarely enforced, but the risk remains.
Keep informed and updated about the law here. It is dry reading, but one that may save you a lot of headache and problems.
Singapore Does Not Mean 'Singapoor'
Singapore is not a cheap country, having been named the most expensive city for three years in a row.
Thanks to the high quality of life enjoyed by Singaporeans, cost of living can be expensive.
The cost of rent alone causes a large dent on your expenses, due to land being a premium on a small island.
However, you can still save money and live affordably by spending smart.
Instead of thinking about things you can't change like fuel prices, change how you act as a consumer.
Make small changes to lifestyle to adapt your spending habits to suit Singapore.
There’s nothing wrong with indulging in the finer things in life, but they aren’t ideal if you’re looking to save money.
Avoid extra spending and costs from things like heavily taxed goods.
This includes, but is not limited to: cars, cigarettes, and alcohol. The high tax inflates the price of the item to be higher than normal.
For example a packet of cigarettes goes for SG$13 in Singapore, yet only for SG$5.4 in the neighbouring country Malaysia.
Many luxuries, such as iPhones have additional costs such as SG$1,000 warranty.
Stick to local diet staples such as rice to cut your grocery bill. Niche imports from Europe such as cheese are expensive.
Save money spent on buying SG$2 bottled water and drink Singapore’s safe tap water instead.
The money you save will add up in the long run.
For more comprehensive information and comparison on living costs, check out Expatistan to compare the cost of living between different places.
You are Ready for Your Life in Singapore
Now that you have learned more on Singapore, you are ready to start your life there.
The country has a lot to offer you, whether you remain for a brief duration, or end up staying long-term.
Singapore has a thriving economy thanks to its strategic ports and anti-corruption agenda pushed by the government.
If living in Singapore is not for you, perhaps consider travel?
Experience Singapore from a tourist’s perspective with Dennis’ article.