Updated: Jan 7, 2020
Moving abroad is a difficult process, and there are pros and cons to living in any country that we must consider before making this life-changing decision. After living in Singapore for almost five years, I’d like to share some pros and cons of living in the Lion City for you to consider before your move.
Pros of Living In Singapore
One of the most comforting aspects of living in Singapore is the feeling of safety and security. Singapore was recently ranked second on the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Safe Cities Index for 2017, coming in just behind Tokyo. On several occasions, we’ve accidentally left our phones/wallets/passports (forgetful much?) in taxis or restaurants, and they’ve always been kindly handed back to us. Faith in humanity restored! I can’t tell you how nice it is to pay for a coffee whilst leaving your laptop and phone on the table, for it to still be there when you return.
Food and drink are prohibited on public transport in Singapore, which means the MRT is pristine compared to the London Underground or NYC subway. Generally, Singaporeans value discipline and are extremely law-abiding citizens, so the streets are kept clean and are well maintained. Just make sure you’re equally respectful and dispose of your trash correctly.
Another great thing about being in Singapore is easy access to endless amounts of amazing travel destinations, all in close proximity. There are so many must-see spots, so start planning your trips ASAP! I recommend taking advantage of the numerous public holidays to plan your long weekend trips. Just be sure to plan in advance as travel fares increase like crazy during the holidays.
With Singapore located immediately north of the equator, the temperature rarely drops below thirty degrees celsius and is essentially summer all year round with the odd tropical rainfalls. I remember one time it fell to around 26 degrees and everyone freaked out exclaiming how cold it was! Admittedly, the intense humidity takes a good few months to get used to and at first, is that it is a real shock to the system. When we first moved here, I was taking up to three showers a day, but trust me when I say that you adapt to it over time.
Changi Airport Fortunately for us, Singapore boasts one of the best airports in the world, Changi Airport. Honestly, I could talk about Changi for hours on end because it is just the most incredibly clean, efficient and smooth sailing airport you will ever experience. Plus the shopping options are amazing! If you get the chance, be sure to stop by at Jewel Changi, a nature-themed retail and entertainment complex that boasts the world's tallest indoor waterfall.
Do as the locals do and head for the Hawkers! You haven’t truly experienced Singaporean food until you’ve eaten at a Hawker Centre, and boy is it life-changing! Enjoy local dishes from just S$3-S$6 that will certainly fill you up and leave your tummy feeling very satisfied. The best part? No washing up! You can buy a selection of different dishes to share with your friends, so you can experience eating a variety of cuisines. Eating at a Hawker Center is a great way to immerse yourself into the local culture, as well as people watch.
The train service in Singapore is locally known as the MRT or LRT (depending on the line.) It’s incredibly efficient, highly reliable, runs like clockwork and is, all-round, a pretty pleasant experience! Pick yourself up an Ezlink card from any train station and tap in and out of MRT stations and buses to get around the city with ease.
Singaporeans’ obsession with food is pretty legit. I’m not kidding- once I overheard a couple on the MRT talking about crab for at least 20 minutes! Why you ask? Food is a national pastime in Singapore, so be sure to bring your appetite with you. Singaporean cuisine consists of incredible dishes and flavours from Malay, Chinese, Indonesian, Vietnamese, Thai and Indian influences. Famous dishes that you MUST try include Laksa, Chili Crab, Nasi Lemak, Kaya Toast and Chicken Rice!
Learn about some of my most favourite cafes in Singapore in this blog.
There are architectural gems, scattered all over the Lion City, from colonial heritage building and Chinese Shophouses, to unique and futuristic landmarks.
Another advantage to living and working in Singapore is that there are loads of public holidays each year, as well as budget airlines to take advantage of. This helps you make the most of your trips throughout the year, whether they’re long or short-haul. If you’re planning a trip around public holidays, just be sure to book your flights up to six months in advance if possible, as the cost of flights increases over these busy periods (and can sometimes double in price).
Furthermore, Singapore is home to a wide range of cultures, religions and ethnicities, which means that festivities and practices are celebrated all over the country. Singapore food also comprises of many cuisines, influenced by the different communities. The four official languages of Singapore are Mandarin, Malay, Tamil and English. English is the most common language used and is the language which unites the different ethnic groups. Low Tax
Singapore's low taxes and other incentives for foreign investors qualify it as a tax haven. It levies 20% on personal incomes in the highest tax bracket, and it does not tax capital gains.
