Is Singapore good for expats? Everything you need to know

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Nestled at the edge of the Equator in Southeast Asia, Singapore is one of the most exemplary countries in the world.

It boasts land size and richness that would be hard to match anywhere else on Earth, a population of 5.8 million people living together peacefully with their diverse cultural backgrounds, and an open economy that’s managed by a strong government without much poverty or corruption.

In short, Singapore is an excellent place to live.

But is it a good place for expats?

Expats in Singapore

As of 2021, there are 1.45 million expatriates living in Singapore. 1.37 million are foreign workers and about 10,000 are foreign domestic workers.

As for the expats who are employed in Singapore via employment pass and S-pass (a type of visa issued to mid-level skilled workers), they total 242,000 people as of 2017. This number is made up of 191,000 foreigners working in Singapore via employment pass and 51,000 foreigners working here via S-pass.

According to a survey that was conducted by HSBC Bank in 2018, Singapore is the most attractive country for expats. 85% of the expats surveyed said they feel safe and secure living in the country.

Besides government policies such as tax incentives, non-discrimination and strong protection of personal rights, there are many other aspects that attract expats to Singapore.

Best things about living in Singapore as an expat

1) Singapore’s economy

Singapore’s economy has been growing at an impressive 3% per year since 2009.

Singapore was one of the first countries to implement the Emerging Market Trend Index and earned itself the “Emerging Market” classification from the World Economic Forum.

The government even has its own department dedicated to studying Singapore’s own economic growth and development.

2) Singapore’s adequate infrastructure

Singapore’s infrastructure is excellent. The government has invested heavily in the fields of public transportation, water supply, sewage treatment, waste management and more.

If you have been to Singapore, you’ll probably notice that there are no potholes on Singapore’s roads because they’re resurfaced on a regular basis.

The government also has plans to build a new railway system and more MRT lines to help relieve the traffic congestion in Singapore over the next 10 years.

And with the “Smart Nation” project, Singapore is working hard to improve its high-tech industries such as information and communications technology, healthcare services and security systems.

3) Singapore’s healthcare system

Singapore’s healthcare system is one of its strongest attributes. The government runs a tight watch on health care costs and provides citizens with efficient and inexpensive health services.

It provides healthcare to all by subsidizing the cost, which means that no one will have to go without treatment because of the high cost. Even though Singapore has a small land area, the government has managed to provide citizens with easy and convenient access to health care services.

The top healthcare institutions, hospitals and clinics are located in the central area.

Besides providing doctors and clinics that are available during all hours of the day, a patient will never have to undergo a long wait for treatment because the government has set a cap on waiting time. People will get treated right after they check-in.

4) Friendly people

Some might point out that the people of Singapore are too pushy, but most expats love the overall atmosphere here because people are courteous and polite.

Expats living in Singapore also find that the local community is very friendly and welcoming. They will help you get your bearings around Singapore if you don’t know the place well, and they’ll always greet you with a bright smile on their face.

Since Singapore is a multi-racial country, expats will be exposed to different cultures and customs.

There are many religious festivals celebrated by the different ethnic groups in Singapore and expats can take part in these festivals. This can help expats improve their knowledge of other cultures.

Singapore is also a place where people treat each other equally regardless of age, race or gender. So even though you’re not a Singaporean citizen, the locals will still welcome you with open arms and make you feel like one of their own.

5) English is the official language

Singapore’s official languages are English, Mandarin, Chinese and Tamil.

However, the government is working hard to encourage locals to speak in English so tourists won’t have any problems communicating with Singaporeans.

Even the most basic place such as a hawker center will have staff who can speak fluent English and help you with your order. And there are lots of foreigners doing business here, so you’ll never feel uncomfortable because of language issues.

All public services are available in both English and Mandarin, so expats can easily interact with the locals without worrying about language issues.

6) Low crime rate

Singapore is a safe country to live in.

The country’s crime rate is very low. So you’ll never be worried about getting robbed or mugged.

The government also has a “three strike and you’re out” policy, stating that if a criminal is caught for the 3rd time, he or she will be detained or deported.

Besides that, the government encourages citizens to speak up against criminals and they will even give you monetary rewards if you manage to help solve a case.

