Singapore, Singapore Report of what it's like to live there - 06/12/08

Personal Experiences from Singapore, Singapore

Singapore, Singapore 06/12/08

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Yes.

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2. How long have you lived here?

2 years.

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3. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Corporate.

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4. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

From the U.S., Singapore Airlines is without a doubt the best option. I've taken many different carriers from the U.S. to destinations in Asia and Singapore Air has been the best experience by far. Travel time from either coast is about 19 hours.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Most expats live in condominiums, and Singapore is so small that commute times are never over an hour. Housing rental costs are not regulated though, and rents are going up extremely fast.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

It's the same scenario as the restaurants-you can find anything, ranging from very cheap (local groceries) to very expensive (imported/Western). Singapore has some of the best fruit available on the planet, and it's dirt cheap. Try durian at least once.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Advil (it's not available here).

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

You can find just about anything from any country to eat here. Alcohol is very expensive, as is western food. Local food is cheap and good.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Singpost-go to the post office. Fast and easy.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

I know a lot of expats and Singaporeans alike have live-in help from Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam (I don't-I prefer to do my wash my own stinky gym clothes). Stories of maid abuse surface frequently here, as do stories of maids stealing from their employers. Costs vary depending on the agency used and the country of origin of the maid.

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3. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

No proplems at all.

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4. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Yes. Buddhism, Muslim, Hindu, and Christianity are the major religious denominations here.

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5. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Cable and English TV are available for a reasonable cost. Foreign newspapers and magazines are more expensive and arrive later than in surrounding countries.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Almost none, though learning some Mandarin will provide you with a much better insight into the Chinese culture in general.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

I'm not an expert, but on the whole Singapore seems to offer options for those with disabilities.

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Transportation:

1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?

Left.

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2. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Taxis have gone up steeply recently. Buses and the mrt are still very affordable, easy to use and get you pretty much anywhere on the island you need to go.

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3. 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?

Don't bring a car-they're very expensive to have here and public transportation is fine. Sadly, Singapore would be a great place to use a bicycle to get around but the urban planning included absolutely no bike lanes. A half hour amidst the traffic here will tell you why a bike lane is a necessity.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, and it's fairly cheap. I pay US$50 per month for high speed wireless at home.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Singtel and starhub are the major carriers. I have singtel and am overall pretty pleased with them.

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3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?

Cell phone or calling card.

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Pets:

1. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

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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?

Yes, though in general you would need to work for a foreign company that has a station here. I don't know any expats who work for local businesses.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Fairly casual due to the heat. No one would survive in a 3 piece wool suit here.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Moderate to unhealthy. Smoke from fires in Indonesia can make the air unbearable at times.

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2. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

None at all-Singapore is a very safe place in general.

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3. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Dengue fever and malaria are issues, but the government is very active in preventing them. Colds and flus are a real problem due to the constant switch from frigidly air conditioned buildings to sweltering heat outside. Health care is completely adequate, though doctors here prescribe antibiotics for anything and everything (I had one prescribe to me for an allergy attack once).

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Hot and humid. Always.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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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?

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Very large, and from all over the world.

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2. Morale among expats:

Low to content, depending on what expectations were before moving here.

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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?

If eating, shopping, watching movies and hanging out in the parks or places like sentosa island are your thing, then the entertainment/social scene is plentiful. If you're more into the indie creative scene, and/or you've lived in a major city such as New York, LA, London, Paris, Hong Kong, Tokyo, etc. prior to moving to Singapore, you're likely to feel very frustrated here.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Singapore is a good city for families due to the safety and relatively high living standards. For singles and couples, I think finding interesting activities, especially if you're into the creative arts or indie film/music/art, can be a huge challenge. Singapore is not a creative place, period. The cultural offerings here are limited to what is mainstream.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Sure-there's a decently sized gay community.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Singaporeans are extremely racist towards those of darker skin color. I work for an international company whose Asia/Pacific regional office is located in Singapore, and I've encountered some truly deplorable racism from my Singaporean co-workers.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

As I said previously, it can be a huge challenge to find anything truly creative here. Eating is a popular pastime, as is going to the movies (though only the larger blockbusters make it here-forget indie films) and the parks. But to be honest, I have found the lack of international film, music, art and culture offerings that are outside the mainstream to be one of the worst aspects of living as an expat in Singapore.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Samba chili sauce and ice kachiang.

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9. Can you save money?

Not easily here, unless you're on a generous expat package. Singapore is not a cheap place.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

No. There are far too many surrounding cities in Asia that have much more to offer.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Leather shoes and clothing. It will grow mold in a nanosecond in this humidity.

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3. But don't forget your:

Sense of humor and immense patience.

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4. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Singapore dreaming was a fairly accurate account of life on the island for an average Singaporean family.

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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6. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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7. Do you have any other comments?

Honestly, I find Singapore pretty stifling. Perhaps that's simply because what I am looking for in a city is not what Singapore has to offer. That said, a major plus to living here is it's proximity to the cities and countries that DO have a lot to entertain and enchant!

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