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Thinking of relocating to Singapore?
Relocating to a new city or country can be a big step; especially when you have a new job to face as well. You can only really get a good feel for a country when you have been there, however please keep reading our guide on Singapore to give you an overview of this country and what it has to offer, from the essentials to the desirables.
Singapore is an island nation located at the southern tip of Malay Peninsula. It lies 137 kilometres north of the equator, south of the Malaysian state of Johor and north of Indonesia's Riau Islands. At 704.0 km², it is one of the few remaining city-states in the world and is the smallest country in Southeast Asia. Singapore became an independent republic, as it is known today, in August 1965 and joined the United Nations in September of that same year.
At first glance, Singapore appears shockingly modern and anonymous, but this is an undeniably Asian city where Chinese, Malay and Indian traditions from feng shui to ancestor worship create part of the everyday landscape - colourful contrasts that bring the city to life.
Singapore has a highly developed market-based economy, which historically revolved around extended entrepot trade. Although manufacturing and tourism still play a vital part in Singapore's economy, the country-state is considered a regional leader in R & D, hothouse for creative industries, broadcast hub of Asia as well as home to 17 of the world's top 20 largest consulting firms. Along with Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan, Singapore is one of the Four Asian Tigers.
Singapore has been rated as the most business-friendly economy in the world, with large volumes of foreign expatriates working in multi-national corporations. The city-state also employs tens of thousands of foreign blue-collared workers around the world.
Singapore is the 17th wealthiest country in the world in terms of GDP per capita and the island's economy is forecast to grow at an annual average rate of 4.8% in 2008-12.
The vast majority (more than 80%) of Singaporeans live in public housing. These homes are located in housing estates, where most are developed neighbourhoods with schools, supermarkets, clinics, food centres and recreational facilities. In short, they are called HDB.
Properties in Singapore are marketed by the number of rooms, rather than the number of bedrooms. For example a three-room flat has in fact two bedrooms.
The rest of the population live in private housing, such as apartments, condominiums and landed properties.
The cost of housing has decreased over the past few years and it is now possible for a foreigner to own a home in Singapore under some circumstances (please seek advice from a professional). Housing costs vary depending on the location.
Renting property in Singapore is relatively straightforward and you should expect to pay 1 month rental deposit in advance. When searching for a suitable property engage only one agent as most property companies share the same data of property listings in Singapore; this will save you time and embarrassment.
Renting a Housing and Development Board's (HDB) flat in Singapore is a lot cheaper but these public housing dwellings were built primarily for housing the local masses and do not offer amenities like swimming pools or tennis courts or gyms like condos do. Houses in Singapore command a disproportionately lower rental so one may pay less for a huge house than for a medium sized condo in the same area. Rentals for houses are more dependant upon the condition of these houses rather than their location. The reasons for these are there are very few new houses for rent - it is the Singaporean dream to live in their own house rather than renting it out; most expats prefer condos as these often come with amenities for their families.
If you prefer more space and privacy, and enjoy the garden and the outdoors, you may choose to live in a house. You will need a car as houses are located further out and away from the central prime districts. For a similar amount of money you can rent a terrace house outside the city or a medium sized condo in the same area.
The educational system in Singapore is similar to the British one. English language is the first language learned by half the children by the time they reach preschool age. English is the language of instruction for most subjects, especially mathematics and the natural sciences; the official Mother Tongue languages are generally not taught in English, although there is provision for the use of English at the initial stages.
There are currently four universities in Singapore. The two public universities Nanyang Technological University and National University of Singapore each has more than 20,000 students and they provide a wide range of undergraduate and postgraduate degree programmes including doctoral degrees. Both are also established research universities with thousands of research staff and graduate students.
A third university Singapore Management University (SMU) opened in 2000 focusing on business and management courses. Although it is a private university, it is funded by the government. The forth university, privately-run SIM University (UniSIM), opened in 2006.
In addition, there are more than ten other private tertiary institutions offering undergraduate and postgraduate degrees.
Due to its large expatriate community Singapore is host to many international schools, one of which, the Singapore American School has one of the largest intakes of international students in the world. Most employers in Singapore pay part or all of their employees children's school fees. International and private schools in Singapore generally do not admit Singapore students without the permission from the Ministry of Education.
