Singapore has, over the last few years, attracted a steady stream of eager expats to its shores with the promise of high salaries, a ritzy lifestyle and a central location. Situated at the southern tip of the magnificent Malaysian peninsula, this city-state buzzes with a fascinating mix of nationalities and cultures.
Expats moving to Singapore will discover a richly diverse and cosmopolitan city. Apart from a relatively large sprinkling of expats from all over the world, the Lion City is locally populated by those of Chinese, Malay and Indian descent.
Living in Singapore as an expat
Singapore's stable economy has resulted in some of the biggest names in business establishing regional headquarters in the country, which in turn means plenty of jobs for qualified expats. Opportunities in finance, IT, education, pharmaceuticals and logistics, among other industries, await expats in Singapore.
Singapore further appeals to expats' sensibilities with its renowned efficiency, exemplary public transport system, communications infrastructure and healthcare facilities, as well as a local culture that promotes tolerance, harmony and respect.
With good flight connections and an eminently central location, it’s also a great base from which to explore the rest of Southeast Asia, India and Australia. Taking a family trip abroad has never been easier with the number of budget airlines available and gorgeous locations nearby.
Cost of living in Singapore
One unavoidable fact of life in Singapore is its high cost of living. In fact, the 2023 Mercer Cost of Living Survey ranks Singapore 2nd out of 227 global expat destinations. The ritzy lifestyle inevitably comes with a monstrous price tag, but it's also true that the city-state is home to a large percentage of high-earning expats. Many of these have much more disposable income than they might have been used to in their home countries, making the high cost of living more manageable.
That said, expats who do not manage to score an employment package with added benefits such as accommodation and education allowances should expect to pay dearly for these essentials. Using the country's efficient public transport networks and shopping for local produce will assist expats in cutting down their monthly expenses, however.
Families and children in Singapore
The island-state is also, surprisingly to some, an ideal place to raise a family. Expats moving to Singapore with children can take comfort in the knowledge that the Lion City is crime-free, clean and safe, while various local and international schools provide an immaculate standard of education.
Those expats who imagine Singapore to be a cold, hard concrete jungle, will be surprised to know that, even though much of the island is occupied by dense high rises, it contains a startling amount of natural foliage and vistas. It has beautifully luxuriant botanical gardens, lively water parks teeming with happy children, sun-soaked beaches, and a heavily forested 28-hectare zoo. Parents will certainly not struggle to entertain the little ones with the number of fun and educational attractions and annual events on the island.
Climate in Singapore
With its tropical climate, Singapore's weather is warm, wet and humid with little variation throughout the year. Temperatures generally hover around 86°F (30°C) and humidity levels stay between 70 and 90 percent. Although rain is a year-round occurrence, Singapore's monsoon season, which ends each year and ushers in a new one, brings gloomy skies and frequent showers. Expats should be sure to be sun-blocked when outdoors, and having an umbrella handy at all times is also wise.
All of the above, combined with an exhilarating nightlife and plenty of shopping opportunities, create an enviable lifestyle in this glamorous island city – and, indeed, many expats find themselves staying in Singapore far longer than initially anticipated.
Population: 6 million
Capital city: Singapore
Neighbouring countries: Singapore is an island city-state off the southern coast of Malaysia.
Geography: Singapore's terrain is mostly low-lying, with a gently undulating central plateau. The city-state consists of 64 islands, including the main Singapore Island (Pulau Ujong in Malay).
Political system: Unitary constitutional parliamentary republic
Major religions: Buddhism, Christianity, Islam
Main languages: English, Malay, Mandarin and Tamil. Many locals speak Singlish, which is a dialect based on English with some Malay and Mandarin words mixed in. It can take some time to understand.
Money: The Singapore Dollar (SGD) is divided into 100 cents. ATMs are plentiful and foreigners can easily open a bank account in Singapore, sometimes without even being in the country.
Tipping: Most hotels and restaurants include a standard 10 percent service charge. An additional gratuity is always appreciated but not necessary.
Electricity: 230V, 50Hz. Plugs are British-style, with three flat blades.
Internet domain: .sg
International dialling code: +65
Emergency contacts: 999 (police), 995 (ambulance, fire)
Transport and driving: Cars drive on the left. The public transport infrastructure in Singapore is excellent and owning a car is not necessary.
What do expats love about Singapore?
"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." South African expat Scott shares his experience of life in Singapore.
"Singapore has a great work-life balance with excellent, affordable travel opportunities. The lifestyle, the food and the weather – quality of life is extremely high." Read more of Matt's comments about life in Singapore.
"Enjoy your time in the little red dot. It really does have a lot to offer – culture, travel, food just to name a few. It is the perfect blend of East and West!" Read our interview with Jasjit, an Australian expat living in Singapore.
►For more about the ups and downs of life on the Little Red Dot, read Pros and Cons of Moving to Singapore
Are you an expat living in Singapore?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Singapore. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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