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Interview with Scott – a South African expat living in Singapore

Updated 8 Jun 2020

Originally from South Africa, Scott moved to Singapore in early 2015 after previous expat experience in the UK and Australia. Scott loves the great quality of life in Singapore, how diverse it is and how clean the environment is. In our interview, he talks to us about transport, excellent healthcare and housing options in Singapore and gives some useful advice for new arrivals.

Read more about expat life in our Expat Arrivals Singapore guide.

About ScottScott

Q: Where are you originally from?
A: I am originally from Somerset West, South Africa.

Q: Where are you currently living?
A: I currently live in Singapore.

Q: When did you move here?
A: In early 2015.

Q: Is this your first expat experience?
A: No, I have previously lived in the UK and Australia.

Q: Did you move here alone or with a spouse/family?
A: Alone

Q: Why did you move; what do you do?
A: Primarily, I moved for a job offer. However, having travelled to Asia previously, I was quite keen to explore and see more of this side of the world.

Living in Singapore

Q: What do you enjoy most about Singapore? How would you rate the quality of life compared to South Africa?
A: The quality of life is excellent. Singapore is remarkably well-run and clean. I enjoy the diversity and respect people have for each other, which creates a great living environment.

Q: Any negative experiences? What do you miss most about home?
A: Not too many negative experiences, as safety is barely an issue. There is a wealth gap, like in most countries, although nothing like the scale of South Africa.

Q: What are the biggest adjustments you had to make when settling into expat life here? Did you experience any particular elements of culture shock?
A: It was super easy to adjust. There is a thriving expat community, and I was able to integrate very quickly through sports clubs and work. It’s a very social environment and everyone likes to meet for beers, dinner, lunch, etc.

Q: What’s the cost of living compared to South Africa? Is there anything particularly expensive or particularly cheap in Singapore?
A: Singapore on paper is very expensive. However, due to expat salaries and the low tax, I find it quite affordable (do note I don't have kids, which makes a massive difference to budgeting as education can be exorbitant). 

Q: How would you rate the public transport in Singapore? What is your most memorable experience of using your city’s transport system?
A: Fantastic. I use buses and the MRT (the underground) and both are spotless and always on time. It’s right up there with the best I have used, and it’s affordable. To add, taxis are relatively cheap compared to other global cities, so transport, in general, is fantastic.

Q: How would you rate the healthcare in Singapore? Have you had any particularly good/bad experiences with regard to doctors and hospitals? Are there any hospitals you would recommend?
A: Singapore is known for its exceptional healthcare. The only caveat is the expense, so do ensure you are on a solid medical plan. 

Q: What are the biggest safety issues facing expats living in Singapore? Are there any areas expats should avoid?
A: There are no major safety issues in Singapore. Just always be vigilant and you should have limited issues.

Q: How do you rate the standard of housing in Singapore? What different options are available for expats?
A: There are many options, depending on your budget. Most would stay in a condo which is first class and comes with a pool, gym and security. There are also shophouse options if your budget can stretch, or you can look at a local HDB (Housing and Development Board) option if you are looking to save a bit.

Q: Any areas or suburbs you’d recommend for expats to live in?
A: Loads. The East Coast is a great option for families. More central areas such as Orchard and Newton offer great options. Also, a good area is in the CBD, such as Tanjong Pagar or Outram. 

Meeting people and making friends

Q: How tolerant are the locals of foreigners? Is there obvious discrimination against any particular groups? Have you ever experienced discrimination in Singapore?
A: I personally haven’t experienced discrimination, but yes, there can be. Expats tend to come in and take the best jobs and salaries, so there will always be a little resentment. But, saying that, it is minimal and from what I have seen most get along pretty well. 

Q: Was meeting people and making friends easy? How did you go about meeting new people?
A: Yes, through work and sports clubs it was very easy. I'd recommend expats thinking of a move to Singapore do the same, or join other organisations where they could meet like-minded people.

Q: Have you made friends with locals, or do you mix mainly with other expats? What advice would you give to new expats looking to make friends with the locals? 
A: A combination. I have a nice mix of friends from all over – some locals and expats from various countries. 

Working in Singapore

Q: Was getting a work permit or visa a relatively easy process? Did you tackle the visa process yourself, or did you enlist the services of an immigration consultant?
A: My company sorted everything before my move. 

Q: What is the economic climate in Singapore like? Do you have any tips for expats looking to find a job? Which resources did you find most useful?
A: Singapore’s economic climate is relatively strong. The current situation with Covid-19 will perhaps change that. However, inflation and unemployment have been low since I came across. Some industries are losing appetite for expats, so be careful of that.

Q: How does the work culture differ from home in South Africa? Do you have any tips for expats doing business in Singapore? Did you have any particularly difficult experiences adapting to the local business culture?
A: Well, being a regional hub means you are generally working with various countries close to Singapore, so always be aware of culture and respect. As long as you do that and use your common sense, you should be fine.

Family and children

Q: How has your spouse or partner adjusted to Singapore? Do you think there are any specific challenges for a trailing spouse?
A: I do not have a spouse, but I don’t foresee massive issues relocating.

Q: What are your favourite family attractions and activities in Singapore?
A: The East Coast is great for cycling and running. I would recommend travelling as much as possible to neighbouring countries instead, as it is generally affordable and most flights are within a few hours.

Final thoughts

Q: Is there any advice you would like to offer new expat arrivals to Singapore?
A: Be open-minded, learn the local cultures, and just get involved. You will be surprised by how quickly you can integrate. Travel as much as possible and try to explore all of Singapore and the islands around, such as Bintan.

►Interviewed June 2020

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