Singapore, Singapore Report of what it's like to live there - 04/25/12
Personal Experiences from Singapore, Singapore
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
U.S. Embassy employee.
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
High rise condo living. Great bus system that makes commuting a breeze.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Everything is available. Groceries cost about twice as much as in the U.S.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Mexican food items. You can get them here but they are expensive.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Everything is available. Restaurants=$50 minimum/couple; fast food=$25/couple; Hawker centers=$15/couple.
5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?
6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Occasionally you see a mosquito or roach. Pest control is a priority here, and there are hardly any bugs. Not many birds, either.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
Via the Embassy. The Singapore Post is fine too.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
Fine and reliable.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?
Yes. Starhub for TV/internet is very popular.
7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
This city is better than most if you're near the Orchard Rd. area. The older buildings often have issues (but that's true everywhere, right?).
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
All are safe and affordable.
2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
There are lots of rules about importing and owning vehicles here. If you work for the Embassy and can bring one in, I suggest you bring it. Before you ship it, just make sure you're following the rules. There are some cars occasionally for sale from other diplomats, but you might have only a handful to choose from. It's not like buying used cars in other places. Local vehicles are too expensive, so your only choice is to buy from a diplomat selling one or to import one. I would not bring anything larger than a minivan, because parking spaces are tight here.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes. It depends on the package you get. Comparable to cost in U.S.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
There are lots to choose from here.
1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?
2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
Sometimes. Salaries tend to be low, though.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Like in U.S., except slightly more conservative.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
No health concerns. Dengue is a slight concern, especially if you travel to nearby countries. Excellent medical care.
3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Perfect weather all the time. Reminds me of Hawaii.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
I have a middle schooler at Singapore American School. Amazing campus! Great program. Get out your wallet, because your child will be going to school with children of millionaires, and the extra school activities are pricey.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
This has been a frustrating issue for us! There are a few private schools here offering special education, but if your child has significant needs, there are only a handful to consider. Here are a few schools to explore: SAS (mild needs; waitlists), Dover Court, Edunamics, St. Gerards, St. Clare School, Integrated Int'l School (IIS), Metta School, Genesis School. We use Edunamics/Dynamics for both school and individual therapy. Special Ed. in local Singaporean schools is generally only for Singaporeans, and there are waitlists for most programs. There are a number of good therapy centers here. Dynamics and OvSpring are quite good. There is also a hippotherapy facility called Riding for the Disabled. Special Olympics has a program for sports activities for older kids. It is possible to hire helpers here to serve as your child's aide for school. It costs about SGD400-700/month to have a live-in domestic.
3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?
Lots of preschools everywhere. The cheapest full-time program I've found is about SGD700/month. Typically they run about SGD1000/mo.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
2. Morale among expats:
3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
Everyone does their own thing here.
4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Families definitely. Singles have a more difficult time.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Lots to see and do. Safe and orderly.
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Lots of stuff. The Marina Bay Sands area is great for strolling around. The zoo is amazing!The botanical gardens are spectacular (and free)!Shopping on Orchard Rd great. Little India is fun. The movie theaters are affordable and nice. The Science Centre is great. Sentosa is fun but expensive. Singapore flyer, cable car, iFly, etc.
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Food at the hawker centers. Regional travel.
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Singapore is Asia without the language barrier.
11. Can you save money?
No, not unless you are working at a private company.
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Winter clothes unless you plan to travel to cooler climates. Chewing gum (it's outlawed).
3. But don't forget your:
Umbrella. Bathing suit.
4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:
6. Do you have any other comments?
This is a very manageable place to live. Most expats try to stay as long as they can, especially if they have kids. If you're more of a hardship post kind of person, this isn't it at all.