Living in Singapore as an expat is an adventure in itself. As someone who has been living here for over two years, I can attest that there are pros and cons to living in this sunny island city-state. From soaring, ultra-modern infrastructure, “Crazy, Rich Asians”, out-of-this-world cuisine, and very strict laws, there’s always a new experience to be had.
Food Lovers Heaven
Let’s start with the pros. First off, Singapore is a foodie paradise. From hawker centers to Michelin-starred restaurants, you can find all sorts of delectable dishes that will tantalize your taste buds. Whether you’re a fan of spicy local cuisine or crave Western-style comfort food, there’s something for everyone.
Hawker centers, which are open-air food markets, are popular among locals and expats alike, and offer a wide variety of tasty and affordable food options. If you are looking to connect with local Singaporeans – have them take you to a hawker center. Food is a national pastime so you can be sure everyone has an opinion on where to go. Here are a few of my favorite dishes.
Looking to add to your Michelin star collection? Singapore hosts an impressive number of starred dining establishments with a current count of 52. There are even Michelin-starred hawker stalls! Even if Monsieur Michelin has not recognized them yet, there are still an infinite array of delicious restaurants to try.
Are you more of an aspiring chef? Groceries aren’t cheap but you’ll find ingredients from around the world.
Another benefit of living in Singapore as an expat is the cultural diversity. With a mix of Chinese, Malay, Indian, and Western cultures, Singapore is a melting pot of different ethnicities and nationalities. This creates a unique and vibrant cultural landscape, with plenty of opportunities to experience and learn about different cultures.
Last week, I had a front-row seat to our neighbor’s 5-day Buddhist funeral. A Malay friend makes samosas for her Indian neighbor. On my morning run, I ran behind an Indian lady, also running, in sandals and a sari. I’ll often see other runners out in hijab. This is all so normal to me now that I almost don’t stop to appreciate it anymore.
High Standard of Living
Singapore is home to some of the most modern and well-designed buildings and facilities, which make daily life comfortable and convenient. The public transportation system is world-class, with reliable, affordable, and easy-to-use buses, trains, and taxis. The healthcare system is also top-notch, with high-quality medical facilities and healthcare professionals who provide excellent care.
This high standard of living does come at a cost though. Singapore is consistently ranked as one of the most expensive cities in the world. A 3-bedroom apartment in a desirable, expat location will easily cost you upwards of $7500 and probably more.
If you are watching your pennies, the best piece of advice I can give is to live like a local. Look into renting a little further out of the city, hawker centers offer good, inexpensive meals, especially in the heartlands of Singapore. Seek out local markets like Sheng Siong and Giant or find a wet market. You’ll find lots of new things to try!
I have never worried about personal safety in the entire time I’ve lived in Singapore. I can walk around Singapore at any time of day or night by myself. Children walk or take public transportation by themselves from the age of eight. I never worry about leaving things in my car. If I leave something behind in a shop, someone will chase after me to give it back.
I’m not naive enough to think that bad things don’t happen but the combination of strict laws and high surveillance does help.
On the flip side, there are a lot of strict laws, a lot! It definitely takes some getting used to. Because there are so many different cultures sharing a small space, everything has to be regulated because there is not a cohesive set of cultural norms. Things that are common sense to some may not even occur to others. It can feel a little overbearing at times though.
Prepare to Sweat
Singapore is located very close to the equator and the weather is always hot and humid. When the humidity gets too high, it rains. There will be many times when you’ll have to change your plans because of a sudden shower. It can be frustrating.
The good news is that there is plenty of air-conditioning in Singapore and it works well, maybe a little too well. I usually bring a sweater to movie theaters and office buildings.
Living in a new country is always an adventure but overall Singapore is pretty easy. Everyone speaks English and the expat community is welcoming. Singaporeans can seem shy at first but they are happy to share what they love about their home, especially over a plate of chicken rice. Feel free to drop me and questions below.