Expat Guide to Living in Singapore
Singapore has been consistently voted as one of the best places to live and work for expats. Known for its safety, cleanliness, quality of life and a rich culture and diversity, there is much for you to explore and uncover in our sunny city-state.
On our little island, a short walk along our streets is akin to walking through a kaleidoscope of different times and cultures. For example, the Thian Hock Keng Temple, which has a distinctive Fujian architectural style, is just a short walk away from the Dravidian style Sri Mariamman Temple. Within another 15 minutes’ walk, immerse yourself in the classical architectural style, as our former Supreme Court (now the National Art Gallery of Singapore) brings Singapore’s history and heritage to life.
Like our architectural landscape, the Singaporean identity is a unique blend of Chinese, Malay, Indian and Eurasian influences. Reflected in our daily activities and conversations, our culture is definitely something you can never miss. To help you navigate the city life and culture, we have put together some essential information for you.
First things first — nailing the look
When asked about the weather, Singaporeans will launch into a tirade on how it is always searing hot on our island. With a tropical climate all year round, the average temperature in Singapore falls between 25 and 31ºC, with humidity levels hitting 70–80%. For this reason, we encourage you to dress comfortably if you are staying outdoors for a long time.
Given that we are a small island, almost every area is accessible by the public train system, the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT). However, do avoid the transit hubs (especially Jurong East, Woodlands and Raffles Place) during the rush hours of 6:30am to 9:00am and 5:00pm to 7:30pm when possible. You can also consider taking the bus if you are heading to places which are not near an MRT station. For reference, Google Maps is reasonably updated with our MRT and bus routes. You can also download the MyTransport.SG app to get real-time bus arrival timings and transport service updates.
Food, food and more food
If there is one thing for sure, Singaporeans love food and here, you will always find something delicious to fill your stomach. Why not embark on a food trail to uncover local delicacies at every corner of Singapore? Explore one of Singapore’s most famous food streets at Geylang Road. Here you can find all kinds of Asian delights from Claypot Rice to Dim Sum. Personally, my go-to eatery is the Rochor Beancurd House at 745 Geylang Road. If you are looking for a true adventure, you can also try the Durian here, regarded by many people in Southeast Asia as the ‘King of Fruits’. Cheong Chin Nam Road in the west is host to some of the most popular eateries, including Al-Azhar Eating Restaurant, Al-Ameen Eating House and Five Star Hainanese Chicken Rice. A little closer to the central is the famed Serangoon Gardens. In particular, the hawker centre ‘Chomp Chomp’ features some of the best BBQ seafood on the island with dishes such as the Sambal Stingray. If seafood is not your thing, you can also head to RK Eating House or Srisun Express for Indian-Muslim cuisine, where Roti Prata awaits.
Now that you are satisfied with the food, it is time to quench your thirst with some local drinks. Our infamous Singaporean slang, ‘Singlish’ is a mix of English, Chinese, Malay and Tamil among other languages. Therefore, you will not find terms like ‘latte’ or ‘cappuccino’ on most hawker stall signboards. Instead you will find terms like ‘Kopi’ (coffee) and ‘Teh’ (tea) written along with other letters like ‘O’ or ‘C (Si)’.
To help you deconstruct our drinks lingo, here is a helpful infographic. If you have not tried the Milo Dinosaur, I strongly suggest that you do — it will change your life!
Meeting fellow friendly expats
Living in a new country might be intimidating, especially if you do not have prior experience in doing so. For this, you might want to meet other fellow expats who are or have been in a your situation to learn about their relocation experience and to help you adjust to the new environment. A quick way to do so is through international clubs and associations.
Alternatively, you can join networking sites like InterNations, participate in a local meetup or simply search for “Singaporean Expats” on Facebook to join a community. The Singapore Expats Facebook group is the most popular, but if you are looking for more specialised communities, there are functional groups like All About Singapore – Property and special interest groups like All About Singapore – Arts and Culture.
Choosing where to live
When choosing a place to settle down, some key factors to consider would be affordability, accessibility, quietness and the presence of lush greenery in the vicinity. We have mapped out these factors based on the different regions in Singapore to help you with your search.
As a regional financial hub, there is no shortage of established banks in Singapore and our three local banks, DBS, OCBC and UOB all have an “Aa1” level from Moody’s. Opening a bank account only takes a day and you will only need your employment pass and a local address.
To help you get started, here are some multi-currency accounts catered for expats:
- DBS Multi-Currency Autosave — This all-in-one account with 12 foreign currency types enables easy conversion from one currency to another. Additionally, you can remit, withdraw and receive foreign currency funds directly from and into your account. Cheque facilities are also available upon request.
- UOB Global Currency Account — This chequing account allows you to choose from 10 major currencies and earn daily interest. Additionally, you will also gain access to the three-day cheque clearing system if you hold US dollars in this account.
- HSBC Multi Currency Savings Account — This account provides you access to up to 11 different currencies and has tiered interest rates, allowing you to earn higher interest when you save more. The account integrates HSBC’s Online GetRate service which grants you real-time access to exchange rates before making a transfer.
- OCBC Global savings Account — With this account you can save and transact in these 9 major currencies — AUD, CAD, EUR, GBP, CHF, USD, NZD, HKD and JPY.
Other essential information
As a parent, it is important to know and understand which is the best option for your child’s future. To help you with finding the perfect school for your child’s learning, here is an overview of the available options:
- Enrolling in these schools offers one of the best value for money and will be ideal if you intend for your child to stay in Singapore for the long-term. Here your child will experience a comprehensive bilingual programme (English and Chinese/Malay/Tamil) and a Mathematics and Science centric curriculum.
- These schools are the best for highly-mobile expat families as they offer readily convertible qualifications such as the International Baccalaureate and Cambridge International Examinations. Their curriculums are also highly accommodative to students who seek to join part-way through.
National Curriculum Schools
- These schools are aligned to specific countries and will be ideal if you want your child to have a smooth transition back to your home country’s education system. For example, the the Dulwich College offers the UK National Curriculum; Singapore American School offers the American curriculum and Lycée Français offers the French Baccalaureate.
To help you settle down comfortably, Moovaz offers exclusive packages tailored to meet your needs. Our suite of destination services include area orientation and settling-in, home search, school search and intercultural training. Feel free to reach out to our friendly move managers for assistance and we look forward to helping you start a memorable journey here in Singapore!