Singapore is one of the most popular expatriate destinations in the world. With a tropical climate, booming economy, excellent career opportunities and modern, technologically advanced outlook, this tiny city-state is showing no signs of losing its status any time soon.
If you’re moving to Singapore, here are eight things we think you should know before you relocate to this Southeast Asian urban paradise.
Singapore is a notoriously expensive place to live, compared to other global cities. It ranks third in the world in the Mercer Cost of Living Index 2019, after Hong Kong and Tokyo, a step up from fourth place in 2018. By comparison, London comes in 23rd place. However, it’s worth bearing in mind what you get in return: a high quality of life, some of the best healthcare services in the world, a safe, clean environment, efficient public transport, excellent schooling system and fantastic career prospects. Plus, salaries in Singapore are also high and many professional expatriates will find that they actually have a larger disposable income after relocation despite spending more on accommodation and groceries.
There are quite a few different visas and work permits available for professionals relocating to Singapore for work, and for families/partners who are moving with them. It’s imperative to have the right permits for everyone who is moving to Singapore.
There is a really detailed guide to work passes and permits on the Ministry of Manpower website. This has all of the different options, including an Employment Pass, EntrePass for eligible entrepreneurs and the Personalised Employment Pass for high-earning overseas foreign professionals. Your employer should apply for or advise on the correct permits, but you may need to check on your dependants and/or spouse.
If you are relocating to Singapore from London, one thing that will really hit you is the change in weather. Singapore is located close to the Equator, and as such has a tropical rainforest climate. The average temperature all year round is above 30°C with an average relative humidity of over 80%. There is also a fair amount of rainfall all year around, though monsoon season falls between November and January. There is little to distinguish between seasons, so expect it to be hot every day and plan accordingly. Air conditioning is abundant in all public and private buildings, and there are air-conditioned walkways too.
The public transport system in Singapore is second to none. Trains are known for their efficiency and reliability, being rarely late. It’s easy to get around the city quickly and easily, making it less common to use a car for day-to-day commutes. As the government is committed to environmentally focused initiatives, there are various charges for owning and running a car. You will need a Certificate of Entitlement (COE), which enables you to legally register and own a vehicle for 10 years. These COEs must be bid on and then a premium paid related to the bid, which can be upwards of $37, 000 (Singapore Dollar). There is a cap on the number of cars allowed on the roads, so it is wise to obtain a COE before buying a car.
Singapore is aiming to become a cashless society. In 2017, a report showed that Singapore had fallen behind other Asian capitals in terms of e-payment adoption. At the time the Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said: “We have a natural advantage. We are compact and highly connected. Our people are digital-literate and our schools are teaching students basic computing and robotics. But, while we have the right ingredients, we lag behind other cities in other areas.” Since then, real headway has been made and many businesses in the city have gone completely cashless. The government is hoping to have a cashless society by 2025.
If you are moving to Singapore with children, then it’s reassuring to know that it is one of the best places for them to grow up in the world. Children are welcomed everywhere, including museums, shopping centres and restaurants. There are numerous parks, water parks, green spaces and sporting facilities to keep them entertained. Add to that the exceptionally high standard of education and healthcare, and it’s easy to see why expatriates find this a very family-friendly location.
Singapore is an island city-state, but it’s not limited to just one island. There are 63 islands in total that fall under Singapore’s territory. The main island is called Pulau Ujong, but is most commonly referred to as Singapore Island. It forms the majority of the country by area, as well as home to the country’s population. It’s only around 274 square miles, but has a population of just under 5.5 million people. The size of the island is growing; the government is undergoing a land reclamation project to increase the area of the island to meet the demands of its ever-growing population. Since its independence, the island has increased its total size by 23%.
Expatriates working in Singapore will find that business runs smoothly. It has one of the most stable economies in the world, which lends a confidence to business transactions. It’s no wonder that many international corporations have operations in Singapore, including high-profile financial and banking institutions.
There is also a beneficial tax exemption scheme for new company start-ups, which is helping to drive up its business ranking, as well as attract more foreign talent to the island city-state. Company registration and incorporation processes are streamlined and efficient, as are compliance services and registration, further encouraging new business.