Singapore Guide

The Garden City

Officially Singapore is known as Republic of Singapore, a sovereign city-state.  It has been referred to as The Little Red Dot, The Asian Tiger, Lion City, but is better known as The Garden City. Singapore is 8 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) and does not observe daylight-saving time.

Singapore’s territory consists of one main island around 720 sq km, along with 62 other islets. It is one of the 3 city-states in the world like Monaco & Vatican that do not have a capital. It is amongst one of the smallest countries and is the second most densely populated country in the world after Monaco, with a population of 5.61 million. Population comprising 74.1% of residents of Chinese descent, 13.4% of Malay descent, 9.2% of Indian descent, and 3.3% of other (including Eurasian).

Singapore has a tropical climate with average temperatures of 33°C/92°F in the day and 25°C/76° at night.  April and May are the hottest months and heavier rainfall is recorded during the northeast monsoon from November to January.

There are four official languages : English (common and first language), Malay, Mandarin and Tamil; Singaporeans are mostly bilingual, with English as their common language.

Buddhism is the most widely practised religion in Singapore with 33% of the resident population, followed by ChristianityIslamTaoism, and Hinduism.

The currency of Singapore is the Singapore dollar (SGD or S$),

Housing and Living in Singapore

Singapore offers a wide variety of accommodation that caters to the needs of everyone from a single person to a large family.  Home ownership rate is at 90.5%, one of the highest in the world. The following are housing options for the local market.

  • HDB (Housing Development Board)
  • Private apartments and condominiums
  • Landed property
  • Black and White Properties
  • Shophouses
  • Serviced apartments

Highest cost of living in Singapore is housing which one would usually spend 30% to 40% of one’s income.  A decent size public housing can cost S$700,000 to S$1,000,000 to buy and about S$2,500 to S$2,500 to rent.  Rental can go as high as S$35,000 per month too.

Singapore may have the highest number of property transactions compared to the rest of the world, unfortunately, there is no real standard guidelines on how much one should pay for a brokerage fee to the brokers when securing a property or even if it is rightful for the brokers to charge a finders fee.

Shopping & Groceries are abundant in Singapore.  Public Transportation is efficient, cheap, clean, frequent and comfortable.

Employment in Singapore

Singapore is a global commerce, finance and transport hub.  It traditionally has one of the lowest unemployment rates among developed countries. Its port and Changi Airport has held the titles of best maritime port and airport respectively for consecutive years. It is ranked highly in educationhealthcare, life expectancy, quality of life, personal safety and housing.

The Ministry of Manpower (MoM) regulates and administers the employment of foreign workers.  You are required to have a work pass to work and live here. To check if you qualify, log on to www.mom.gov.sg for more information and to use the online self-assessment tools available for each category of work passes.

More information can be found in our Visa & Immigration Key Facts article.

Cultural Aspects

The culture of Singapore is a combination of Asian and European cultures. Influenced by Malay, South Asian, East Asian, and Eurasian cultures. It is a cosmopolitan melting pot where "East meets West".

Similar to most Asian cultures Singaporean diet are mainly rice- or noodle-focused. Noodles are typically served stir fried or in soup. The Malay dishes are usually a combination of curry spices, fishy sambal, sour herbs, citrus fruits.

Chinese traditionally have 3 names. The surname or family name is first and is followed by two personal names. Some Chinese adopt more western names in business and may ask you to call them that.

Many Malays do not have surnames. Instead, men add the father's name to their own name with the connector bin.  So Noor bin Isa, would be Noor, the son of Isa. Women use the connector binti, so Zarina binti Isa would be Zarina the daughter of Isa.  The title Haji (male) or Hajjah (female) before the name indicates the person has made their pilgrimage to Mecca.  The name Sayyed (male) or Sharifah (female) indicates that the person is considered to be a descendent of the prophet Mohammed

Many Indians in Singapore do not use surnames too. Instead, they place the initial of their father's name in front of their own name. The man's formal name is their name 's/o' (son of) and the father's name. Women use 'd/o' to refer to themselves as the daughter of their father. It is common to use shortened version of their name.  Since many Indian names are extremely long, they commonly use a shortened version of their name as a sort of nickname.  At marriage, women drop their father's name and use their first name with their husband's first name as a sort of surname.

Sikh Indians all use the name Singh to denote themselves as Sikhs.

In Singapore, food is viewed as crucial to national identity and a unifying cultural thread. It is  a national pastime and food a national obsession. It has become a frequent topic of conversation among Singaporeans. There are religious dietary restrictions whereby Muslims do not eat pork and Hindus do not eat beef, and there is also a significant group of vegetarians. There are a large variety of fine dining and cuisines from countries around the world to support the nation’s obsession with food.

For more information and better understanding of other cultural aspects, please contact Asian Welcome or request for orientation drive.

Read our cultural guidance and cultural challenges articles for more information.

Banking & other formalities

As an important Banking and Financial centre, Singapore has high influx of expatriates.  There are close to 2 million permanent and non-residents.  As such, there are many strict rules from the Immigration department which require foreigner to comply with the anti-money laundering regulations.

Opening a bank account is relatively easy.  Your choice of bank may depend on convenient access to ATMs; branch operating hours, amount required to open the account and the minimum balance you must maintain to avoid paying fees.  Also check with the bank if they issue one card with combined features of a credit, debit, ATM and NETS.

Here are the documents you will need to open an account:

  • Copy of passport
  • Copy of employment pass or In Principle Approval Letter
  • Bank statement, phone bill or utilities bill from your home country.  The bill will need to show you name and address and has to be less than 3 months old.
  • A deposit ranging from SGD$500 to SGD$5,000 (this varies depending on the bank, services and type of account)

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Health

Singapore has a world-class healthcare system and is regarded as a regional centre of medical excellence with well-trained doctors and staff making it Asia’s leading hub for a wide range of medical services for local and international patients. Healthcare infrastruture in Singapore consists of both public and private healthcare facilities with both offering high quality of medical care but generally different level of service and comfort. Health plans, insurance, and benefits vary largely and depend typically on your immigration status and the employer.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) regulates the standard and practice of healthcare services. It manages the five professional boards governing the medical conduct and ethics of Singaporean medical professionals. Medical practices advertisement except dentistry are not allowed, thus, it is important that one know who to call upon when in need of medical help. The Ministry of Health regulates both public and private healthcare providers and publishes average fees for dental procedures and for certain in-patient medical conditions.

Read our healthcare and giving birth and registration of birth/nationality articles for more information.