Non-Singaporeans relocating to this dynamic island state do so for all sorts of reasons: for temporary or permanent employment, for business or trading opportunities, for family reasons, or simply for a change of scenery.

Those relocating here for the first time inevitably endure some bumps along the way; no move is complete without drama but the acclimation process is far less difficult for those who’ve their common misconceptions cleared before their arrival. Immigrants to Singapore, for instance, are frequently surprised by:

1. The Reasonable Cost of Basic Necessities

Outsiders assume that everything is expensive in Singapore, but this isn’t the case. Street and public transport, in particular, are cheaper when compared to other major global cities.

2. The Sophistication of the Financial System

It’s difficult for locals to believe, but Singapore’s deserved reputation as a financial and business hub for the Asia-Pacific region hasn’t quite reached the four corners of the globe. North American immigrants, in particular, are frequently shocked to learn of Singapore’s global financial system. That’s down, in part, to the presence of regional financial firms such as trust and corporate services provider Asiaciti Trust, which serves clients throughout the Asia Pacific region.

3. The Not-So-Reasonable Cost of Certain Luxuries

Immigrants accustomed to paying “North American” or “European” prices for automobiles and housing may be in for a rude awakening in Singapore.

Autos, in particular, are far more expensive here than in many other parts of the world, since road space comes at a premium and there’s no native automotive industry to speak of. Housing is expensive, too, but that’s pretty common for a small but global city like Singapore.

4. The Fines for Bringing Durian on the MRT

Many locals aren’t even aware of this arcane restriction, although few well-mannered Singaporeans would think to bring the notoriously stinky fruit into a crowded train car in any case.

The durian-on-the-MRT prohibition is indicative of a basic truth about Singapore that’s likely to surprise immigrants from places like China, the United States, and continental Europe because Singapore is a very orderly place, and locals pride themselves for that. People are polite here and the culture has found a way for tradition and modernism to coexist quite comfortably.

5. The Near-Endless Cultural Diversity

Singapore is the archetypal melting pot: a place where diverse cultures and folkways mix to create something greater than the sum of their disparate parts.

Although the majority of its residents are ethnic Chinese, Singapore is also home to large communities of ethnic Malay, Indian, and European. Its religious groups include Taoism, Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism, among many others.

Simply put, Singapore is a place where you don’t have to look, eat, or pray a certain way to fit in. For immigrants concerned by the city-state’s supposed culture of conformity, this must be a relief to learn.

6. The Difficulty of Securing a Work Visa (To Start)

Recent immigrants to Singapore should assume that they won’t be able to work without first securing a job offer. In other words, don’t expect to arrive in Singapore first and figure out your employment situation later. Moreover, Singapore’s employment regime favours the highly skilled; so, plan ahead.

7. The Ease With Which One May Apply for and Earn Permanent Residency

On the other hand, applying for permanent residency in Singapore is not as difficult as in most other first-world countries. Notably, there’s no waiting period before you can apply; in theory, you can begin the process on your first full day in Singapore.

8. The Stunning Variety of Singapore’s Food Scene

The surprisingly reasonable cost of Singaporean street and shop food is worth reiterating here. So too is its stunning variety. This perhaps shouldn’t be surprising, given Singapore’s status as a cultural melting pot, but it’s nevertheless a strong selling point for immigrants not used to a wide array of cuisine choices.

Ready to Make Your Move?

Do you like what you’ve learnt about moving to Singapore? Making your move isn’t as difficult as you’d think — although you’ll want to begin your job search before planning too far ahead. When you’re ready, your soon-to-be-neighbours will be waiting with open arms.


Melvin is an Entrepreneur, Life Coach, and Chinese Metaphysics Practitioner. He holds an EMBA and he is a passionate and engaging teacher, known for his unique combination of science, research, and spirituality.

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