Moving to Singapore


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English is an official language of Singapore, along with Tamil, Malay and Mandarin, and is also very much the lingua franca for all official, legal and business transactions. On the street, most Singaporeans speak English with varying degrees of fluency.

Singapore is a young country and contains an incredibly diverse range of peoples and cultures – probably one of the highest concentrations of different ethnicities, languages and faiths anywhere on earth – from Christian Chinese to Islamic Malay. As such there’s no one set of recognisable customs or mutually agreed cultural denominator.

This diversity can be thrilling for new arrivals but can also lead to a sense of alienation or isolation so be sure to integrate as much as possible with other expats in the same situation.

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The public transport system in Singapore is good enough that cars aren’t a necessity but you’ll want to make sure that where you choose to live has suitable amenities and, if necessary, access to schools.

The explosion in financial services in Singapore over recent years has meant that there are many opportunities for Brits who’ve cut their teeth in London. Employers will often throw in sweeteners to salaries and bonuses in order to compensate for the upheaval – including transport, school fees, childcare etc – and slightly higher costs of living. So while your stay in Singapore might not be forever, it can certainly be lucrative.

If you’re moving to Singapore from anywhere in the world, there are a few things you should do your research on including the property and job markets, neighborhoods, the education system if you have children and shipping your belongings to your new place.

Moving to Singapore from the UK

Singapore, also known as the Lion City, was for many years simply a trading post for the British East India Company. It later became the global centre for rubber exports and, as a vital strategic position, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill described its capture by the Japanese Army in 1942 as “the worst disaster and largest capitulation in British history”. Claimed again by Britain at the end of the war it was not until 1963 that Singapore declared its independence from the old Empire and became part of Malaysia. That union lasted only until 1965 when Singapore again declared independence – this time as a city state and parliamentary republic with sights set firmly on the goal of becoming a ‘First World’ nation.

A city of extremes, Singapore has the world’s highest percentage of millionaires (measured in US dollars), one of the world’s five largest ports, is the world’s biggest oil-rig producer, has the world’s highest trade to GDP ratio and is emerging as a financial centre to rival New York and London.

Moving to Singapore will see you join a large community of expats – 37% of the population are permanent residents or foreign workers while 23% of citizens were born overseas – here to enjoy the abundant economic opportunities and the tropical climate.

Comparing Singapore vs London

When you make the move from London to Singapore you certainly don’t have to take your winter woolies with you. Singapore sees year round average temperatures of 23 to 32 °C. It doesn’t so much experience weather as climate – it’s always hot, always humid and rains about 50% of the time with heavier downpours in the monsoon season between November and January.

In terms of pollution, crime and the cost of living, Singapore deals on pretty equal terms with the UK capital but property prices are even more prohibitively expensive than those in London, already some of the highest in the world. Healthcare is of a high standard in Singapore but not free at the point of delivery as it is in the UK. Health insurance is therefore highly recommended.

Living CostsLondonSingapore
Disposable Salary£1,992 GBPpcm£1,582 GBPpcm
3 Bedroom Apartment£2,590 GBP£3,164 GBP
Imported Beer 0.33cl£3 GBP£4 GBP
Bottle of Wine£7 GBP£16 GBP
Marlboro£7 GBP£6 GBP
Eggs£2 GBP£1 GBP
VW Golf 1.4£15,943 GBP£68,562 GBP
Basic Utilities£160 GBP£106 GBP
Rice (1kg)£1 GBP£2 GBP
Capuccino£2 GBP£3 GBP
Meal for 2£50 GBP£26 GBP
Cinema Ticket (1)£11 GBP£5 GBP

The cultural diversity in the Lion City means that it outstrips London in terms of the range of food on offer and eating out is cheaper by far.

Art aficionados will find that Singapore can’t match London in that respect but there is a growing performing arts and music scene. A new performing arts centre, Esplanade, opened in the bay in 2002 and hosts concerts by the Singapore Symphony Orchestra. There is also an annual Singapore Arts Festival which runs for a whole month and incorporates theatre, dance, music and visual arts.