That kind of tax policy, and a location that makes it a gateway for companies hoping to expand into the emerging Asian economies, have made this island city-state a global hub for international investment and commerce.
Corporate Tax: 17% flat rate
Corporate income tax rebate: 40% of tax payable, capped at $15,000
Indirect Tax - Goods and Services Tax (GST) of 7%
Personal Income Tax - a progressive system of taxes, the highest rate of 22%
Lush greenery is another great thing about living in the Lion City. Singapore prides itself on being a green city to the surprise of many visitors, and does it best to promote green spaces. These green spaces include buildings with plants crawling up skyscrapers, as well as an abundance of trees and forest hiking areas in virtually every corner of the city. As a country bumpkin myself, it's one of my favourite things about this city!
Cons Of Living In Singapore
Too Hot For Outdoor Activities
Another downside about Singapore's climate is that it makes it very difficult to enjoy outdoor activities without dripping in sweat! Don't get me wrong, afternoon walks and picnics in the park are still possible, but you have to time it well to avoid the midday roaring temperatures. I advise running outside once the sun goes down, and suggest you pick indoor activities that provide air conditioning.
Singapore was ranked among the bottom 10 for work-life balance and ranked the second most overworked city in a study of 40 cities. If you work for a local company, standard leave is 14 days and overtime is usually expected with no extra pay. From our experience, taking work home with you, and being contactable 24/7 is a common play here in the working world.
Groceries Are Expensive
As for supermarkets, the prices at Cold Storage are higher compared to those at FairPrice or Giant, which have more reasonably priced products and is where we go to do our weekly grocery shopping. However, you’ll be more likely to find and your western home comfort foods in Cold Storage, just expect to pay around double the usual price. For bargain hunters, wet markets are also a great choice for fresh produce, meat and poultry, as well as herbs and spices. Going to a wet market is more fun than going to the supermarket, and certainly a must-see tourist attraction for a real cultural experience!
Singapore is A Small City/No Road Trip
In addition, another downside of living in Singapore is that-because it's such a small country (half the size of London)- you can't just jump in a car to explore another part of the country or go for a weekend break. On the plus side, because travel from Singapore is so easy, there are endless weekend breaks in and around Asia that you can enjoy.
Owning a Car is Expensive
It is so freaking expensive to own a car in Singapore, so much so that I’m still in disbelief at how many cars there are actually on the road. Singapore consistently ranks in the top few most expensive countries to own a car, with the average cost in the region of 3 times more expensive than in Europe/US. After tax, insurance, Certificate of Entitlement and yearly fees etc, it’s no wonder that most expats stick to using public transport.
Singapore swung back into the Top 20 list of the most expensive cities in the world for Expats, due in part to a strengthening currency. The truth is, living in Singapore can be expensive, with rent being your biggest expense. You should budget at least $700 to $2000 a month if you’re renting a room and up to $4,500 to rent a studio apartment or one-bedroom condo unit.
Healthcare in Singapore is mighty expensive, and with a private healthcare system, having a good healthcare plan is essential to avoid any exorbitant and unexpected costs. Locals often joke that it’s cheaper to die than fall ill in Singapore.
Price of Alcohol
Booze comes at a price in Singapore so expect to pay between S$12-S$20 for a drink at a bar or restaurant. Buying alcohol at supermarkets or liquor stores are generally cheaper options, or you can buy beer from Hawker Centers for around $3.50-$5. Do note that you can’t buy alcohol in stores or drink in public after 10:30 pm.
Local Art/Music/Festival Scene is Weak
Singapore is more often associated with efficiency rather than creativity in the literal sense. Creativity isn't necessarily encouraged in Singapore, although I do think that mindsets are slowly changing. However, the local art/music/festival scene is quite weak in comparison to surrounding countries such as Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Thailand where the creative scenes are much more vibrant.
For more of my honest advice about living in Singapore, from culture shocks to relocation advice, check out my Singapore eBook Guide, The ‘S’ word! #Expat #Singapore #SingaporeExpat #LivinginSingapore #Prosandcons