Living in Singapore as a Foreigner
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What’s It Like Living in Singapore as a Foreigner

by Eric

Singapore is one of the world’s greatest international business and tourism hubs. More ex-pats are choosing the area because of its great infrastructure, safety, and diversity. But just like anywhere else, you will need to adapt to your new life as a foreigner and expect a certain level of shock. This shouldn’t be impossible to surmount since the US and Singapore are similar in many ways, but they are strikingly different in others. Here are a few things you have to be prepared for when living in Singapore.

Buying, Selling, and Renting Isn’t Easy

One of the things you should know is that access to the property is not easy for foreigners. Many types of properties are restricted both for rentals and for buying. If you want to invest, you have to be ready to face obstacles.

One of the most important things you’ll have to know when buying real estate in the country as a foreigner are the additional fees, like the Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty, for instance.

If you want to know more about how this works, we suggest you check out this article on the ABSD by PropertyGuru. It explains how it applies to both non-nationals and Singaporean citizens. You will also learn how much you can expect to pay based on the property and a few words as to why the tax exists in the first place.

When it comes to renting units, know that a wide number of units you’ll see on the market will be off-limits to foreigners. These are known as HDB, or Housing Development Board units. These are special types of public housing that are only available to citizens or people who have a spouse that is a citizen and are permanent residents.  Read more about Where to buy durian cake in Singapore.

There are still plenty of rental options in the country and, since there’s a flood of units at the moment, there are some reasonable deals to be had. You just have to know what is available to you and work with the right people.

The Weather 

A lot of people don’t think about the weather when they come to Singapore, but they definitely should. If you’re from somewhere that’s warm, you’ll probably be glad to hear that it’s warm all year long and there are no real seasons. You have to be prepared for the rain, however. It is still Southeast Asia, and there’s a lot of rain during the monsoon season. We’re not talking about drizzles either, but powerful tropical downpours. These can be short and sharp, but they can also last all day in some cases, so be prepared.

The School Situation

If you’re moving with children, you have to know that getting them into a Singaporean school, public or otherwise, is not easy, and you will have to apply well in advance. You also have to check if your employer will cover school costs as these can be astronomical. Parents will have to pay more to get their children into public schools, and private school tuition fees can be astronomical, so that’s another thing you’ll need to prepare for.

The good news is that there are tons of great schools in the country, and public schools are still fairly affordable even with the additional fees. You also have many excellent international schools for parents who want their children to pick up where they left off.


Another great thing about Singapore is the number and the quality of medical facilities in the country. If you have any issues, there are a variety of public hospitals, private hospitals, and outpatient clinics across the country. We suggest you get in contact with your insurer today for a list of recommended clinics and doctors.

You should still know, however, that you might have to pay upfront for the bill even if you have insurance. If the doctor doesn’t accept direct bill settlement, you will have to pay out of pocket for everything and have the bill reimbursed by your company. This could come as a surprise for those living on a budget.

Getting Around

Unless you’re rolling in the dough, and even if you are, you should get familiar with public transit right now. This is because cars are very expensive in the country, which is mainly because of congestion concerns as the country is one of the most densely populated in the world. However, public transit is world-class and will get you pretty much anywhere around the country fast. You can also use cabs which are very cheap, and new train lines are constantly being added, allowing fast access to even more remote areas of the island.

These are all things you will have to be ready for when living in Singapore. It is by far one of the best destinations for any ex-pat, but it does have its quirks.

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