10 Culture Shocks Foreigners Will Face When Moving to Singapore
Updated: Jan 8
Moving to a new country can be an exciting and enriching experience, but it can also come with its own set of challenges. Culture shock is a common experience for many foreigners moving to Singapore, and it can range from feeling overwhelmed by the fast-paced city lifestyle to struggling to navigate unfamiliar social customs. I have been living in Singapore for almost eight years now (oh time flies!) but when I moved here or rather was planning to move to Singapore, there was not much information available about life in the Lion City and I had to figure out a lot of things by myself. In fact, that is one of the main reasons why I started doing YouTube videos so I could help existing and potential expats here-- hence, my Instagram, this blog page and eventually my eBook- ‘The ‘S’ Guide’. In this article, we will explore 10 common culture shocks that foreigners may experience when moving to Singapore and offer tips on how to navigate these challenges and thrive in your new home.
1. The fast-paced city lifestyle: Singapore is known for its efficiency and modernity, and this is reflected in the fast-paced city lifestyle. For some foreigners, this can be overwhelming and may take some time to get used to. The constant hustle and bustle of the city, combined with long work hours and a busy social calendar, can be tiring and leave little time for rest and relaxation. This fast-paced lifestyle can also be stressful for those who are used to a more laid-back pace of life.
2. The strict laws and regulations: Singapore has strict laws and regulations in place to maintain order and safety, and this can be a culture shock for those coming from countries with more lenient laws. This can include things like strict rules for littering, chewing gum, and smoking in public places. For some foreigners, the strict adherence to rules and regulations can feel oppressive and may take some time to get used to.
3. The hot and humid weather: The tropical climate in Singapore can be a shock for those coming from cooler climates. The high humidity and frequent rain can take some getting used to, especially for those who are not used to such a hot and humid environment. The hot and humid weather can also lead to discomfort and difficulty sleeping for those who are not used to it. 4. Cultural and linguistic diversity: Singapore is a melting pot of different cultures and languages, and this can be both exciting and confusing for foreigners. It may take some time to adjust to the various cultural norms and expectations in Singapore. For example, Singaporeans have a strong sense of community and may be more reserved in public compared to people from more individualistic cultures. The linguistic diversity can also be a challenge for those who are not familiar with the various languages spoken in Singapore, such as Mandarin, Malay, and Tamil. 5. The high cost of living: Singapore is known for its high cost of living, and this can be a shock for those coming from countries with a lower cost of living. It may take some time to adjust to the higher prices for everyday expenses such as food, housing, and transportation. The high cost of living can also make it difficult for foreigners to afford the same standard of living that they were accustomed to in their home country. This can be especially challenging for those on a fixed income or with a limited budget. 6. The strict social norms: Singapore has strict social norms and expectations, and this can be a culture shock for those coming from more liberal or individualistic cultures. For example, public displays of affection are generally frowned upon, and it is expected that people will dress modestly and behave appropriately in public.
7. Limited personal space: Singapore is a small and densely populated country, and this can lead to a lack of personal space for some foreigners. It is common for people to live in small apartments, and it may take some time to get used to the lack of space compared to what you may be used to in your home country.
8. The emphasis on education and career success: Singapore places a strong emphasis on education and career success, and this can be a culture shock for those coming from countries with a more relaxed attitude towards these issues. The pressure to excel academically and professionally can be intense, and this may take some time to get used to.
9. Lack of Work-life balance: One culture shock that foreigners may experience when moving to Singapore is the work-life balance. Singapore is known for its high-pressure and fast-paced work environment, and it is common for people to work long hours and put a strong emphasis on career success. This can be a culture shock for those coming from countries with a more relaxed attitude towards work and a stronger emphasis on work-life balance. For some foreigners, the long work hours and lack of emphasis on work-life balance can be overwhelming and lead to feelings of burnout and stress. It may take some time to adjust to the demands of the Singaporean work culture and find a balance between work and personal life. It is important to set boundaries and prioritize self-care to ensure that you are able to maintain a healthy work-life balance in Singapore.
10. Singlish: Another culture shock that foreigners may experience when moving to Singapore is the local slang and dialect known as "Singlish." Singlish is a unique and colorful form of English that has evolved in Singapore and is a mixture of English, Malay, Chinese, and other local languages. While Singlish may be easy to understand for those familiar with the various languages that make it up, it can be confusing and difficult to decipher for those who are not familiar with it.
Overall, moving to Singapore can be a rewarding and enriching experience, but it is important to be prepared for culture shock and to allow yourself time to adjust to the new environment. With an open mind and a willingness to learn, it is possible to overcome these challenges and thrive in your new home. For advice about living in Singapore, check out my Singapore eBook Guide, The ‘S’ word!