28 September 2016

Rowan Gibson - Expat in Singapore

Rowan Gibson - Expat in Singapore

We’ve had the chance to talk to Rowan Gibson, 25, a British expat who has moved to Singapore with her boyfriend. Ms. Gibson who has been living there for over two months, now works as an event producer.

Read more about her experiences in the full interview below.


Q: Where are you from originally?

A: South London, UK


Q: What made you move out of England?

A: My partner was transferred from London to Singapore for work. I came out to Singapore for a couple of weeks to see if I could live here too – I fell in love with the place and made the decision to move immediately.


Q: Where are you living now? How did you come to choose this new country of residence?

A: I live in Singapore in an area called Holland Village.


Q: How long have you been living in Singapore?

A: Just over two months.


Q: Are you living alone or with your family? If yes, how are they adjusting to the Expat Lifestyle?

A: I live with my boyfriend. We didn’t know anybody else in Singapore before we moved here.


Q: Do you miss home and family sometimes? How do you cope with homesickness?

A: I miss London in the summer; the festivals, the beer gardens, the long evenings and the BBQs. I speak to my parents and friends every couple of weeks on video-chat, so I’m not missing them at the moment. I’m really lucky that my parents and a couple of friends will be flying over to visit in a few months.


Q: What do you think about the locals?

A: I have a great relationship with the Singaporean team I work with. They’re teaching me a bit of Singlish (which is a kind of mash-up of English and other local languages). I’m finding myself saying ‘can’ and ‘cannot’ a lot more rather than ‘yes’ and ‘no’ already!


Q: Was it easy making friends and meeting people? Do you mainly socialise with other expats in Singapore? How did you manage to find a social circle there?  

A: I found it fairly easy to meet people here. Everyone is in the same situation; having either moved here for work or their partners’ work, which means most people don’t know anyone when they first arrive. It’s such a transient place with people coming and going all the time, so everyone I meet is open minded and welcoming into their existing friendship groups. I registered an account with InterNations which was really useful as I got speaking to a couple of British people living over here who I’m now good friends with, I’ve also met a lot of people on nights out in bars. My boyfriend and I have joined a Dragon Boating Club which creates a ready-made social life with bi-weekly training sessions, pub quizzes, drinks and dinners – meaning all there’s always something to do in the evening or on a weekend if you fancy it.


Q: How does the cost of living in Singapore compared to your home?

A: For food about the same apart from cheese and booze which are considerably more expensive. Some other groceries are more expensive depending on where you buy. Rent is slightly cheaper in Singapore compared with London. Clothes are marginally more expensive here, but there are the usual Western chains like HnM, Mango, TopShop, etc.

  •  Q: How much is a cup of coffee?

A: London $4-$8 / Singapore $4-$8

  • Q: How much is a meal in an inexpensive restaurant?

A: London $10-$20 / Singapore $3-$12

  • Q: How much is a meal in an expensive restaurant?

A: London $75-$150 / Singapore $75-$150 (without alcohol)

  • Q: How much is a bottle of wine?

A: London $8-$30 / Singapore $20-$80

  • Q: How about a pack of cigarettes?

A: London $20 / Singapore $13


Q: Do you have any tips for future expats when it comes to opening a bank account in Singapore?

A: To set up a new account in Singapore you will need proof of address, Employment Pass (or equivalent) and original passport.  I had difficulty setting up an account over here as I didn’t have proof of address in my name, only my partners. In the end, I had to use my old UK address so my Singapore bank account is now registered there. I would recommend ensuring you have bills in both names (if you are moving with a partner).


Q: How will you describe your experience with government paperwork such as applications for Visa and work permits? Why is that so?

A: Quick and efficient. There are a few forms to complete to apply for an Employment Pass, then once this is in and approved the Ministry of Manpower grant you an ‘In-Principle Approval’. After this, your employer arranges an appointment at the MoM to have your photo and fingerprints taken (which takes all of 5 minutes), then your Employment Pass is sent to you a few days later. Simple.


Q: Would you say that healthcare in Singapore is reliable? Any preferred clinics or advice for expats?

A: I haven’t had experience with healthcare in Singapore yet.


Q: Did you secure a health insurance in your home or Singapore? What should be the essentials in the coverage for expats, in your opinion?

A: My employer covers my health insurance. I am unable to comment on the coverage as haven’t had any experience with healthcare over here yet.


Q: What was the most memorable about the packing and moving process to Singapore? Which was the mover you chose and how was your experience with them?

A: Asian Tigers Mobility – really helpful crew, unpacked with no fuss and assembled all the flat packed furniture.


Q: What is the biggest challenge that you have faced as a new expat?

A: I started my new job while my partner was away in Australia for work. I found that really hard as I didn’t really know anyone in Singapore at that point - the city felt big, and I felt lonely. I also found it hard adjusting to the price of cheese. I love cheese so much, but it costs an absolute fortune over here. I wish I had gorged a bit more in the UK before coming out here…


Q: What do you think are the positive and negative sides of living in Singapore?

A: There are so many positives: the multiculturalism, the food, the easy/cheap travel, the sport, the weather, the greenery, the social activities and the ease of meeting new, like-minded people. There’s only one negative in my opinion; the cost of alcohol and western food, which is a lot more than in the UK.


Q: What are the best things to do in the area? Any particular recommendations for future expats?

A: The Botanic Gardens & Gardens by the Bay are well worth a visit. There are really great galleries and museums, my favourite being the National Museum of Singapore. There are never-ending choices of restaurants and Hawker Centres to try and numerous rooftops to go for a drink or two and look over the city.

I would recommend keeping a close eye out on the events going on in the city as there is always something happening like the annual Night Festival last week and the Grand Prix in a couple of weeks’ time.


Q: Do you have plans to move to a different country or back home in the future?

A: I want to stay in Singapore for at least two years as there is so much to do and see around the area – one year was our original plan, but that definitely won’t be long enough!


Q: What tips will you give to expats living in the country?

A: Make the most of the activities, live music, exhibitions and events on offer. Visit as many Hawker centres as you can for cheap, delicious local food. Get on InterNations and other expat websites to meet people. But most importantly, take an umbrella everywhere as you never know when the next downpour will be.


Q: Do you have favourite websites or blogs about Singapore?

A: www.singlishliving.com (as it’s mine) and also Time Out Singapore, InterNations, Expat Living are useful for knowing what is going on around the city.