Updated: 21 January 2022
BACKGROUND & CULTURE
A BRIEF BACKGROUND
Singapore is a small island nation at the base tip of the Malay Peninsula with a population of approximately just under 6 million.
It has a unique history. While it is a new country in itself (being a young 56 years old) its actual history dates back much further.
This may attribute to its unique cultural style that is present today
Early records show original settlements were around 1298AD, but modern Singapore was founded by a British Lieutenant-Governor Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles in 1819 and established Singapore as a trading station.
Sir Raffles recognised Singapore’s strategic location made it an ideal trading post.
During this time, Singapore consisted of Chinese, Malay, Indians and Arabs who had migrated.
Following the tumultuous World War II years, the Allied Forces surrendered the area of Singapore to the Japanese in 1942. Following the close of the war in 1945, the Japanese surrendered the country back to the British Military Administration at which point it became a British colony in 1946.
To provide a brief review of the recent history, by 1959 the road to independence was well under way when the People’s Action Party (PAP) won the country’s first general election with Mr Lee Kuan Yew leading as the first Prime Minister of Singapore.
A merger was attempted with the newly formed Federation of Malay (Malaysia) in 1965, however proved unsuccessful. This was the time that Singapore forged forward with its own independence.
Today, Singapore is an extremely proud nation.
As a visitor to the country, there are a few observations that will help you along the way.
Singapore is home to a varied background of different ethnicities and religions. It prides itself with this fabric as one of its core strengths. Religious festivals are all celebrated, from Christmas to Deepavali, Hari Raya and of course, Chinese New Year is a major event.
Singaporeans are very polite and courteous. They hold a great regard for their elder generation, referring them as “Aunties” and “Uncles” of the community.
While the vast majority of Singaporeans are of Chinese descent, there are also large populations of Malay, Indian, Eurasians and Westerners. With the strong heritage of Chinese, a core concept that underpins the culture is that of “face”. “Face” is extremely important in Asian culture, which denotes an individual’s reputation, social standing, influence and general self-worth.
Hence, preserving this reputation is extremely important and so general conduct is conservative and reserved, to preserve “face”.
Greetings are strong and done with a handshake and a welcoming phrase. Pointing with the index finger is considered rude and rarely done amongst locals, replaced with an open palm or hand to show direction.
Be aware that cleanliness is of utmost important in public areas, as spitting and littering is illegal. There are numerous laws regulating general personal behaviour and choices. It is important to note and respect the laws of Singapore and penalties include capital punishment.
Singapore is situated just 137km from the equator and so is hot and humid all year round.
: 32oC degrees (day)
: 24oC degrees (night).
: 84% as an annual average
: August is least humid
: December is the most humid
The annual humidity index is governed by 2 waves of monsoon seasons. Between November – March brings mostly heave rains and loud thunderstorms. During May and June will see the hotter months, after which the southwest monsoon winds arrive and there is relatively less humidity.
Most of Singapore utilises air conditioning everywhere, from offices, shops to taxis, so while it’s generally very warm, it is not difficult to find relief.
ARRIVING & GETTING AROUND
Efficiency within Singapore is amongst the best, if not THE best in the world. Whether it is visa applications online to moving through customs at the airport or viewing online utility accounts. Singapore has embraced technology to enable procedures to be quick and painless with many sleek apps to complement.
To arrive you will need to have your appropriate visa approval, otherwise if on a visitor visa, it is a maximum 30 day stay. Of course, prior to a relocation you will need to ensure that your visa applications are completed.
The relevant information point for visa processing is with the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority.
The public transport of Singapore is nothing short of excellent. Almost the whole of Singapore is reachable through either bus or MRT (Mass Rapid Transit), ie. underground trains.
Do note: no food or drink are permitted on the public transport system. The system is pristine, organised and easy to navigate.
The MRT system has 6 lines which extend to all corners of the island. These stations are hubs for an extensive bus network. Continuous extensions are added and completed.
The lines are fairly self explanatory:
1) East-West line (green)
2) North-South line (red)
3) North-East line (purple)
4) Circle line (orange)
5) Downton line (blue)
6) Thomson-East Coast line (brown)
The only way to use the MRT and bus systems is to purchase an MRT card.
For single trips, you can purchase the tickets at MRT stations at a counter or ticket machine. Otherwise, for maximum convenience, you can purchase an MRT card and link it in an app called EZ Link so your balance can be automatically topped up.
Otherwise, the taxi system is easy and relatively low cost.
Many families do not purchase a car due to the high cost of purchasing and rely on public transport and taxi services.
The main services are Grab, Taxis Singapore, Comfort, Go-Jek and some others, all downloadable through apps onto your phone.
Buying a CAR is expensive!
Not only is the price of the car elevated compared to many countries, there is an additional tariff called the Certificate of Entitlement (COE).
The purpose of the COE is to regulate the amount of vehicles on the roads and so the COE price varies from year to year depending on the number of cars currently on the road. This is termed the ‘quota’. The higher the number of cars, the higher the price for the COE will be for that year to deter car purchases.
