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Networking Tips for New Expats in Singapore

by Alexandra Sheehan

The expat community in Singapore is a huge, dynamic group of individuals. You will have no problem whatsoever finding a group of non-locals to relate to and hang out with. However, because of its unique cultural makeup, Singapore has a very different social scene than what you may be used to, one of the reasons why it is such a great place to be an expat.

Making connections

The population in this country is largely composed of young professionals who zoom from place to place, enveloped in their smart phones and robotic in their demeanor. This can be intimidating for the new kid in town (or city), making it hard to break those initial barriers and actually befriending someone new. There are tons of resources which break these barriers for you, providing expats multiple outlets for socialization.Meetup.com groups are very active and offer great ways to meet people and do interesting things. It is different from the intimidating idea of online dating, as it isn’t necessarily for people looking for love. These pressures are lifted from your shoulders, and all you have to do is RSVP, show up and have fun at an event. Groups are formed based on common interests or demographics, so it is easy to find someone you have something in common with. It’s also a great way to get new ideas on things to do, because, let’s face it, those tourist attractions lose their excitement after some time.

In addition to Meetup, it is a good idea to check out CouchSurfing.org. An international community of nomads, CouchSurfing (CS) was originally established to help travelers find locals’ homes to stay at. Since its founding, CS has evolved and expanded quite a bit. It now serves as an informational portal, as well as a way of connecting members. Join the Singapore CS Group and keep a lookout for meetings and events as well as other expats in the area. Thanks to CS, I found myself joining a Dragon Boating team, something I never would have imagined doing. It was a great way to make friends, and it opened doors to the expat social scene.

What to do

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Expats in Singapore, for the most part, are young professionals from all over the world. They work hard, and when it’s not office time, they like to make the most of it. You will find most of them spending their nights off at the pub. Great places to go and enjoy the vibes are Clark Quay, Downtown Singapore, Holland Village or Orchard Road. Tons of bars offer great deals for happy hour. There are also trivia nights, which is another great alternative to become an integrated part of the expat social scene.

Although it may seem as though expat life in Singapore consists primarily of work and booze, there are definitely other things to do in your free time with other members of the expat community. Check out Little India to see the prevalence of the Indian culture. As soon as you step out of the MRT station, the aromatic scents of the streets will immediately overwhelm your nostrils. It’s a great peek into Indian culture minus the long flight and journey through customs.

Another great neighborhood to see local ethnic culture is Chinatown. Although it is more touristic than Little India, this section of Singapore offers another great insight to a different culture. Be sure to try some Chinese cuisine and practice your haggling skills at the different stalls.

On the weekends, it is not uncommon for expats to get out and enjoy the region. Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and several other southeast Asian countries are within two hour plane rides. Flights can be found for extremely reasonable prices, and access to Changi airport is super convenient. These countries offer affordable escapes from the modern city life of Singapore and a different taste of the Asian culture.

Overall, the social scene in Singapore is made up of young professionals who are always up for having a good time. Most of these individuals are extremely open-minded and up for anything. Once you have assimilated yourself into the expat networking scene, your social calendar will be filling up quickly. You will never get bored, as the people are very unique and interesting. There is always someone new, so it won’t be long before you’re no longer the new kid in town.

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