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

3 weeks in Singapore with a toddler

February 2006

My husband has the opportunity to work in Singapore for 2 or 3 weeks, in June. He doesn't /have/ to go, but I think he'd like to. We have a very active toddler who will be 22 months by then. If she and I stay behind, it'll be a long, hard time without his help and company. Or daughter and I could go with him, probably partly paid for by his company.

I could use some advice from anyone who knows Singapore, or has traveled that far with a toddler, or on the other hand anyone who has single-parented at home for 3 weeks.

I'm wary of the 14-hour plane trip and the jetlag, and I don't know anything about Singapore. But perhaps it could be a big adventure? What is Singapore like with a toddler in tow? Her temperament is physically vigorous, curious, and easily overstimulated. We would be staying in a hotel, and my husband will probably work 45-60 hours/week while there. I work half- time, so I'd have to take some vacation from my job. Will I DIE without some form of childcare?

I should say that my sweetie and I used to love to travel before becoming parents. We are not over our wanderlust. But this is another thing altogether... tempted but wary

Singapore is a very safe, clean place. It sounds like a great opportunity. though 3 weeks might be a bit long... I am pretty sure that you could secure some childcare if you can't handle it. Perhaps call the hotel you will be staying at beforehand to check on what the cost would be... go, you and your toddler will love it, I think. Sophia

My parents live in Singapore and we brought our daughter there for 3 weeks when she was 10 months old - the reason we travelled then was because she could still fit in the airline bassinet they provide. Even with that, it was quite the trip and I dont think I will do it again until she is at least 3.If its comforting there were lots of other parents on board with young kids - pacing the aisles. Its a 20 hour plane trip - a super long flight, and extremely exhausting. I would reccomend giving your child some benadryl so they sleep, and try and get bulk head seats so you have some room. Or stop off in Japan or Hong Kong overnight. So if you think you can handle the plane ride, Singapore is the most wonderful place for kids - absurdly clean, wonderful food, great shopping, incredibly safe and full of wonderful things to do with kids. They specialize in nature/tourism and great food... tons to do! Great botanical gardens, an incredible bird park, a world renonwed zoo - and the highlight - the night zoo! My daughter gobbled down every type of wonton and noodle she could get her hands on. Its pretty hot (right on the equator)but its more modern than most American cities so there are plenty of air conditioned places to duck into. If you want more info you can email me - I would reccomend getting an Insight guide, or a Periplus guide. anna

When we had a 2 month old & a 2 year old, my husband had to travel for about 10 days so I did myself a favor and hired a babysitter to help and hang out w/ us in the evenings. It made things much more tolerable and I only needed help for about 2 hours - enough time to get through dinner, bath & bedtime. To offset the cost, some of the nights I just asked my sis-in-law or a friend and her daughter to come to dinner. (I didn't mind making dinner for everyone because someone else was there to offer entertainment & distraction for my kids.) That being said, I would jump on the chance to travel, if possible - especially if it could be partially funded by someone else. If you decide to go, I would recommend, without hesitation, to get your daughter her own seat for the flight. P. Cooper

I am not from Singapore, but have been there a couple of times. Singapore is one of the more modern countries in Asia, and is definitely the CLEANEST, and very beautiful. There are many educational things for you to do during the day with your toddler. Beautiful parks, malls, museums. They have beautiful orchid gardens, Sentosa, etc. Local friends you make (perhaps trusted colleagues of your husband) could possibly recommend local nannies. Don't worry, labor in Asia is VERY reasonable (read: inexpensive!), and having childcare at home or in a hotel room for an extended period of time is simply a way of life in Asia. Your little girl may just need to spend time with you and the nanny together at the beginning. Asian hospitality and warm, sincere smiles abound, so I am sure, in no time, you will feel comfortable leaving your child with the nanny and taking a break here and there. I also guarantee, after having ''at-home'' childcare everyday, you will get used to it and will have a hard time flying back to the U.S. :) Do not worry about the long flight, most leave late at night, and sleep will account for more than half of those hours. There are 2 of you to entertain her the rest of the flight (might I suggest a personal DVD player? I've had to fly home to Manila 4 times alone with a toddler, and it's a LIFESAVER - on the plane, in hotel rooms, in restaurants, in any unfamiliar surrounding). Being alone (single-parenting) here for 3 weeks will pale in comparison to having a great family experience in Singapore. Don't forget the mini-family vacations you can take on the weekends! Have a great trip! Marlene

Go to Singapore! I've never been there with a toddler, but I have one now and would definitely go there with her. It's clean and lush with greenery. You can get any type of food you like so you won't be homesick for American fare. There's a place called Sentosa island which has an awesome underwater aquarium and other child friendly entertainment on it. The plane ride will be tough, but worth it in my opinion. singapore fan

I think it would be a great opportunity. You could use Singapore as a base to maybe do a weekend trip to Malaysia and maybe some other place on the end of the trip. Jetlag only lasts a day or two; my 10-month old daughter adjusted pretty quickly when we went to Asia last month. A night or two of waking up at the wrong time and then she was on schedule. I would try to find a hotel where you have a kitchenette in your room so you don't always have to eat in restaurants. Anon

What a timely email you brother, his wife and 2 yr old just flew to Singapore to live for 3+ months. My brother is on an extended work assignment there. They are staying at a fabulous place that caters to long term (1 week +) business travellers and travellers with children. Here is the info he sent me:

The place is called Fraser Suites. They have another serviced apartment complex down the road called Fraser Residences.

If you are staying a week and have family, it's a good deal. Big apartments, maid service, kitchen, washer/dryer, free bksft on weekdays, shuttle buses to major shopping areas, pool/sauna, play area, etc. They can even arrange babysitting. There are lots of serviced apts in SIN. is a good resource. Fraser rates as the best or in the top 3.

If you need anymore info please email me and I can fwd you onto my brother's email. Singapore is a great place to be with kids, according to two of my best friends who have been living there a few years with children. I have been there a few times (pre- kids) and thought it was a lot of fun - great food too! The city is VERY clean and it's easy to hop a plane to other parts of SE Asia. Good luck with your decision to go. Maya

I didn't see the original posting, but we have just come back from 3 months in Singapore with our 2 year old and I would recommend making the trip.

This was our first time visiting, and I was 5 months pregnant when we arrived, so we were definitely hesitant about going. I did find the heat a bit overwhelming at times (chalk that up to the pregnancy probably) but there were many indoor activities for us to participate in.

We stayed just off Orchard Road in a residence apartment complex, and met most of my daughter's playmates at the pool at our afternoon swim time. You will also find that everyone there is friendly towards children. One of my daughter's favorite people ended up being the security guard at the next building.

Each mall has childrens' activities, mostly shows like Wiggles and Barbie, that are free and my daughter really enjoyed (even though she's never seen either on a tv or in a movie). There is also an indoor kiddy gym in Forum that you can drop in during their opening hours (price is approx $7 US for a 1 year membership). Also at Forum is a bookstore called Bookaburra that offers a reading hour on Wed afternoons and Fri mornings that is great (it's approx $3 US which is reimbursed if you buy anything).

There are Gymboree and Kindermusik classes offered at Tanglin Mall. If you do Kindermusik, I would recommend ''Miss Pat'' as she is very gentle with the kids. As an aside, there is a GREAT grocery store at Tanglin Mall in the basement that is very Western (you can find all kinds of goodies there) and a good organic store on the 3rd floor called Brown Rice Paradise.

I would be happy to speak with you about my experiences if you like. Good luck! Sarah

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. If you like more information, please email me at amylana [at] and I will try connecting you to her and her family. 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