Arriving in...Singapore


Fraser Clarke

Making a career move overseas can be a daunting prospect, however we’re hopeful that we can be of help. In our latest Odyssey Exclusive series, ‘Arriving in…’ we’re going to take a look at your journey to a new life abroad.

We’ve aimed to cover all the basics to make sure that you’re as prepared as you can be for the move, and get the most out of life in your new homeland.

In the final installment of the series we’ll look at Singapore. The world’s only island-city state is a unique location, and offers some of the world’s most advanced healthcare technology.

Getting there: Getting to Singapore is relatively easy, with a number of airlines offering direct routes to the island. There are seven flights a day from London (both Gatwick and Heathrow) and one from Manchester. Singapore Airlines, British Airways and Norwegian Air UK are the three carriers offering direct flights, whilst Emirates and Lufthansa both offer stop-over routes.

The flight time is around 12 hours.

Singapore Changi Airport itself is one of the region’s busiest and, according to Skytrax, one of the world’s best. It is located around half-an-hour from the city centre, with regular Metro and bus services taking passengers into the heart of the city quickly.

Accommodation: Singapore is such a small location that expats are based right across the island. Tiong Bahru, Holland Village and Tanjong Pagar are some of the most popular areas with expats thanks to their proximity to good schools and local amenities.

Most people moving to Singapore will likely live in modern, high-rise apartment blocks - although this isn’t the case for everyone. If you’re prepared to live outwith the city’s central business district than houses with land are available - although patience can be the key to securing the home of your dreams.

Rent prices are high for the region, and are similar to those in London. A one bedroom city centre flat can cost around £1200 a month, whilst three bedroom homes can be in excess of £3000 monthly. Some employers will provide accommodation, or a housing allowance, to help cover this.

Keeping in contact: Time difference aside (Singapore is GMT+8) keeping in contact with those back home from Singapore should be relatively easy. The country’s three big mobile networks (SingTel, StarHub and M1) all offer well priced packages, and a strong signal throughout the island.

VOIP calling is legal, and services like WhatsApp, FaceTime and Skype are widely used.

Basic rules: Despite its highly modern image, there are still a number of rules that you should follow living in Singapore:

  • Avoid criticising the Government publicly. It’s not illegal, but certain comments could land you in trouble.
  • Chewing gum is illegal. Seriously. Don’t even attempt to import it.
  • Crossing the road in a dangerous spot is an offence, so always stick to pedestrian crossings.
  • Food and drink are banned on the country’s Metro system.
  • Breaking any laws will result in a severe punishment. This makes the city extremely safe, but try and gain some local knowledge of the customs prior to a move.

Getting around: Singapore is a tiny island and, despite having a huge population, this makes it very easy to get around.

The city’s MRT (Metro Rapid Transit) system is the easiest way to explore the island. It’s good value, quick, efficient, reliable and extremely clean - thanks to some of the rules detailed above.

If this isn’t appealing to you, then there is also a well developed and extremely efficient bus system - which transports around 3 million people every single day. Taxis are also readily available, but during peak times they can be expensive - and traffic can seriously slow down a commute.

It’s possible to buy a car in the country too, however heavy import taxes make this far more expensive that it would be at home. Expect to pay in the region of £116,000 for a BMW 3-series that, in the UK, would cost around £30,000. 

Things to see: Singapore may be small, but it’s packed with plenty to keep you occupied - and everything can usually be reached within an hour!

  • The Singapore Flyer, the country’s iconic ferris wheel which offers incredible views across the city.
  • Night Safari Zoo, the world’s first nocturnal zoo allows you to see some unique animals within an incredible setting.
  • The Singapore Grand-Prix, set on the streets around Marina Bay, the annual Singapore F1 GP takes place every September, creating a week-long party atmosphere.
  • Fort Siloso, a gun battery from the Second World War that has recently been restored and is now home to a museum.
  • Universal Studios Singapore, a theme park with more than 24 rides and plenty of other facilities to entertain the whole family.

The working environment: Despite its Westernised image, the working environment in Singapore still retains plenty of Asian tradition:

  • Be prepared to work hard, the culture in Singapore demands hard work and, often, long hours.
  • The workplace is very risk-averse, with most employers very cautious about potentially risky situations.
  • Hierarchical relationships still exist, so always treat more experienced colleagues with a great degree of respect.
  • ‘Saving face’ is important, as it is throughout Asia. Avoid making any comments that could embarrass colleagues publically, address issues privately and directly.
  • Collectivism, teamwork is very important in the country, so be prepared to work closely with others.

Don’t forget: 

  • Organise your finances before making the move, have you converted enough money, do you have an overseas bank account, should you be paying any tax at home?
  • Will your credit/debit cards work abroad?
  • Is your airport pickup sorted, and do you know where you’re staying when you arrive?
  • Do you have a phone that will work in your new location?
  • When is your official start date?

Register with us to start your journey