A newbie to Singapore, Expat Insurance’s marketing manager, Mathilde, speaks to us about her first 6 months in Singapore and offers her top tips for expats looking to make the move to the Lion City.
Where were you living before Singapore?
Prior to Singapore, my fiancé and I lived in Vancouver, and before that, Calgary (also in Canada).
Favourite thing about Singapore?
The food! If you are a foodie, Singapore is heaven on earth. If you are not, I bet that might change! From cheap hawker centres to Michelin star restaurants, there really is something for all palates in Singapore. A filling meal at a hawker centre runs you S$4-6, and the flavours will keep you coming back for more local treats.
Least favourite thing about Singapore?
After living in Canada for the last 3.5 years, I am really struggling to adjust to the humidity. The heat is bearable, but the never ending humidity is tough! On a positive note, Singaporeans have quite the love affair with air conditioning, so it’s very easy to escape to the cool.
Favourite Hawker Centre?
I love Lau Pa Sat – it’s centrally located, recently renovated and yet they’ve preserved the original architectural features, plus it’s bright, light and airy with so many cuisines on offer! I’m a sucker for Hainanese chicken rice, or a delicious wonton noodle soup with extra vegetables. (Don’t be afraid to ask for extra veg!).
Top tips for new Expats in Singapore?
1. Get on a bus and explore, explore, explore!
Doing this allowed us to get our bearings and see new parts of town that aren’t on the tourist map. Public transport in Singapore is brilliant, and taxis are very cheap so exploring is very easy (and air-conditioned). Our realtor told us about this great app called Street Directory which is great for getting from A to B as it provides accurate bus/train locations/times/etc.
2. Ensure you have a comprehensive medical insurance plan.
In Canada, I was on a semi-urgent list to receive surgery which would have been completely subsidized by the Government. In Singapore, this is not the case and healthcare is very expensive for expats. I had to pay tens of thousands of dollars for the surgery because I didn’t have medical insurance. A lesson learnt the hard way!
3. Network to Mingle and Make Friends.
On arrival, a new friend took me along to a fantastic professional networking group where I met some lovely like-minded people. Since then, some have become friends, and it’s also allowed me to grow my professional network in Singapore. The Athena group offers valuable networking events for women.
4. Shop Local
If you shop at the “expatty” supermarkets, there’s a good chance you will pay a small fortune for things that normally are dirt cheap in your home country! When you can, shop local by going to the wet markets (Tiong Bahru, and Tekka market are some of our favourites). Mustafa is a 24 hour shopping mall with everything you could possibly need – from nuts, to kitchen ware, almond milk to computer equipment, this place will become your go-to! Sheng Siongs is a local supermarket with a great range of fruit and vegetables, fish and even meat, and they’re conveniently located all over the island.
5. Remind yourself you’re living in Asia
When we first arrived, we found the sniffing, spitting, burping and grunting sounds incredibly irritating since it’s considered unsavoury in most Western countries. We reminded ourselves that we’re living in their country and that these behaviours simply add to the “quirks” of living in an Asian country! Once you stop comparing life to your home country and culture, you will relax and adjust much faster. Learning a tad of Singlish also earns you some kudos from the locals too, lah!
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Frequently Asked Questions About Expat Life In Singapore
What is life like in Singapore for expats?
Life in Singapore is incredibly great for expats. There are plenty of food places to explore, retail stores to shop at and many nature parks to escape away from the hustle of the city. The transport system is also very efficient, with train stations and bus interchanges built in every neighbourhood and suburb.
What do I bring when moving to Singapore?
Along with your paperwork which includes your work visas and other entry requirements, you are also advised to purchase a suitable insurance package to cover you for your trip to Singapore.
Can expats buy insurance in Singapore?
Yes, expats can purchase insurance in Singapore, in part to complement those provided by their employer, or in full. Expats may choose between local and international insurance. For more information on the insurance packages available to you in Singapore, reach out to our team of brokers and we will guide you accordingly.