Singapore is an incredibly popular destination for expats, with its high salaries and permissive business climate attracting thousands of innovators in tech, the arts, and virtually any field of endeavor. However, with such a famously strict and draconian government and a society that very closely adheres to traditional Confucian values, some things are bound to get lost in translation – even in a country where everyone speaks English. If you find yourself working in Singapore, it’s best to avoid making these critical mistakes. Five easy things you can do to avoid messing up while adapting to your new life in Singapore.Take a look at ways expats mess up in Singapore.
Avoid These Ways Expats Mess Up in Singapore
1.) Not getting international health insurance
Singapore has one of the most advanced and efficient healthcare systems in the world. It’s also reasonably affordable – if you’re a citizen or Permanent Resident. Expats who don’t have permanent resident status don’t have access to state insurance and can expect to pay through the nose for basic medical procedures and hospital visits.
If you’re planning to work in Singapore or see yourself visiting the country often, having the right kind of international health insurance can save you from bankruptcy. We highly recommend getting a policy from Now Health International or other insurers that provide international health insurance coverage specific to expats.
2.) Getting a car
Even with the higher salaries you might be making in Singapore, getting a car in the city-state may cost you up to four times as much as the same make and model in the United States. It generally costs 2.5 times less to own a car in neighboring Malaysia.
Taxes, registration fees certificates of entitlement, and other fees have been set up by the government to intentionally make it harder to buy and own a vehicle. The driver’s test is also no joke and is reputed to be one of the toughest in the world. All of this intentional. Because Singapore is such a small city, an overabundance of which can easily cripple the entire country due to traffic jams
However, this is not really an issue for many natives as the country has excellent public transport systems and low crime rates. Unless you have some special need, you probably should just save what is probably going to be 1-3 year’s salary and enjoy Singapore’s world-leading trains and buses.
3.) Not sampling the local food
With a large selection of internationally-lauded restaurants and what may very well be the world’s best-ever street foods, you’d have to be somewhat crazy to stick with international fast food chains. Many foreigners have a weird idea that all Singaporean food is spicy or weird, and while there’s a lot of that, fast-food isn’t your only available choice. A wide variety of native, fusion, and international cuisines are available at extremely affordable prices, making Singapore a world hot spot for foodies and gourmands of all types. Not sampling the local fare would almost be like visiting the Louvre in Paris just to use the restroom.
4.) Assuming it’s like your home country
Singapore’s strictness is well-known the world over, but many expats get just a bit too relaxed after a few months of working there. While they’re not as humorless as you might expect, you should still be mindful about littering, being drunk in public, using chewing gum (without a prescription), or being a little too vocal about politics – especially the types of things the government frowns upon. There is no freedom of speech and expression nor LGBT rights in the way that most of the Western world understands it. These issues and more are often sticking points with expats living in the country.
5.) Not paying the right taxes
While Singapore’s tax system is nothing out of the ordinary, lots of expats have fallen behind namely because taxes are not deducted from income in the city-state. The full amount of your arrears have to be paid if you wish to leave Singapore, which means it’s incredibly important to keep on top of your situation as far as taxes go. Be sure to consult a tax professional as soon as you can if you’re planning to work in Singapore.
Hopefully we’ve helped you avoid some very serious mistakes. For a clearer picture of how life is in the city-state, read Living in Singapore: A Complete Singapore Expat Guide.