There’s very little chance of anyone being victimized by criminals here.

There are also high-tech security and surveillance systems installed in every Singaporean home which are so advanced that they can record even the tiniest movement inside the home.

Worst things about living in Singapore as an expat

1) The weather

As mentioned above, Singapore is a small country with limited space and there’s not much space left to grow trees.

Singapore has an average rainfall of about 2,000 um (30 cm).

Suffice it to say that the weather in Singapore can be unpredictable and it can be very hot during the summer. Especially since Singapore is located in the equatorial region and there’s little natural wind to cool things down.

If you’re not accustomed to the hot weather, it can be quite an adjustment and you might also have to worry about getting sick.

But it’s not that bad if you’re used to the climate already, the real villain is the humidity – the heat index is usually 125%!

2) The expensive cost of living in Singapore

Singapore is a city that welcomes expats and tourists with open arms. With this, there are many fancy bars, restaurants and hotels here that cater to foreigners who have money to burn.

It is an expensive country, especially since there are a lot of wealthy expats living in Singapore who are willing to pay extra for quality and service.

Apart from that, Singapore also is a favorite destination for tourists who come in droves every year to visit Singapore’s world-class attractions.

This means that everything – from transportation fares to the price of a meal – has increased over the years. You’ll have to budget wisely if you want to stay a while in Singapore.

3) Time difference in daylight savings

Most people struggle a lot when they first move to Singapore due to the fact that it’s in the equatorial region and the time difference with their home country is extremely high.

Most expats living in Singapore have to wake up at around 4 am because of the time difference. This can be very challenging if you’re not used to waking up early.

However, you’ll get used to it after a while and you’ll eventually wake up any time your body tells you to. This is more of a psychological problem than anything else.

4) The kiasu (pronounced like “key-ah-soo”) mentality

The kiasu culture in Singapore is deeply embedded in the locals’ psyche, expats will have to embrace this concept.

The kiasu mentality is a fatalistic and optimistic philosophy that Singaporeans believe will help them deal with any challenge or problem if they’re prepared for it.

If you’re not familiar with the kiasu mentality, imagine for a second that you live in a tribe that’s very isolated from other tribes. Then picture yourself being stranded somewhere away from your tribe and facing many mental challenges. This is the kiasu mentality in a nutshell and it is deeply ingrained in the local psyche.

Of course, the kiasu mentality has many positive sides to it. But if you don’t adjust to this thinking, you’ll find it difficult to get on with life here in Singapore.

This is because your mindset will be affected by your environment and customs, so knowing the kiasu culture beforehand will help you get on better with people here.

5) Not many expat communities in Singapore

There are some expat communities in Singapore which are mostly made up of businessmen who come from the same country.

Most expats, especially those who work for multinationals, will only spend a few years in Singapore before moving on to their next job. This means that there aren’t many long-term expat communities here – or at least not large enough to be noticeable by a newbie.

This can make life quite challenging for expats who want to make friends in Singapore. However, you’ll find that most of the locals are friendly and will try their best to befriend you.

6) Limited entertainment and nightlife options

If you like to party every night and enjoy the nightlife scene, Singapore might not be the country for you.

The government has placed restrictions on the opening hours of pubs and bars.

Clubs and pubs are only allowed to operate during certain hours, so if you’re an insomniac or like staying out late at night, it’s not really ideal for you.

If you’re used to partying every night and enjoy the nightlife scene, you might find living in Singapore very boring. You’ll have to make do with going out during weekends or on holidays.

However, there are also many entertainment outlets like theme parks and movie theaters which have extended hours to accommodate or attract the foreign population.

Final words

Singapore is a wonderful place to live in but that doesn’t mean it’s the perfect place. It’s just like any other place on earth – there are many pros and cons.

But if you’re looking for a great place to live in and you don’t mind paying some money for quality, then Singapore is definitely something that you should consider moving to.

However, it will take time to adjust here as most expats struggle with the weather, cost of living, language and culture at first. But it gets much easier once you hit your stride, so if you don’t mind the heat and the cost then Singapore is a great place to live in.

Don’t forget to learn more about living in Singapore before coming there. It will help you adjust better and get on with life.

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