Although it sits in the heart of Southeast Asia, the city state has a lot in common with the UK which makes it a very easy place to relocate to. It is a former British colony after all.
There are four official languages here, of which English is one. The other three are Chinese, Malay and Tamil. In reality most people speak English which means you don’t have to learn Chinese. In fact, few expats I know bother to learn Chinese simply because it’s not needed in most day-to-day activities.
Singaporeans also drive on the left side of the road which makes it much easier while your UK driving licence is valid here for one year, in which time you have to apply for a Singaporean one.
The legal system is also based on English law, not that I’ve ever needed a lawyer or legal advice as yet. But it’s good to know there are so many similarities.Thankfully one similarity Singapore doesn’t share with the UK is tax. Top-earners here pay just 20 per cent tax, compared to a whopping 50 per cent in Blighty.
There are many British companies based in Singapore as it is a hub for multinationals to set up. The government also wants to expand the population by another two million by 2020 so there should be plenty of opportunities for expats to relocate here, if they have the right skill set.
But there are two points worth bearing in mind before you think about emigrating here. Firstly, Singapore is ideally suited to young families. It is one of the safest countries in the world for personal and property safety which makes it great if you have young children. While I don’t let me two young sons wander the neighbourhood alone, I know if they did they’re highly likely to come back safe and sound. I couldn’t say the same for London.
There are plenty of international schools in Singapore and education is of a high standard. So getting into a good school is much easier than back home.
Most people live in condominiums that come with a range of facilities such as a swimming pool, tennis courts, children’s playground and gym. So you can see there’s plenty for young ones to do in the confines of your condo.
Singapore does attract young childless professionals as well as it has good career opportunities and low taxes. You’re also getting valuable Asian experience to add to your CV also. But I think they miss out on the buzz and culture of cities like London and New York. If I didn’t have young children I wouldn’t live in Singapore.
The reasons I left London was over issues of safety, overcrowding, poor public transport, high taxes and the expected difficulty in getting my sons into good schools. Singapore has proved a welcome relief from many of these concerns.
But what it hasn’t provided me with is year-round sunshine. This may come as a surprise as Singapore is known for its hot weather. Indeed when I first arrived on these shores I was told the city has four seasons – hot, even hotter, really hot and very hot.
Sadly this is a lie. It rains regularly and heavily in Singapore, with flooding a big problem. Singapore has one of the highest numbers of lightning storms a year, sitting close to the equator.
So come to Singapore for the schools, low taxes, low crime and high standard of living. Don’t come for the weather.
Read Justin's other Expat Focus articles here.