Moving to Singapore

2013-09-08 06.59.22

Sunset at Sentosa

Moving to Singapore can be quite a bit of a change. It was for me! Here are some of the things I’ve learned.

General things about moving to Singapore


Pretty much everything is imported. That is just the truth of being an island nation. As such, expect to pay a little bit more for most things (e.g. appliances, electronics, clothes, BOOKS, etc…) When moving to Singapore, bring valuable things you won’t be able to get there cheaply.

Takashimaya Mooncakes for Mid-Autumn Festival 2013

Mooncakes for Mid-Autumn Festival in Takashimaya

Expat life

Most expats in Singapore were recruited by Singaporean companies and have very large paychecks. I was not one of those kinds of expats. That said, if you enjoy a more luxurious lifestyle, you will absolutely fit in there. Most expats work in finance or oil or the like.


Eating out

It is tempting to eat out every day. Hawker centres are great, but I wouldn’t eat there every day because the fare tends to be not so healthy in general (high in salt). Food prices for hawker or food centres to restaurants will range from dirt cheap (S$2) to celebrity chef level. Singapore is known for being a new playground for the rich of the world, so don’t be too surprised when the amazing restaurant you are reading about online is actually a bit out of your price range. There are others that will be in the lower price ranges too, but maybe a little bit off the beaten track. If you are a foodie, ask any Singaporean where is the best place for something, and they can give you some options!

Eating in

That being said, it is also quite cheap to cook for yourself. Get a few basic pots and pans, and you can cook up a storm. You will sweat though! (See the section on climate below.) I try to make it a loose rule that when I eat out, I only order things that I could not make just as well or better on my own. That way I also tend to explore new and unfamiliar dishes, which are a lot in Singapore because of the diversity of Malay, Indian, and Chinese dishes to try!

Hot food

In addition to the temperature being hot, much of the food is spicy!! You could start building your heat tolerance now.

Western food

All Western food that is worth eating will be more expensive. Sometimes it may not be very good even though the high price tag. The cheaper Western style food in the food centers (hakwer centres) won’t be very good and I don’t recommend trying it.

Tomato Tontoro at Menya Musashi

Tomato Tontoro at Menya Musashi


Saving a seat…

Choping is a real thing. What it is is people saving their seats or space for their own use, with tissue packets or umbrellas or bags, while they go buy food or visit the restroom or whatever. If you see tissue packets on a table or seat, it is probably being reserved or saved by someone who is queuing for food. I’m not sure how I really feel about this, but in general I’m not bothered by it except for at the canteen at the university where it gets a bit annoying during peak lunch time.

Fashion freedom

You can dye your hair and wear short skirts every day if you want to. Although a generally conservative country, you can have a lot of fashion freedom, without feeling bad about it.


Darn humidity

It is hot here! And HUMID! If you don’t like that or if your body cannot handle it, maybe you should reconsider moving here. It is mostly bearable if you aren’t outside all day for your occupation. BUT, it is also COLD inside. Air conditioning is on full blast in most buildings, so be prepared to also carry around a sweater or light jacket if you tend to chill easily.


Be careful to keep your place clean. Flies, ants, and other insects will invade if you do not! Crumbs on the floor and on your counters means ants! And the ants won’t just stay in the kitchen either. If you have a tendency to eat in other rooms, they will find your crumbs! Fruit waste left overnight or for more than a few hours in your waste bin means flies! A clean home is a happy home. It is way easier to prevent infestation than to fight it off.

Air conditioned life

Despite what you might think from walking around in Singapore’s concrete jungle, you don’t need air conditioning all the time to be comfortable. You can get enough of that in the shopping malls if you really need it. I thought before coming that I would have to sleep with the air conditioning on every night, but in about 8 months I’ve only used it twice at night, and twice I slept with a fan on. If you have a breezy room and a fan, you should be ok in general if you are like me. If you sleep hot, then you might need to turn on the AC in your room more often. Obviously not everyone will be like me, but just for reference I came from New York where it gets crazy hot and humid in the summer and I needed AC every night for at least 1 to 2 months during the summer. Moving to Singapore may not be a great idea of you don’t like any of these options.

Neighborhoods to live in when moving to Singapore

Queenstown – near the IKEA!
Tiong Bahru – lots of coffee shops and hip places
Holland Village – lots of restaurants and bars
Clementi – affordable area to live

I am more familiar with the West, but there are also good places in the East such as around Paya Lebar metro station.

Condos vs. HDBs

HDBs are the housing development board’s housing complexes. These are the government built buildings where many Singaporeans live. The rent will be cheaper for an HDB flat than a condo, but you usually won’t get a pool or anything extra. Condos are usually nicer (although there are some fancy HDBs now!) but are also more expensive to rent. I lived in a 3 bedroom HDB flat, and paid about 800 SGD per month for my room. The housing market is going down lately though, so you can get even nicer apartments/flats for less money now!

Housing search tips
  • “Common” room is not the living room, it’s usually a single room (i.e. not the Master bedroom).
  • Be a little weary of live in landlords. They can end up being weird or restrictive. For example, they may not let you use the kitchen or living room.
  • Check that your air conditioning works.
Communal cats

Having pets is not very common in Singapore, but there are usually communally cared for cats in most HDB government built apartment complexes. Make a friend and give it a name!

Cat by the wall

Cat naps in the communal space of our apartment complex

Thanks for reading!

Are you moving to Singapore? Did you find this helpful?
I’ll try to keep adding to this list as time goes on!! Any specific questions? Send me a message!

You can also find me on Facebook to catch my updates and ask any specific questions!