Moving to Singapore

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Living in Singapore vs. Hong Kong with young children

Jan 2011

We have an opportunity to live either in Singapore or Hong Kong for 2-3 years starting summer 2011. We are a family of four with two children. One would be entering 1st grade when we arrive for Fall 2011, the other will be 3 yrs and in preschool. Any recommendations or advice on either location ? Please respond directly if you post to group. Thank you!

Visiting is different from living there, but of the two, I found Hong Kong/Kowloon far more interesting and vibrant than Singapore. Singapore is like Switzerland, very modern and ordered. Hong Kong has all sorts of interesting nooks and crannies to explore, plus it is easy to take a train to China. I have friends who spent a year's sabatical in Hong Kong many years ago and had their kids go to the local public school to learn Chinese. It was a very memorable experience, in a positive way. There are also international schools in both places. cocosar

I lived in SE Asia for 5 years (before i had kids). I'd rec Singapore if you have kids. It's safe, clean and easy to navigate since English is the official language. That being said, you'll also get a healthy dose of culture as well. Good luck. Singapore was fun

Moving to Singapore with a 9-month-old

April 2004

I have an opportunity to relocate to Singapore sometime this year. It could be both temporary or permananent.We have a 9 month year old son and two cats and a house. The relocation would mean more money for us and obviously a wonderful opportunity.

I have read a little bit on Singapore but I would like first hand feedback from the members. If you are from Singapore, or have traveled there or lived there, I would love to hear about your experiences. I want to know about the weather, the people, the culture, tolerance (we are an interracial couple), anything else that is relevant.

How is the cost of living compared to the bay area? Would we be able to survive on just one salary? I would like to take our cats as they are very much our family but would this be very hard on them? They are 5 years old and healthy.

We bought our house 3 years ago and did a lot of work. Should we rent the house out, get a sitter or sell it? Also, are there any websites or books I can look at to get a better understanding of the country. Thanks! anxious to make the right decision

i asked my sister for a comment since she has lived in singapore for the past 3 years. she recommends which has an active message board that answers many of your questions. from what i gather, it has been a great experience. she even found a husband (american) there! suzie

Go for it - move to Singapore! Although I haven't lived there for ten years, from what I can gather it has only gotten better. I lived in Singapore for 18 months when I was in my early twenties and absolutely love it.

The main draws for me were career opportunities (made a lot more money there than if I had stayed in the US), cultural diversity (has a nice mix of Chinese, Malay, Indians and expats), ease of living (it's a first world country all the way with lots of western products), it's clean, English is the primary language, friendly people, good food and rest of South East Asia is nearby so there were great travel opportunities. It is one of the best places in Asia for a family as well. I have friends who have been there now for 15 years and they can't imagine living anywhere else. Their daughters are attending the Singapore Internation School, which is a wonderful school, I hear.

There are few drawbacks, the negatives are the extremely hot weather. Singapore sits just north of the equator and every day is a hot day. They don't have four seasons, just two - wet and dry. Even when it's raining, it's uncomfortable hot. I never had a reason to wear a sweater there and tried to be in shorts as much as I could when I wasn't working. It's also extremely flat so if you enjoy hiking, it won't be an option. Singapore has a lot of unusual laws (for example, chewing gum bans), so coming from Berkeley, that may be a little difficult because the society is a lot more regulated. But, I actually didn't mind as it is such a well-run and clean place.

You'll meet expats from around the world. In addition to my Singaporean friends, I had friends from Australia, New Zealand, USA and England. The expat communities are really welcoming and friendly.

I final word - please take your cats along, even if they need to be quarantined for a short period. It makes me sad when pets are left behind or dropped at the shelter when their owners move. Your cats will probably make the adjustment just fine as long as they have their family with them. (BTW, there are lots of ferals in Singapore and I always saw people caring for them, which was nice.)

