All you need to know before Moving to Singapore

Many people move to Singapore for business and security but there are many other reasons that motivate expats to enjoy life there despite expensive cost of living.


What Makes It Uniquely Singapore

Singapore may be a "Little Red Dot" on the map, but it has a lot to be proud of. Its strategic geographical location in Asia has created lots of good employment and investment opportunities.

Singapore is a small island on the southern Malaysian Peninsula, with a land area of 637.5 km², is slightly smaller than that of New York City. It is one of the few remaining city-states around the world.

Singapore's roots started as a trading city in the Kingdom of Malaysia, which experienced two foreign invasions by the Portuguese and the Dutch before it ultimately succumbed to British colonisation. Singapore has risen through the ranks to become a world economic leader since its independence in 1965.

"Packing and moving were relatively easy since DHL was very reliable. Moving into different houses around Singapore is no joke, but that’s to all the start-up companies (i.e. Gogo Van), moving out and moving in feels a lot easier." - Bowdy Ragas, Expat in Singapore

It prides itself on the excellent sea, air and telecommunication networks. The award-winning Changi International Airport serves over 70 million travellers annually and is one of the world's 20 busiest passenger airports, operating flights to over 180 cities in more than 50 countries. Singapore's seaport, an International Maritime Centre, is poised on major trade and shipping routes, making it one of the busiest ports in the world, serving an average of 140,000 vessel calls annually. The port facilities and services remain unsurpassed regarding quality, efficiency, competitiveness and reliability. You can watch how was relocation experience for many expats here.

Singapore's strict laws have paid off, making it one of the most peaceful and cleanest city to live in. Its stable currency and multiculturalism make it conducive for expats moving to the country. However, lifestyle can be quite fast-paced. Read our expat interviews in Singapore here.

"Asian Tigers Mobility – really helpful crew, unpacked with no fuss and assembled all the flat packed furniture."- Rowan Gibson, Expat in Singapore

Cosmopolitan & contemporary city

Singapore’s multi-racial, multi-cultural 5.7 million population comprises a majority of Chinese (76%), followed descending by Malays, Indians and Eurasians. Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, and Christianity are the main religions.

There are four official languages – English, Mandarin, Tamil and Malay, which is also the national language. Chinese dialects such as Hokkien, Teochew, and Cantonese are often used among the older generation.

“Singaporeans are very success driven with a strong entrepreneurial mind which I personally do really like and think that in my home country, they should get a bit more of."- Laura Scheffner, Expat in Singapore

Singapore’s schooling system is internationally recognised and has a laudable literacy rate of 96.5% in its population. Learning English is compulsory and it is the most commonly-used language in the country. More information about schools here.

Thanks to the high education system, the country safety and health protection, Singapore is considered as family-friendly and people who move to Singapore will find a lot of activities for their children (more information about having a baby in Singapore)


As a result of its multi-culturalism, Singaporeans have adopted a habit of mixing elements of English with elements of other languages in informal settings. It is so widespread that the term “Singlish” was coined and popularised.

"Singapore is a lot like London in that it is a melting pot of different cultures – some of which don’t mix naturally but most of which live harmoniously together. People are in general very friendly if a little reserved."- Morwenna Lawson, Expat in Singapore

Knowing Singlish can be an advantage in breaking down barriers with the locals but expats need not rush into it. There is no official way to learn it - the phrases and usage can only be fully grasped over an extended period of time among the local community.

You may get a better understanding through reports by these media:

Culture shock for Expats living in Singapore

 Watch interviews of some expats in Singapore, what they like best and leastin their new life


Nicknames and their origins

1. Asian Tiger

Singapore, along with Taiwan, Hong Kong, and South Korea, is named as one of the “Four Asian Tigers” for their rapid economic growth in the 1960s. Today, they are competitive countries with advanced technologies, high standards of living and highly-skilled workforce. In 2016, Singapore is ranked as the third wealthiest country in the world based on its gross domestic product.

