When we moved to Singapore from Europe two years ago I didn’t know very much about it. All I knew was that it was crazy hot, expensive and very very far from home. Two years on and I love living here so much I’m starting a blog about it.
So what is it about Singapore that expats love so much?
I’ve confined myself to ten things, and it wasn’t easy…
Hello, Blue Sky!
So, I was right. It is crazy hot. The lowest recorded temperature was 19.4°C in 1934. The average temperature is 26-27°C all year round. And with humidity levels ranging between 64% and 96% on an average day, it feels much hotter.
The upside, though! What an upside! Pretty much every day starts with a beautiful sunrise melting into blue skies. Where else do you welcome the rain because it cools you down? And the sun generally comes out quick enough to dry you off anyway.
How to beat the climate in Singapore
- Carry an umbrella, just in case
- When it gets too hot, head for aircon. Shopping malls and the MRT are beautifully cool. If you need a proper break from the heat, head for the cinema. You’ll soon be so cold you’ll be grateful to get out in the sun again
- Check out hair products to control frizz and setting spray for cosmetics
- Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. It’s really easy to get dehydrated in this humidity and few expats drink enough water
- Get used to sweating more than usual, and think what it’s doing for your pores!
Small, but perfectly formed
Singapore is 716 km². You can drive from the southernmost point to the Malaysian Causeway in about 45 minutes.
This means it’s easy to find your way around, you’re unlikely to have a long commute and you soon feel like a local.
The great thing about living in a small city is that everything works
Public transport is great. Healthcare is efficient. Public services are good. All this efficiency makes living here with a family really easy.
Planes, trains, and taxis
Ok, so it’s crazy expensive to own a car and complicated to boot. First, you’ll need a COE (Certificate Of Entitlement). The cost varies according to demand and the type of car, but the average cost in April 2017 was $52,000. You’ll find the price of cars, insurance and taxes are also higher than you’d expect to pay in other countries.
Exorbitant though this sounds, roads already account for 12% of Singapore land mass, rivalling 14% for housing. If more people owned cars, more roads would be needed and there simply isn’t space. Do your homework, and if you can live without a car, do so.
The good news is public transport is fantastic.
In comparison to underground systems in most other countries, the MRT (or Mass Rapid Transport) is a breath of fresh air.
It is pretty much always on time, air-conditioned and has wifi. It’s also really inexpensive.
The buses are great too. Download the MyTransportSingapore App for info on bus routes, arrival times, and traffic updates. If all else fails, hail a cab or find a taxi stand. Taxies are cheap, and the taxi-driving Uncles are a fountain of knowledge!
Singapore’s award willing airport, Changi, is also in a league of its own. Over 100 airlines fly out of Changi to approximately 380 cities worldwide. The new Terminal 4 is due to open in 2017, and the new retail and lifestyle complex, Jewel, is due to open in 2019.
Speaking of airports…
When you feel like getting away there are plenty of great options. Weekend trips to Bintan, Rawa Island, Langkawi and Telunas to name a few. You can drive to Malaysia over the causeway. Thailand and Bali are a 2-hour flight away. Special holidays to the Maldives, Sri Lanka, Australia aren’t much further. If you’re on a budget, check out Jetstar and AirAsia. There are plenty of cheap flights around.
The possibilities for travel are endless. Take this opportunity to explore.
Time for dinner
Restaurants can be expensive, to be sure, but there are some very nice ones. Check out the options at Dempsey such as Jim Thomson’s, PS Cafe, or Chop Suey. There are cheaper options around. Sami’s (also in Dempsey) is a Singaporean institution and serves a mean curry. Check out the Hawker Centres for inexpensive local food the way Singaporeans eat it. Or if you need to cool down a bit, many of the shopping malls have great food courts with good inexpensive food. Our favourite is at MBS. Alcohol is expensive here, expect to pay around $15 for a glass of wine, and $10 for a beer.
A great place for families
The public school system in Singapore is one of the world’s best. Singaporeans get preference, though, so you might find it difficult to register your child if you’re on an EP.
There are 60+ international schools to choose from. The biggest names are Singapore American School, Stamford American International School, Tanglin Trust School, Dulwich Grammar, and UWCSEA.
Choosing a school can seem daunting. It’s easy to be dazzled by the amazing facilities. Try to keep in mind what is important for your family and ask lots of questions.
There’s also plenty for kids to do. Sentosa has many fantastic family attractions, the Singapore Zoo is one of the world’s best and there are many indoor and outdoor parks including the amazing Gardens By The Bay and Singapore Botanic Gardens.
For more information about family-friendly activities, check out 10 Top Things To Do With Kids In Singapore.
As safe as shophouses
One of the main things I loved when I first moved to Singapore was how safe it is. You’ll see people leaving their laptops and phones to save their tables in cafes while they go to the counter. You’ll hear stories of people losing their wallet and getting it back days later, cash and cards intact. You’ll often see small children riding buses and MRTs in a way you wouldn’t at home. Don’t forget, there are severe penalties for crimes, and you mustn’t get complacent. But it’s great to live in a place where you feel safe walking home at night.
Small Country, Big Ambition
According to Forbes Magazine, Singapore is the 3rd richest country in the world, which is astounding when you consider how small it is. You can see the ambition of this small nation in its construction projects and its growing economy. Local people, from school children to elderly Uncles and Aunties, have a strong work ethic. It’s exciting to live in a country that’s forever renewing itself and looking for ways to improve.
Singapore: the global village
One of the things I love most about Singapore is the mix of cultures that live here side by side. You can visit China Town, and then ride the MRT to Little India or the Arab Quarter and be home by lunchtime. For an expat or a traveller, it’s amazing to be able to experience so many cultures in such a small space. It also means that people are accepting of other nationalities. You don’t feel foreign for long.
If your kids go to an International School the mix of cultures and languages is truly inspiring.
One of the real advantages of being a Third Culture Kid is experiencing this diversity first hand, and making friends from all over the world.
Easy family life
Singapore has to be one of the easiest places to live as an expat. Yes, it’s expensive and working hours are long, but the standard of living is high. English is one of the four official languages. Taxis are cheap, public transport works. If you’re missing something from home, chances are you can get it somewhere (as long as you’re willing to pay for it). Many people also have full-time live-in help who look after the housework, laundry, cooking, childcare. What’s not to like?
So if you’re moving to Singapore, get excited! you’re going to love it!
Relocating and looking for somewhere to live? Check out How to Choose a Great Family Home in Singapore.
What are your favourite things about living in Singapore? We’d love to hear from you!