Bank accounts are relatively easy to open in Singapore. You will require proof of identification such as a passport or driving licence, proof of an address in Singapore and as a precaution, a reference from your bank in your home country. Most banks also have a minimum initial deposit.
The majority of banks and ATMs will allow you to withdraw from international bank accounts, provided your bankcard has an international symbol on it, such as Cirrus. We recommend that before departure for Singapore you check with your bank that you can use international banking services.
The leading banks in Singapore include:
- DBS Bank (www.dbs.com/sg)
- OCBC Bank (www.ocbc.com.sg)
- United Overseas Bank (www.uob.com.sg)
The four official languages of Singapore are Mandarin, Malay, Tamil and English. English is the most commonly used and is the language which unites the different ethnic groups. Children are taught in English at school but also learn their mother tongue to make sure they don't lose contact with their traditions.
Expatriates and foreigners may encounter language problems in the beginning of their stay in Singapore as many Singaporeans use Singlish to communicate. Singlish is a mix of English with other languages mixed into the English.
Nearly everyone in Singapore speaks more than one language, with many people speaking three or four. Most children grow up bilingual from infancy and learn more languages as they grow up.
The currency in Singapore is the dollar (currency code SGD). It is normally abbreviated with the dollar sign $, or alternatively S$ to distinguish it from other dollar-denominated currencies. It is divided into 100 cents
Transportation within Singapore is mainly land-based. Almost all parts of Singapore are accessible by road, including islands such as Sentosa and Jurong Island. The other major form of transportation within Singapore is rail: the Mass Rapid Transit which runs the length and width of Singapore, and the Light Rail Transit which runs within a few neighbourhoods. The main island of Singapore is connected to the other islands by ferryboat services.
Singapore also has many links to the rest of the world — there are two bridges which link Singapore to Malaysia — the Causeway, and the Second Link. The Singapore Changi Airport is a major aviation hub for many airlines, and Singapore is a major transshipment port.
Singapore's climate is classified as equatorial, with no true distinct seasons. Owing to its geographical location and maritime exposure, its climate is characterized by uniform temperature and pressure, high humidity and abundant rainfall.
The temperature hovers around a diurnal range of a minimum 23 ºC and a maximum of 34 ºC. Singapore's climate is also characterised by high humidity raging between 60% during dry season and even 100% during prolonged heavy rain.
Generally, there is much more rainfall on the western side of the island than on the eastern portion of Singapore, owing to a rain shadow effect. Thus, the eastern side of Singapore is much dryer and slightly hotter than western Singapore.
Further contrasts that prevent true all-year uniformity are the monsoon seasons which happen twice each year. The first one is the Northeast Monsoon which occurs from December to early March. The second is the Southeast Monsoon season which occurs from June to September. Periods between monsoon seasons receive less rain and wind.
For specific visa information relating to your country of origin please contact your local Singaporean Embassy in your home country.
- The official name of Singapore is 'Republic of Singapore'.
- The main religions of Singapore are Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, Taoism and Hindusim.
- Singapore is made up of one main island and 63 other tiny islands. Most of the islands of the country are uninhabited.
- The symbol of Singapore is ‘The Merlion', half-fish and half-lion beast.
- British pop violinist Vanessa Mae Nicholson was born in Singapore.
- Bukit Timah Hill, 164 meters high, forms the highest natural point in Singapore.
- Singapore boasts of housing ‘The Night Safari', the first night zoo in the whole world.
- Singapore is counted amongst the 20 smallest countries of the world, however it is the second most densely populated country in the world after Monaco.
- The highest man-made waterfall of the world, 30 m high, is located at the Jurong Bird Park of Singapore.
- The largest fountain of the world is located at Suntec City in Singapore.
- ‘Changi Airport' of Singapore has received the honor of being named as the ‘Best Airport Worldwide' , a number of times, from the UK/Europe edition of the ‘Business Traveller' magazine.
- The Singapore Sling was first served at the ‘Long Bar' of the Raffles Hotel, in the year 1915