While the city-state’s colonial past laid the foundations for its flourishing expat culture, Singapore’s enduring economic success is now the main reason for the influx of foreign business and talent.
A population fast approaching the 5.7 million mark testifies to record numbers of people moving to Singapore. Thus, some 40% of all inhabitants are foreign-born workers or students. One in four skilled workers, for example, is from overseas, and about 50% of all service sector employees come from a different country.
The city-state has a lot to offer to expats from all over the world, both in terms of career opportunities and quality of life — the latter being rated as the highest in Asia. The government, while by no means neglecting its own people, takes measures to attract highly skilled international workers keen on moving to Singapore.
Given its small population and limited resources, the importance of foreign business moving to Singapore is widely recognized by the government and native Singaporeans. Thus, expats moving to Singapore usually receive a warm welcome and experience good working and living conditions.
A move to Singapore might not be as big a culture shock as moving to some other Asian countries. However, expats should be aware of some essential facts about this city-state. The Republic of Singapore is a representative democracy with a unicameral parliament, a president as constitutional head of state and a prime minister as executive power.
It is considered one of the least corrupt countries in the world and has been politically stable ever since independence in 1965. Undoubtedly this is another reason why so many businesses who want to tap the Asian market have been opening up shop in Singapore.
However, stability and security come at a certain cost for people moving to Singapore from countries who place a higher value on individual freedom. The government regulates nearly every aspect of public life. To provide a modern, clean, efficient and safe place for its people as well as for expats, the government enforces law and order in an unyielding judicial system that includes corporal punishment and the death penalty.
While the latter is reserved for serious crimes like drug trafficking, unsuspecting foreigners who are caught feeding birds, failing to flush a public toilet, chewing gum, spitting on the street or jaywalking can face a hefty fine.
However, people moving to Singapore shouldn’t get the wrong idea. There aren’t many other cosmopolitan cities in the world where the dictum of the police as your friend and helper is taken so literally. An example: if you inform the police that you will be going away on holiday, an officer will patrol your house during your absence.
If you would like to read up more on this topic, check out the articles in the Safety and Security Category of our Extended Guide to Singapore.
One thing most foreigners moving to Singapore needn’t worry about is the language barrier. English is not only the language of business and administration, but together with Malay, Mandarin and Tamil, it’s also one of Singapore’s official languages.
While knowledge of the other languages is very helpful, foreigners moving to Singapore can usually get by with English alone. Most Singaporeans are bilingual or even multilingual.
However, this does not mean you cannot take the chance to learn a new language! Check out our article on Learning a Language in Singapore for more information on both, the local languages as well as learning opportunities.
There are no major health risks expats need to be aware of. Healthcare personnel and facilities in Singapore are excellent, and general hygiene standards are very high. As in all tropical countries, there are incidents of dengue fever, a mosquito-borne infection causing severe flu-like symptoms and, if untreated, sometimes even death. The only effective precaution is to protect oneself against mosquito bites. While malaria is not an issue in Singapore, people with respiratory diseases (bronchitis, asthma) might experience aggravated symptoms due to the hot and humid climate.
You can find more in-depth information on these topics in the articles of the Health and Insurance Section in our Extended Guide to Singapore.
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