relocating to singapore


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.

For those of us who dream of travelling the world or settling down and starting a new life in a far-off country, Singapore is an increasingly sought after option. Nestled in the heart of Southeast Asia with over 7,000 multinational companies operating here, global citizens will certainly fit right in.  

Singapore’s workforce is considered to be one of the best in the world when it comes to their attitude to work, productivity and technical ability. Apart from their diligence and capability; the Singapore workforce is constantly striving towards excellence and skills upgrading. Langauge is never a problem as most Singaporeans converse in proficient English.

For those wishing to begin a new life chapter and take the plunge, there are specific industries that the government is focusing its efforts on when it comes to recruiting internationally. These industries are chemicals, electronics, IT, engineering, and biomedical sciences. Although Singapore’s unemployment rates are topping the highest levels in the last 5 years; it is still lower than that of other developed countries.

Expatriates who choose to live and work in Singapore find that they are able to adapt quickly to the lifestyle, both in and out of work.

When choosing to move to a new country, there are many things to consider and one of the key consideration is accommodation. As a foreigner, you may face some difficulty finding the perfect apartment for you and your family, but fret not; here is a virtual checklist that might aid you in your planning.

Look at exactly how much you are prepared to set aside for your housing because it can be a different story if your company is paying for it. A good starting range would be from SGD$3,000 – SGD$6,000. By setting a limit in this way, it will help you narrow down your choices. Prices vary from district to district and an SGD$5,000 a month budget for rental can get you an apartment of about 1,000 sq ft to 1,300 sq ft. If you have an SGD$15,000 a month budget, a luxurious apartment with facilities such as swimming pool and gym could be yours.


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 HDB Flats. Image Credit: Mothership.SG
HDB Flats. Image Credit: Mothership.SG

The Housing and Development Board (HDB) was set up to build homes for the masses, and approximately 85% of the population live in HDB flats. The rest live in private homes. Renting an HDB flat in Singapore is much cheaper, but they do not offer amenities such as swimming pools or tennis courts. The going rate for such property is somewhere between SGD$2,500 and SGD$3,500

Landed Houses
Houses in Singapore command a lower rental price than a condo in the same district and the price is more dependant upon the condition rather than the location. If you prefer a bigger space and are looking to have a garden, a landed house may be preferable but this might also mean that you probably will need a car to get about. The expected rent is around the SGD$8,000 mark for a 2,500sqft 15-yr-old terrace house outside the city.

Take into consideration where you and your spouse will work; and if you have children, where they will go to school. Then, try to aim for a location somewhere in the middle so that none of you has to travel far and go through an inconvenient commuting experience. This also entails thinking about convenient nearby amenities such as public transport and supermarkets. 

If you are living in Singapore for less than 12 months, then you don’t need to worry about converting your foreign driving license to a Singapore one as you may drive with a valid International Driving Permit issued by a foreign Automobile Association.

For foreigners residing in Singapore for an extended period of time or who is a Singapore Permanent Resident, you are required to convert your driving license. More information can be found at Conversion to Singapore Driving Licence. If you switch your driving license within 12 months from the date you first entered the country, you only need to pass the Basic Theory Test that allows you to familiarise yourself with Singapore’s Highway Code. You can also import your own vehicle, provided it is less than three years old.

 Singapore MRT Train. Image Credit: Singapore Business Review
Singapore MRT Train. Image Credit: Singapore Business Review

Singapore’s public transport system, such as the MRT, is pretty affordable. For SGD$120 a month, you can have unlimited rides on both the bus and train! This pales in comparison to buying a car in Singapore which costs at least SGD$80000+ for an average sedan car.

Eating out might be considerably cheaper than preparing a meal at home. It all depends on where you shop and what you are shopping for. There are plenty of supermarkets offering a range of local, European, American and Australian foods. Most foods are imported and you may well be quite surprised that the cost of fresh meat is higher than frozen meat.

 Image Credit: The Best Singapore
Image Credit: The Best Singapore

Alternatively, you can visit the local wet market to pick up fresh meat and fish and as well as fruits and vegetables for a much lower cost. The prices at the local wet market are substantially lower than those you will find in the supermarkets. It’s all a matter of choice and budget of course. The one price hike that is a cause for concerns for most visitors to Singapore is that of the alcohol. If you are partial to a glass of wine or two, expect a decent bottle to set you back over SGD$30.

It’s is widely agreed that the medical facilities in Singapore are amongst the most excellent and most luxurious in the world. Many of the private hospitals have the air of a luxury hotel and they include incredible facilities. A large number of the medical staff, doctors and specialists have been trained overseas.

 Farrer Park Hospital
Farrer Park Hospital

Prices vary widely between individual hospitals, but you can expect to pay anything between SGD$30 – SGD$45 for an initial consultation alone. Visiting your dentist for a simple “check up” may cost from SGD$30 and above. The cost for a child may be slightly less and may begin at approximately SGD$20. This is purely for consultation though, and any further dental work that may be required will be billed on top of that.

The most straightforward and best advice that I can give to you is to have a comprehensive medical insurance package that covers you and any family members. If a company move has prompted your relocation, part of your compensation package might include such a policy. If not, make sure you are covered privately.

Clothing and What to Wear
For a tropical climate like Singapore, fill your wardrobe with light summer clothing. Go for practical items that are made of natural fabric to maximise comfort; especially when you are out and about to enjoy the sights and sounds of Singapore. You will find that the majority of restaurants and nightclubs do not enforce a strict dress code. This means that casual clothing including polo and t-shirts, jeans, blouses and skirts, right down to your sneakers are accepted at most venues. With that being said, if you wish to dress up when you venture out for the evening, formal wear such as suits and evening dresses are always appreciated in Singapore’s trendiest of night spots.

Need some help finding your way around Singapore?

Let us know how we can assit you and we are more than happy to help you settle-in to living in Singapore!