If I can help in any other way, contact me! Good luck with your decision! jenn

This was forwarded to me by husband's friend who has lived in S'pore for many years.  I have only visited S'pore for 5days back in 1996 so I can't tell you much about it but I loved it there. It was very clean and felt very safe walking around at night all by myself. I told my husband I would move to S'pore in a heartbeat. Good Luck, Amy

check out the Singapore website. Tons of info available about life in S'pore right at your fingertips. You should check this out at http://www.newasia-,1177,220,00.html Here are a few comments written by tourists that I took off the website:

Dear visitors,

I have visited Singapour more than 3 times. Singapore is a very safe country for visitors. Law and order is very well-maintained by the Singaporean authorities.A friendly and warm welcome starts from entry into Singapour (at the immigration hall) and throughout our visit in Singapour.

I love Singapour and will recommend this country for tourists for the rest of my life. You can find friendly people, a multicultural country with a high level of technology, cleanliness, respect for law and order, a wide variety of asian and western foods, unlimited choice of shopping, etc in Singapour.

Visit Singapour one time and share your unforgetable memories. I have visited several countries but I could not find a lovely country like Singapour.

''Food-crazed Singapore is probably the best place on earth for sampling the astonishing variety of Asia's many cuisines.''

There are formal restaurants galore, but what you are looking for is the city's wealth of street food where visiting dignitaries bond with cab drivers at all hours of the day.

Patricia Schultz, Journalist, 1000 Places to See before You Die, United States 19 Mar 2004

As a Japanese-American from Hawaii married to a Chinese (now Singaporean citizen, but formerly a British passport holder from Hong Kong) with three children (ages 12, 16, and 18), I love living in Singapore! Everyone speaks English, the country is amazingly safe at all hours of the day and night, it's clean, everything works, the array of Asian and Western foods available in the supermarkets is fabulous, the arts scene is getting a lot better, the Singapore Zoo is fun place for families, the Singapore American School is excellent (my eldest son just graduated last year and the AP program there was very rigorous), the American Club is a great family place to hang out at, you can easily hire a maid to cook/clean/babysit, etc. (cost: about US$300 a month), there are good vets here (my cat has fallen off our balcony and been operated on twice already!), expatriates live like royalty, locals are pretty tolerant of others (except on the road), no overt discrimination seems to be the order of the day, both shopping and eating are past-times for locals and expats alike, and the American dollar really stretches (you wouldn't believe it but you can eat lunch or dinner at a hawker center and pay only US$2! Of course, you could also eat at Morton's and Lowry's and pay top dollar for US beef.)

There are two kinds of salaries here: local vs. expat. Expats usually negotiate for pay packages that include housing, school allowances, car, etc. To put local salaries in perspective, the average college graduate walks into his first job with a starting salary of less than US$1,500 per month. Clerical/admin staff earn about US$1,200 a month. The majority of people here earn nuch less than US$3,000 a month.

Now for the's hot over here (very humid) and that takes getting used to. Most expats live in air-conditioned homes, but after a while, you kind of get acclimated (although I still don't like jogging here whereas I would have no problem running in CA). Housing and cars are very expensive. My Toyota Prevea cost me US$70,000 and most 4-bedroom apartments rent for about US$5,000 a month. A few years back, I put my 5-bedroom condo on the market and I got an offer for US$8,000 a month. Prices haved dropped over the past few years, but rent is still not cheap. If you do not have a car, it is easy to get around by bus, taxi or Mass Rapid Transit at very reasonable prices. If you're an outdoor buff, there's not much to do over here. No mountains to climb, no clear blue waters to go snorkling in... but we are a hop, skip and jump away from lots of beautiful Malaysian and Thai islands! The night scene is picking up, but this place is deadsville compared to NYC and SF. Just saw ''Saturday Night Fever'' starring an Australian cast, and Yo- Yo Ma and will be here soon as well as one of the three Italian tenors, but what I miss most are all those Broadway musicals (they're too few and far in between...). The museums are rather limited too. No MOMAs and Guggenheims here, but there's an interesting wax museum on Sentosa (an island off Singapore) documenting Singapore's history. If you like pro baseball, American football and basketball, good luck. The sports world here revolves around soccer (''football''). Luckily, cable TV is accesible to almost all households, so you are not at the complete mercy of the local TV stations.

