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Expat stories

Ejay Canaria photo
Life As An Expat In Singapore
Ejay Canaria
Has been living in Singapore since 2014

Life As An Expat In Singapore

by Ejay Canaria

This article was originally published on Medium.

It’s almost a year now since I flew here in Singapore. It’s a bit silly to admit but it was my first trip overseas and my first time to ride a plane, yikes! Actually, I was able to board a plane when I was in kindergarten, but it didn’t take off.

It was early January of this year. I packed my bag, went to the airport and ride a plane to Singapore. This is not a vacation nor a business trip. I will be working as a Software Engineer in the Lion City. I joined TradeGecko — an awesome startup founded in this very country. It was a very exciting moment for me.

First thing I need to do is to find a place to stay prior to actually moving here. I did a search at the popular room hunting websites in SG like EasyRoomMate, 99.co, and RoomsDB. I wanted something close to CBD as I don’t like a long commute to work. Obviously, the closer the place is to CBD, the more expensive it is. Rent, in general, is very expensive here.

With help from my cousin who has been working here, I was finally able to find a good place through PinoySG.com. It’s just four train stations away from work plus a couple minutes of walking — not bad.

This is where I live

View from my window

Say hi to my roommates

When I’m not reading or writing (codes) in my room, I’m most probably playing with these guys. Otherwise, I’m out for a gym or a grocery. That is my kind of weekend in here. 

Transportation in Singapore is very efficient. Primary transportation is by train, bus or cab. You can almost go everywhere using the train. I think that’s the safest and cheapest way to not get lost if you don’t have a map or the gothere.sg app.

This is a reloadable card used for public transportation. You can easily get one at 711 stores.

Buses are predictable. You can download an app like MyTransport to know how much time it will take for a certain bus to arrive at a certain bus station. Taxis are everywhere though it’s a bit expensive. You can always use GrabTaxi if you need a cab.

The train station near my place

Yup, buses here are Mercedes-Benz

Almost always, you need to walk for at least five mins to get to the train or bus station (at least in my case). This is a tropical country hence you will find your self sweating under the mighty sun. It’s a good thing for your health as an exercise, but I kinda miss the Tricycle in the Philippines. It’s a cheap and convenient way of replacing the walking part. But no, I don’t miss this kind of thing back home:

The dreaded EDSA road. Source: newsinfo.inquirer.net

Food is everywhere and from everywhere. From local delights, Indian cuisine, Filipino food, Italian, Mexican you name it — foods from all over the world. You can easily find them here. Most likely, you have a Hawker Center beside your building or across the road. So far, my favorite local delight is the ever famous Singapore Chicken Rice.

Ironically this is from a food stall called Hong Kong Street

Grocery stores and small shops are easily accessible too. Shopping malls are everywhere — almost always there are malls near or inside the MRT station. Everything is just interconnected. One thing that you will find very expensive here aside from rent are products like alcohol and tobacco. The price is more than double than the usual price in other countries. That for sure will lower your alcohol and cigarette consumptions than usual.

Overall, I would say living in Singapore is easy but expensive. Well, that’s a compromise. Almost everything is provided — efficient transportation, good housing, a plethora of food choices, and security. You have peace of mind while walking back home very late at night. There’s good diversity as well. It’s true that Singapore is a melting pot. It is such an overwhelming experience for me to meet a lot of people from all over the world in one country. It is such a privilege to live here.

The ideal place for me is the one in which it is most natural to live as a foreigner — Italo Calvino

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A minimum base salary for relocation starts at $ 32000 per year, while more leading roles (architects, team leads) can bring you gross annual income of $ 85000, without bonuses.

*The figures are imprecise and reflect the approximate salary range in this country. Keep in mind that the salaries you’re offered when relocating may differ from those you can get already living in the country.

Annual net income:
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Explore cities

General

Singapore, as a sovereign city-state, is a very crowded city. More than 50% of its area is covered by parks, that's why a lot of people call this place the Garden City. As one of the financial centers in Asia, Singapore is one of the original Four Asian Tigers. This city-state is well-known in the media and casual conversations as Little Red Dot, because on many maps it is depicted in such way. Singapore is ideal for English-speaking people because English is one of the official languages. Additionally, Singapore is one of the most prosperous countries in the world.

