31 August 2016

Kate - Expat in Singapore and Bangkok

Kate - Expat in Singapore and Bangkok

We’ve had the chance to talk to Kate, 35, an American expat who has moved in Asia alone. Ms. Kate who has lived in Singapore for 13 months and three months in Bangkok, now works in marketing.

Read more about her experiences in the full interview below.


Q: Where are you from originally?



Q: What made you move out of USA?

A: My company offered me an international position.


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

A: Bangkok. Before this, Singapore.


Q: How long have you been living in Bangkok?

A: Three months, plus 13 months in Singapore


Q: Are you living alone or with your family?

A: Living alone


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

A: Absolutely. FaceTime, Facebook and focusing on the opportunities help get me through the tough spots.


Q: What do you think about the locals?

A: Really lovely. Living in Asia as a solo woman has a lot of perks, especially the community-oriented culture. I always have help, a company for lunch, or recommendations on where to go.


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: Most of my friends’ group developed from the office or from friends of friends back before I became an expat. I’ve found the networking events to be awkward and not my speed, so I tend to stick to personal connections.


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

A: Singapore was considerably more expensive than Atlanta in the US, especially for rent. Bangkok is more reasonable: the more local you are willing to eat, the less expensive it is. But for imported food (wine, cold weather food like broccoli, strawberries, asparagus, etc) the price can be quite high due to the transportation and taxes.

  • Q: How much is a cup of coffee?

A: No idea. A tea at Starbucks is about 130 baht (4 USD)

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

A: Local food is around 60-200 baht (about 2-8 USD), and you can definitely go lower if you want to.

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

A: In a nice Western restaurant a lunch for two and a bottle of decent wine will run about 1500 - 2000 baht ($45-$60.) Much less than a similar experience back in the US

  • Q: How much is a bottle of wine? How about a pack of cigarettes?

A: Import taxes are high so wine can run from $20 - $100, depending on the type of wine and the applied taxes. But wine at restaurants doesn’t have a massive markup so it’s pretty reasonable to have drinks with meals.


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

A: In Singapore, I recommend opening multiple currency accounts. Both UOB and DBS offer these for expatriates. Get paid in your home currency into the account, the convert when the fx rates are in your favor.

In Bangkok, be prepared for massive amounts of paperwork (you must have a work permit to open a local bank account) and multiple currency accounts aren’t easy to find. Instead, I’ve had my company do the conversion and pay me the equivalent in Thai Baht.


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

A: Singapore is fantastic at bureaucracy. Make sure to fill everything out clearly and completely and you’ll breeze through the process. It may only take about 15 minutes once you’re at the Ministry of Manpower and I received my employment card within two weeks.

In Bangkok, the process is considerably more complex with multiple steps, multiple visas and multiple levels. I highly recommend using a local law firm or agency with experience in the process. Depending on the job, some people may not need more than a tourist visa with short visits away from Thailand.


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

A: I would recommend any Raffles Clinic in Singapore. I ended up with a number of small issues and had to visit more than a few times. They are great for small colds, minor viruses, etc. For more significant issues, there are a number of well-known hospitals - I visited Gleneagles and thought they were great.

In Bangkok, I would highly recommend Bumrungrad Hospital (a private hospital) where I ended up having surgery. It’s frightening to deal with medical issues in a foreign country, but the medical care in both Singapore and Bangkok is very good, particularly at private hospitals.


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 company puts all expatriates on Aetna International. I’d also strongly recommend International SOS or a similar service, especially if like me, you like to travel around the region.


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: My company chose the movers. I would say that all the advice I had received before I moved to pare down my belongings and put as little into storage as possible was the best advice I could have gotten. It’s a bit of a transition at first, but my tastes, style and how much I need has changed dramatically once I left the US and a larger home. It’s so worth not having a large storage unit of *stuff* awaiting me at home.


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

A: At first I would have said making friends, but an emergency and emergency surgery abroad definitely topped that.


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

A: Singapore is incredibly easy and comfortable. My only complaint was that the public transportation system wasn’t broader and more established (though major enhancements have been underway for some time) so I spent a good amount of time driving. The negatives are that Singapore is so easy and friendly for expats that after some time it begins to all feel a bit plastic or like Disneyland. A little too perfect and clean and I yearned for a bit more of a foreign culture.

Bangkok is a much more intense city. For positives, it’s incredibly creative, and public transportation is great so a car isn’t really necessary. In terms of negatives, the city can be exhausting. My top tips are to get off ground level when it gets too intense (find a cafe, etc) or to spend a weekend out of town.


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

A: In Singapore, I would regularly recommend Pulau Ubin for a little time out of the city, and Tiong Bahru was my absolute favorite neighborhood.

In Bangkok, my neighborhood of Thonglor is great for cafes and restaurants, and Silom and Sathorn are great for tailors and more comfortable for expats.


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

A: I intend to keep moving to different foreign countries for some time yet. I love the experience of living abroad and working with different cultures.


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

A: Seek first to understand when you encounter something different or upsetting, be patient with yourself and others, and recognize when you just aren’t up for a foreign experience. Hang out in your apartment, stick to expat cafes and order in. It’s ok to just cry “uncle” sometimes, and it will make you a better person and partner when you’re ready to head back out and explore again.


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

A: Well, I'd definitely have to recommend mine at www.curlywanderer.com:)