2. Fine city

Singapore is known to have one of the strictest laws in the world, but it pays off, considering the country’s reputation for low-crime and cleanliness.

Some of the less-common illegal acts below will land offenders with hefty fines.

  • Littering
  • Spitting
  • Urinating in public spaces
  • Selling or eating chewing gums
  • Graffiti/vandalism
  • Smoking in non-designated areas

"Singapore government offices are very efficient and most of the transactions can be done online, from application to payment. The results of most government transactions are also usually fast."- Haidee, Expat in Singapore

Corruption, bribery and drug use are viewed seriously in Singapore. Offenders may be sentenced to long jail terms or even death (for drugs).

3. Garden City

It all started with the founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew’s vision for Singapore to have a clean and green environment in 1963. A series of tree-planting campaigns were launched and they continue even till today.

Every year, up to 2,000 trees are added. In 2014 alone, there were about 38,000 new trees. The National Parks Board has a master plan in place to bring as much diversity as possible in terms of species.

Lots of locals love to hang out or have picnics at the parks during their weekends. There are several parks dotted across the island – it is easy to find one near you. Here is a list to start with:

Parks with historical significance

  • Fort Canning Park
  • Singapore Botanic Gardens

Hills and hiking trails

  • Bukit Timah Nature Reserve
  • Mount Faber Park
  • MacRitchie Reservoir Park

Popular tourist attraction

Recommended for activities by the beach

  • East Coast Park (chalets, bicycles, barbeque pits and rollerblades rental available)

4. Lion city

The word “Singapore” is derived from the Malay word, “Singa-pura”, which literally means “Lion City”. How did that come about?

It all started when Sang Nila Utama, a prince of the Srivijaya Empire, landed on the island of Temasek (meaning “Sea Town”) while on a hunting trip. It was there where he spotted a never-seen-before beast, which he later learned was a lion. Seeing it as a good sign, he stayed on and founded the Temasek city in 1323. He later renamed it to Singapura.

It inspired the creation of Singapore’s national mascot, Merlion (meaning “Sea Lion”). Shaped like a lion with the body of a fish, the Merlion statues can be found in five official locations in Singapore – the most popular being Merlion Park and Sentosa.

What to know about this food paradise

1. “Coffee shops” has a different meaning

There are five main types of dining spots in Singapore: 

  • Fast food chains & restaurants

  • Café

    These are places where you can get your cuppa, pastries and desserts. Yes, Starbucks go to this category.
  • Food courts

    Every shopping mall in Singapore will have at least one of these. It is usually on the top floor or the basement level. Air-conditioned, the food court consists of many different stalls, which you can buy from individually.
  • Coffee shops

    This is the same as food courts except that they are not air-conditioned and are located outside of shopping malls. An economical option for those living in the heartlands, there is usually one in every residential estate.
  • Hawker centres

    This is where the most delicious and affordable dishes reside. You will be spoilt for choice in this multi-storey hawker centres. Some “famous” stalls have racked up decades of history and food lovers continue to queue for hours to have a taste of their food. To find out where, just do your research online or ask a local. No, it is also not air-conditioned and it is always crowded but hey, this is where Singapore’ food culture blooms!

2. Almost everything comes with chilli

Singaporeans love their condiments, so much that it is usually offered at the counters, where you can help yourself to it. They include the likes of light or dark soya sauce, vinegar, tomato sauce, and especially, chilli. In fact, Singaporeans are so particular that a specific type of chilli is paired with different dishes. 

That is why when you order dry noodles, fried rice or other non-soup items, the owner will usually ask if you want chilli. If you are not one for spice, it is safer for you to state so even if they do not ask because sometimes, it is set as the default. 

Oh, don’t forget to try the garlic chilli sauce and curry sauce at their Mcdonald’s! Mandatory, almost. 

3. There is no need for tips

Tipping is not a common practice in Singapore and it is only accepted in restaurants and cafes. This is because a 10% service charge and 7% GST is already accounted for in the bills. 