I can go on and on, but I've got to get some sleep right now (full day tomorrow), so will have to sign off. Let me know if you have any more questions after you check out the website! Getting a hold of a current Fodor's or Lonely Planet Guide would also be a good idea. Cheers, June

I've never been to Singapore, so I don't have advice about that part of your post. However, regarding your current house, I'd strongly advise you NOT to sell right away if you move. What if the move doesn't work out? You still have your home to move back to. Rent it out initially, and if Singapore becomes a long- term home, then sell your house-preferably within three years of moving to capture the tax-free gain on sale of the house. Phil

I am from Singapore and I think you will love it there! The weather is warm all the time - there aren't any seasons but it rains more during certain times of the year. Singapore is multiracial with the majority of the population being Chinese. As a result, the food is wonderful and eating out is relatively cheap. Because it is multiracial, the people are mostly tolerant and are very warm and welcoming towards foreigners. The cost of living is overall cheaper then the bay area expect for buying a car (which is very expensive but public transportation is very reliable and affordable). When choosing a place to live, try to find one which is accessible to public transportation. About your cats, you should have no problem bring them over although you will have to check on the procedures (there may be a quarantine period). I have had colleagues who brought cats or dogs over and it's been ok. If you are uncertain how long you will be away, renting your house may be the best option as you will want a home to return to after your stint in Singapore. We are currently renting out our home in Singapore while we are here and it's working out well as the rent covers the mortgage payments. Contact Singapore has a great website with lots of information at You can also contact them with questions (contact details on website). This website has information on housing available Have fun! LM

I asked my friend, who lived in Singapore for a while, to answer your question. Here's what she had to say:

As for Singapore. I'm pretty busy, but let me just say a few things:

We lived in SG for 1.5 years. Moved there with our 1 year old son. One of the reasons we went there was so that we could continue to live on one income. Our housing was paid for. Houses are VERY expensive, but apartments are a bit more reasonable. You will likely want a private condo (apartment complex). Any pets will have to be quarantined for 2 months. This quarantine is expensive and somewhat cruel. The cats will be kept separate from each other in a small cage. You have to pay extra to have the cats in a cage with a fan.

The food is fantastic. The shopping is fantastic. The people are unique. Don't expect to make friends with too many Singaporeans. They are very closed. I tried to make friends with Singaporeans, gave up after about 9 months and became friends with other expat Americans.

Singapore is very tolerant in some ways and not in others. There are so many different races and cultures there. There is an amazing amount of harmony. However, the Chinese usually look at non-Chinese as inferior. There are not many black people there. Not sure what kind of interracial couple you are, but they wont have much experience with how to deal with you. Expect courteous curiosity.

The weather is hot and humid. 43 miles N of the equator means that you don't get much of a time change (you'll be on Chinese time anyway). The monsoon seasons are amazing. And people complain that the weather is terrible all the time.

It's a very family place. The medical system is FANTASTIC. The location to other places in Asia is FANTASTIC. It's the easiest place for a westerner to live in Asia. Everyone speaks English (Sing-lish) and after about a month you'll be able to understand most people. We had a live in maid from the Philippines. If you want to do this, I have several recommendations. Hope this helps. Alesia

I spent my childhood in Singapore and moved back to the U.S. in 1980. I loved living there and have many fond memories of it. I know that many things have changed about Singapore since then, but I'm sure a lot has remained the same in terms of the culture and the experience of being part of expatriate communities. I went to a British school and spent more time with British and European expats, but did spend some time with Americans too. Please contact me by e-mail and we can speak on the phone if you have more questions about Singapore. Good luck with your decision! Catherine