We heartily thank Valentina, of Valentina&Singapore, for this detailed article about life in Singapore as an expat.
Known as the Switzerland of Asia, in its 720km2 Singapore embraces modernity and tradition, different cultures who live in harmony, futuristic skyscrapers and well preserved old neighbourhoods. Singapore’s population is made up of people who originally came from China (the majority), from Malaysia and from India… besides the expats, of course, who represent a small portion of the residents. In Singapore you can decide to spend the night in the shiny and alive Little India, eat delicious dumplings in Chinatown, or have dinner in an Italian restaurant inside Marina Bay Sands, the iconic boat-shaped skyscraper we all have in mind when we think about this incredible City-State.
Since its foundation in 1965, Singapore has invested a lot in the well-being of its citizens. The result is a clean, safe and efficient city, with an high quality of life. For an expat, living in Singapore is easy: despite being in the heart of Southeast Asia, this is an extremely lively city, full of green areas, where everything is close and accessible to people. If you are looking for movie theatres, restaurants, bars, theatres, gig venues, gyms, parks, language or cooking lessons, in Singapore you will find almost everything you desire. Moreover, to offset its intrinsic multiculturalism, in Singapore everybody speaks English, so you won’t have any problem dealing with local languages.
For sure, you have to get used to the weather. As it is located almost on the Equator, in Singapore there is a hot, humid summer 365 days per year, with an average temperature of 30° and frequent showers. If you like to live in a four-seasons environment and you don’t like humidity, Singapore is not for you!
Is it true that Singapore is the most expensive city in the world? Let me say that it depends on the lifestyle you choose. Cost of life is, on average, higher than in most of European cities, especially for housing, but incomes are much higher. Moreover, there is a great difference between houses, restaurants and spaces meant for expats and the places frequented by locals. Although many expats decide to live in high-end condos equipped with lots of comforts (swimming pools, gyms, tennis courts…) and therefore very expensive, others opt for cheaper solutions, closer to Singaporeans’ way of life. In the same way, many expats have almost fully converted to local cuisine, and they often eat in food courts or in small Chinese, Malay, Indian restaurants instead of always looking for European food. You can save quite a lot on food if you pay attention to the origin of products at the supermarket. Anyway, if you are really craving for a certain product that you were used to in your home country, I am pretty sure you will find it in Singapore!
Owning a car is very expensive, but let me say that public transport is so efficient and cheap that you really won’t have to buy one. Taxis, Uber and Grab are also economical and widely used.
Taxes in Singapore are very low: they are proportional to salary, and they are usually around 10% of the total annual income. For this reason, some services such as healthcare have to be paid for. Nevertheless, insurance cost is pretty cheap, often covered by your company, and the quality of services is among the highest in the world.
Schools are also not free. I don’t have any kids, so I can’t talk out of first-hand experience, but I know there is a big difference between public and private schools costs. Even if public schools quality is very high, many expats prefer to put their kids in international schools, which can be pretty expensive. On the other hand, the quality of the educational system in Singapore is very high, so consider it an investment for your kids’ future!
If you have babies, Singapore is a real heaven: many young couples have small kids, and the city is full of playgrounds and attractions designed for them.
The biggest European expat community is the French one, being French historically largely present in Southeast Asia. This becomes obvious if you go shopping in a supermarket: most European products are actually from France.
Although expat communities are pretty alive, in my experience it is quite simple to get to know Singaporean people, as everybody speaks English. Of course, the first people I met here in Singapore all came from Italy, France or Europe, but over time it becomes possible to be friends with people who were born and raised in Singapore!
Translated from Italian by Valentina