Living in Singapore : Is it the best place for expats?

living in Singapore

Singapore is renowned for its status as an economic powerhouse, a multi-cultural melting pot and a clean, safe environment. Given these traits, it’s no wonder that living in Singapore is a favourite amongst expats.

Living in Singapore: Is it the best place for expats?

Singapore is renowned for its status as an economic powerhouse, a multi-cultural melting pot and a clean, safe environment. Given these traits, it’s no wonder that the city-state has become one of the world’s top locations for expat life. The annual HSBC Expat Explorer survey has ranked Singapore as the number one expat destination for the second year in a row. There are few reasons why living in Singapore is so popular amongst expats, especially attracting people from Commonwealth countries. The shared history that comes from Singapore’s past as a British colony has led to a certain level of common culture and language that helps Aussies to feel at home there.

Why is living in Singapore such a favourite amongst expats?

Uprooting your life and relocating to a foreign country is often a daunting prospect, but living in Singapore is an enticing mix of the familiar and the exotic. Expats often find that they get the benefits of experiencing a new and fascinating way of life, while at the same time feeling that their circumstances are manageable and safe. Some of the benefits of living in Singapore as reported by expats include:

Economic stability: Decades of successful development have resulted in a stable economy and high income per capita. The stable, developed economy creates a high demand for professional jobs and it means that expats can feel confident earning and investing money in Singapore. The UAE fares similarly well for economic and future job prospects, as does Hong Kong.

High salary for expats: As Singapore’s trade-based economy creates a high level of professional and corporate jobs, most expats can expect a generous salary. On average, professional expats earn an income of USD139, 000. This is especially appealing when you take into account that the cost of living in Singapore can vary hugely according to your chosen lifestyle. While there is no shortage of ritzy penthouses and expensive restaurants, it’s also possible to live very cheaply. Incomes for locals vary hugely, so there’s always a cheap option when it comes to food, transport and day-to-day products. Some expats enjoy the chance to live a fancier lifestyle during their stay, while others may wish to increase their savings. More than half of survey participants said that living in Singapore helped them save faster for retirement.

Great benefits package: In addition to salary, expat employees generally receive a highly generous expat benefits package, which they may be unlikely to get in their home country. Countries like China and the UAE offer some perks, but Singapore is second only to Hong Kong when it comes to high value packages.

Some common benefits to look for include health and dental insurance, travel cost reimbursement, parking reimbursement, mobile phone reimbursement, free or reduced-rate gym membership, accommodation allowance, tuition allowance (for families with children), profit sharing options, as well as sick days and holiday time. Rent and tuition can be very expensive in Singapore, especially for expats, so a contract which covers these costs will drastically reduce your financial outlay. Some companies also offer employee assistance programs to help you get settled into the country and to help if you have any communication issues with the locals.  Read more about expat benefits in these articles on  overseas relocation packages and expat salary packages.

Aussie expats living in Singapore

Singapore residents can now save money on their international money transfers

Political Stability: Singapore has a very stable political system, based on the British Westminster system. Unlike some expat destinations, there’s no need to worry about sudden political strife or upheaval. As you long as you obey the law (especially drug laws), you’re unlikely to face problems with volatile legal or political situations. Singapore’s also known for its low corruption levels and things are generally done ‘by the book.’ This makes life easy when compared to many neighbouring countries in the region. Hong Kong’s future position in China is uncertain, for example, and the UAE’s proximity to conflict in the Middle East may be a concern for some.

Safety: Singapore is well-known for its safe streets. Women and families need have no fear being out in public, even at night.

Cleanliness: Singapore takes clean streets to a whole new level, an impressive feat for such a dense and built-up city. From restrictions on publicly chewing gum to strict fines for littering, you’ll never feel like you’re walking through a rubbish dump.

Large expat community: Opportunities to socialise are endless, with a huge expat population. One of the major challenges of living abroad can be the feeling of loneliness and isolation that results from a lack of ability communicate across languages or even cultures. 38% of residents are non-local, meaning that you will always be able to find someone to talk to, no matter your nationality, personal background or interests.

English speaking: Singapore boasts four official languages: Malay, Tamil, Chinese and English. The English level of locals depends on their personal background; taxi drivers may speak in a pidgin style, while your colleagues might be completely fluent. While many locals don’t speak anything recognisable as the Queen’s English, you will certainly be able to communicate.

Drawbacks of Living in Singapore

No country is perfect, and living in Singapore isn’t necessarily for everyone. With a high salary and excellent benefits comes long work hours and workplace pressure. You may find that you are being asked to work harder than you are used to, and being constantly pushed for greater achievements or profits, even when it seems unreasonable. Family may need to take a backseat to work demands. According to the survey results, the UK and even the UAE offer a better work-life balance than Singapore, while still improving career prospects. A country like the UK also offers a choice of different cities, while Singapore only has one option.
living in Singapore

Some expats may find Singapore to be suffocating and claustrophobic place in terms of both restrictive laws and physical environment. The city state’s renowned safety, stability and cleanliness come at the price of media censorship and strict rules about what is acceptable on the street. Littering will result in a $1000 fine and vandalism gets you caned. Homosexual acts and walking around your house naked are also illegal. While these rules may not affect you directly, some people do chafe against this ‘nanny state’ lifestyle. While locations like Singapore and the UAE can be attractive in their ‘exoticness,’ prepare to be confronted with a culture shock. A different culture or state religion can be more challenging than many expect.

Singapore is a highly urban, built-up city on a tiny amount of land. Population density is high and the place may start to look and feel to you like a real ‘concrete jungle.’ Lack of space means that rent is exceptionally high, and most people live in high-rise buildings. The nature of Singapore as a city-state means that there’s no green countryside to retreat to if you need a break, and some people, particularly UK and Aussie natives, miss the natural beauty of their home countries.

Singapore: A great career move and a fun personal life

Nestled in the centre of South-East Asia, Singapore has developed a thriving trade economy and a vibrant cultural melting pot. Australians and expats worldwide love the mix of financial profit, increased career prospects and exciting city life. Your work, family and social life can thrive here – the only question is whether you’ll have enough time to manage it all!


Have you lived in Singapore? How would you compare it to other destinations? What were the best and worst things about living in Singapore?

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These articles have been written by an Australian Expat Investor Contributor. Please see their details in the relevant post. The views expressed in the article are his or her own and may not reflect the views of The Australian Expat Investor. If you are interested in contributing an article or story to The Australian Expat Investor please visit our contact page.

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