40%

of the workforce is made up of non-Singaporeans


Cost of living

Property prices
  • Apartment rent (small) in City Centre  $ 2,245
  • Apartment (small) Outside of Centre $ 1,457
  • Apartment (big) in City Centre $ 3,916
  • Apartment (big) Outside of Centre $ 2,342
Utilities (monthy)
  • Basic (Electricity, Heating, Water, Garbage) for big apartment $ 114 
  • Internet $ 35 
Transportation
  • One-way Ticket (Local Transport) $ 1.2
  • Monthly Pass (Regular Price) $ 74 
  • Taxi 1km ride $ 0.4 
  • Gasoline (1 liter) $ 1.6
Food & Restaraunts
  • The average food basket $ 63                                                                                                                                                                                         milk (1 liter), 1 bread (500g), eggs (12), local cheese (1kg), chicken breasts (1kg), apples (1kg), potato (1kg), water (1,5 liter), a bottle of wine, domestic beer (0,5l bottle)
  • Lunch $ 10 
  • Meal for 2 People, Mid-range Restaurant, Three-course $ 45 
  • Beer $ 7.5
  • Cappuccino (regular) $ 4 
  • Coke/Pepsi (0,33 liter bottle) $ 1.3 
Sports and leisure
  • Fitness Club, Monthly Fee for 1 Adult  $ 98 
  • Cinema, International Release, 1 Seat $ 9 

Healthcare

In Singapore you have to decide either you prefer Western medicine or Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and after that choose a doctor. There are 25 hospitals and specialty centers in Singapore. Moreover, there is a national savings account — Medisave. Under this system 6.5-9% of monthly salary is transferred to Medisave account for solving personal and family health problems (pay for hospitalization, hospital bills, surgery).

Medications in Singapore are divided into 3 groups: prescription-only medication (POM), pharmacy-only medication (P) (they can be sold only by qualified pharmacists), general sales or over-the-counter medication (GSL). Drags are provided by pharmacies, but if you need urgent help, you can go to 24/7 medical clinic + pharmacy.

In 2014, Singapore’s healthcare system was rated as the most efficient in the world. Near 80% of Singaporeans use the public healthcare system. However, a lot of citizens and permanent residents have additional private insurance too, because not all services are covered by public insurance. All doctors in this city-state speak English (English is one of the official languages). Besides, from the economic point of view healthcare in Singapore includes nationalized life insurance schemes and deductions from the compulsory savings plan or CPF.


Education

There is a pre-university education and a three-level higher educational system in Singapore. Pre-university education prepares students for exams and for studying at the universities. Three-level education is divided into Bachelor's Degree — 3 to 5 years, Master's Degree (Postgraduate Degree) — 1 to 2 years, and Doctoral Degree — 2 to 5 years. Fees at universities vary from $13,000 to $52,500 and can be smaller for students who accept the tuition grants. 

More about education in Singapore
List of post-secondary education providers


Climate

Singapore, as a city-state with tropical rainforest climate, is considered as a place with no distinctive seasons. The range of temperature is from 22°C (71°F) to 35°C (95 °F). Furthermore, rains are common in Singapore.

 22°C

average temperature in summer

35°C

average temperature in winter


Safety

Singapore, as a safe city-state, has a safety level of 84% safe according to Numbeo's rating. It can be caused by very strict rules because in Singapore even minor violations are considered offenses. For instance, the sale of gum is banned and for breaking this law you can be sentenced for 1 year in jail and $5,500 fine. However, in some tourist places, you can meet pickpockets in crowds (but it is just a usual situation for all tourist cities). As for the crime, Singapore is also safe for residents.

84/100

Numbeo Safety Index


Economy

Singapore, as a city-state with one of the most dynamic, most competitive and innovative economy, is one of the original Four Asian Tigers. In 2015 Singapore was ranked as the second freest economy in the world according to the Index of Economic Freedom. It is also considered as the easiest place to start a business according to the Ease of Doing Business Index. However, at the same time, Singapore is one of the most expensive cities. There is one interesting fact that more than 40% of the Singaporean workforce is made up of non-Singaporeans.

$3045

Average monthly salary


People

Expat communities are common in Singapore, because there you can connect with other expats, find friends and help, if it is needed. Here are some of them:

InterNations 
Expat Meetups in Singapore

  • General

    Singapore, as a sovereign city-state, is a very crowded city. More than 50% of its area is covered by parks, that's why a lot of people call this place the Garden City. As one of the financial centers in Asia, Singapore is one of the original Four Asian Tigers. This city-state is well-known in the media and casual conversations as Little Red Dot, because on many maps it is depicted in such way. Singapore is ideal for English-speaking people because English is one of the official languages. Additionally, Singapore is one of the most prosperous countries in the world.