4. Understand the “chope” system

If you are fighting the lunchtime crowd in the central business district, you will most likely encounter random items placed on vacant tables in the food courts or hawker centres. It can be name cards, umbrellas, water bottles or packets of tissue paper. 

Do not remove or throw those items and take the seat! This is the locals’ way of “chope’ing” or reserving the seats while they queue up for food. In the event of doubt, do remember to clarify. You will get the hang of it in no time. 

5. Must-try multicultural local delights

  • Indian ‘Rojak’
  • Indonesian Satay
  • Malay Nasi Lemak rice
  • Penang Laksa
  • ‘Popiah’ (soft spring rolls)
  • Hainanese chicken rice
  • Hokkien mee (noodles)
  • Fried carrot cake

Warning: This is not the western dessert you are used to. It is neither a cake nor a dish containing carrots. It is a savoury side dish comprising of rice cakes, soya sauce, egg and other accompaniments.

  • Chilli or pepper crabs
  • Ice Kacang (shaved ice dessert)

"There is not one culture or one kind of locals. It is a multi-cultural society, complex and divers."- Anja van der Vorst, Expat in Singapore

To find out more iconic dishes and where to get them, check out this list by a Singaporean food blogger.

Valuable tips for expats



Singapore is a hot and humid city, with occasional rain showers. December is the coolest month of the year while May is the warmest. Normal temperature ranges between 25.2°C and 32° C, or 77 °F to 89.6° F. 

More data about climate here.


The trendiest haunts for night-outs are around Clarke Quay and Boat Quay, where clubs and pubs galore. For high-end shopping, head to The Shoppes mall at Marina Bay Sands and the entire stretch of Orchard Road

Daily expenses

Though eating out and public transportation are relatively cheap, Singapore’s cost of living is still considered high. Learn more about other costs through these links:

National day and holidays

the national day celebrates the independence of Singapore from Malaysia in 1965. It is celebrated every year the August 9th.

Other most famous holidays specific to Singapore are the Chinese new year, the Versak day for the birth of Buddha, the Hari Raya Puasa and Hari Raya Haji (religious days for Muslims at Singapore), Divali (an Indian holiday), Christmas day and the new year day.

See all holidays here

Moving your Belongings to Singapore

Singapore has very strict laws on shipping. As with any other country, anyone who wishes to ship goods into Singapore after moving there, must first check the prevailing laws regarding banned and/or restricted materials.

Such items may include weapons and ammunitions, drugs, pornographic materials, and wildlife. Other controlled items include film and telecommunications equipment, certain plant species and food items such as meat products and chewing gum.

Also included are literature of subversive inclinations, erotica, and other publications that may be deemed as vulgar and immoral on social, religious, and racial grounds. Popular magazines such as Penthouse, Playboy, and even Cosmopolitan are some examples of literature deemed inappropriate in Singapore.

Take note of the required documents when shipping goods into the country. For household items, you will need your passport, a detailed list of items in English, and the Original Bill of Lading.

When shipping motor vehicles, the duty rate is about 20% of the vehicle's value. You also need to provide the authorities with your vehicle's commercial invoice or Bill of Lading, freight and insurance papers, vehicle data card, registration and/or de-registration documents, manufacturer's letter confirming the vehicle's manufacture date, other documents relating to emission and windscreen tests and other bills and receipts.

Always check for new rules and regulations when shipping goods into Singapore or opt for overseas shipping.

Choose your moving company

It is important to choose your mover ahead of time and quickly talk about some things like overseas packing, storage, delays, insurance, shipping documentation for customs.

Before contacting them, you can make a checklist of all your special goods and equipment to help them make a quote.

Find below informations about the best relocation companies : Tiger KC, AGS, Interswift Moving and Storage Pte Ltd Singapore, Vanpac GroupAsia, bluefox, diamo group or Felix Relocation Pte Ltd, etc.

A good international mover will save you time and facilitate your relocation, not only by making the shipping without break, but also by advising and supporting you.

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