The COE that is attached to a new car is for a limit of 10 years. After 10 years, the owner has the choice to deregister the vehicle and receive a proportion of the COE price as a rebate, or renew the COE for another 10 year period by paying the Prevailing Quote Premium (PQP). More information can be found at LTA’s website (Land and Transport Authority).
This method of controlling road traffic numbers ensure that Singapore does not become overcrowded with vehicles. If you have experienced Bangkok, you would understand the need for control and limitation of vehicle purchase levels for a city! Getting to dinner a few blocks away is a challenge at the best of times!
For a car that is greater than 2L engine size, the COE can be anywhere between $40,000 to $70,000 on top of the price of the car. The current rates can be found at LTA PQP rates.
When you get behind the wheel, driving in Singapore is generally safe and signage is clear.
Drivers should be aware that there are many motorbikes that tend to ride in between the lanes, and so care needs to be taken when changing lanes that there is not a motorbike riding in the blindspots.
Foreigners in Singapore may drive on their foreign licences for upto 12months before they must convert their licence. The process of conversion can be found on the Singapore Police website
HOME & FOOD
Housing in Singapore tends to be more snug than most cities. Due to the high density of the country, modest open spaces are constructed. Having said that, there are large reserves and parks everywhere, and the climate allows for trees and greenary to grow fast and plentiful.
In terms of house styles, some older style homes may be a little more spacious, however, be prepared to down-size somewhat.
There are 3 essential styles of housing:
2) condominiums, or
3) landed houses.
Landed houses are self contained homes that may be townhouse/terrace style houses, or completely detached bungalow homes. There are also homes that are called “Black and Whites” which are the original homes from the colonial era. Entering into a lease for these home are generally a heavier commitment as upkeep and fit-outs mostly fall onto the tenant.
Condominiums are developments that are surrounded by pools, gyms, BBQ areas, common areas and parking facilities. Some may be in multi-level townhouse style, or apartment block designs.
Because Singapore is contained within a relatively small land area, the variation in the rental prices of the homes do not greatly vary.
For example, a home that is around 10km from the city centre/Orchard Road area (such as Bukit Timah) may be a similar price to a home 25km away in the Woodlands area. The home will depend on size, age and quality of finishings.
However, as with most global cities, the downtown area does demand a higher price bracket which is also matched with a smaller size.
Most decisions revolve around location. If you have schoolchildren, generally the choice of the home tends to be not too far where the chosen school is located. Otherwise, near Orchard or the river are reliable options as it allows for a wide range of dining and leisure activities.
HOUSE HUNTING RESOURCES
You may be lucky enough to access to a company relocation agent.
This agent should discuss with you your needs including style/size of homes and desired locations. You will be asked for “a budget”. It may feel intrusive and you can respond as you feel comfortable. There are instances also that agents will ask for your “profiles” which include questions about country of citizenship, number and age of children and the income earner’s profession. These are questions generally sought by the landlord to ensure they are obtaining the tenants they believe is most suitable for their home.
If you prefer to control the process on your own, it is possible also to search for homes on the internet without a realestate agent or relocation agents. The main searching avenue is through:
There are also various individuals agent’s websites you can view.
If searching on your own, create appointments with agents to ensure you get a feel of what satisfies your personal criteria. It is much easier if you had your own car, so that you can ensure you move from appointment to appointment as efficiently as possible.
However, if you don’t have your car at this early point, the taxi service is quite easy and reliable. However, do take care that booking the taxi will depend time of day and area, as to the speed which the taxi arrives back to you.
Once you feel that there is a property that may work for you and your family, note that it is possible to negotiate rent rates, modifications, cleaning or other adjustments, prior to finalising your lease. It is accepted practice to request aspects such as curtain installation, re-painting, and certain lease amendments prior to signing the lease or letter of offer.
If you have a relocation agent, they will conduct most of the negotiations. Otherwise, the landlord will generally have a real estate agent that will act on behalf of the landlord. It is advisable to stay on positive terms with the landlord and real estate agent so that all parties achieve their goals during the early stages. This is not to say that you should not maintain your position, but diplomacy and courtesy is greatly respected in Singapore.
Food is plentiful and tasty!
Food delivery is also a regular feature of Singapore and greatly varied. Most corners of Singapore are serviced however, as would be expected, the closer you are to the city centre, the greater the food options will be.
A must-do experience is to attend a hawker style venue. This is the traditional open air food court. Most of the food are Asian, Indian or halal food and drink. It is a frequented style of lunch and dinners for the locals and has a relaxed atmosphere with numerous buckets of beer adorning the tables.
Check out our reviewed places to eat as a start of your culinary journey here!
The restaurants included on this site are those we pride ourselves in believing are worthy of review!
Need help with packing?
Try the Best Essential Packing Handbook available. In this 50+ page ‘cheat sheet’, you have all the tips, advice and lists you need to prepare for a relocation, whether it is local, regional or international move!