    40%

    of the workforce is made up of non-Singaporeans

  • Cost of living

    Property prices
    • Apartment rent (small) in City Centre  $ 2,245
    • Apartment (small) Outside of Centre $ 1,457
    • Apartment (big) in City Centre $ 3,916
    • Apartment (big) Outside of Centre $ 2,342
    Utilities (monthy)
    • Basic (Electricity, Heating, Water, Garbage) for big apartment $ 114 
    • Internet $ 35 
    Transportation
    • One-way Ticket (Local Transport) $ 1.2
    • Monthly Pass (Regular Price) $ 74 
    • Taxi 1km ride $ 0.4 
    • Gasoline (1 liter) $ 1.6
    Food & Restaraunts
    • The average food basket $ 63                                                                                                                                                                                         milk (1 liter), 1 bread (500g), eggs (12), local cheese (1kg), chicken breasts (1kg), apples (1kg), potato (1kg), water (1,5 liter), a bottle of wine, domestic beer (0,5l bottle)
    • Lunch $ 10 
    • Meal for 2 People, Mid-range Restaurant, Three-course $ 45 
    • Beer $ 7.5
    • Cappuccino (regular) $ 4 
    • Coke/Pepsi (0,33 liter bottle) $ 1.3 
    Sports and leisure
    • Fitness Club, Monthly Fee for 1 Adult  $ 98 
    • Cinema, International Release, 1 Seat $ 9 
  • Healthcare

    In Singapore you have to decide either you prefer Western medicine or Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and after that choose a doctor. There are 25 hospitals and specialty centers in Singapore. Moreover, there is a national savings account — Medisave. Under this system 6.5-9% of monthly salary is transferred to Medisave account for solving personal and family health problems (pay for hospitalization, hospital bills, surgery).

    Medications in Singapore are divided into 3 groups: prescription-only medication (POM), pharmacy-only medication (P) (they can be sold only by qualified pharmacists), general sales or over-the-counter medication (GSL). Drags are provided by pharmacies, but if you need urgent help, you can go to 24/7 medical clinic + pharmacy.

    In 2014, Singapore’s healthcare system was rated as the most efficient in the world. Near 80% of Singaporeans use the public healthcare system. However, a lot of citizens and permanent residents have additional private insurance too, because not all services are covered by public insurance. All doctors in this city-state speak English (English is one of the official languages). Besides, from the economic point of view healthcare in Singapore includes nationalized life insurance schemes and deductions from the compulsory savings plan or CPF.

  • Education

    There is a pre-university education and a three-level higher educational system in Singapore. Pre-university education prepares students for exams and for studying at the universities. Three-level education is divided into Bachelor's Degree — 3 to 5 years, Master's Degree (Postgraduate Degree) — 1 to 2 years, and Doctoral Degree — 2 to 5 years. Fees at universities vary from $13,000 to $52,500 and can be smaller for students who accept the tuition grants. 

    More about education in Singapore
    List of post-secondary education providers

  • Climate

    Singapore, as a city-state with tropical rainforest climate, is considered as a place with no distinctive seasons. The range of temperature is from 22°C (71°F) to 35°C (95 °F). Furthermore, rains are common in Singapore.

     22°C

    average temperature in summer

    35°C

    average temperature in winter

  • Safety

    Singapore, as a safe city-state, has a safety level of 84% safe according to Numbeo's rating. It can be caused by very strict rules because in Singapore even minor violations are considered offenses. For instance, the sale of gum is banned and for breaking this law you can be sentenced for 1 year in jail and $5,500 fine. However, in some tourist places, you can meet pickpockets in crowds (but it is just a usual situation for all tourist cities). As for the crime, Singapore is also safe for residents.

    84/100

    Numbeo Safety Index

  • Economy

    Singapore, as a city-state with one of the most dynamic, most competitive and innovative economy, is one of the original Four Asian Tigers. In 2015 Singapore was ranked as the second freest economy in the world according to the Index of Economic Freedom. It is also considered as the easiest place to start a business according to the Ease of Doing Business Index. However, at the same time, Singapore is one of the most expensive cities. There is one interesting fact that more than 40% of the Singaporean workforce is made up of non-Singaporeans.

    $3045

    Average monthly salary

  • People

    Expat communities are common in Singapore, because there you can connect with other expats, find friends and help, if it is needed. Here are some of them:

    InterNations 
    Expat Meetups in Singapore

Singapore
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