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Singaporean Culture Shock (or Lack Thereof)

Sometimes referred to as “Asia lite”, it is no surprise that many expats report little to no culture shock when relocating to Singapore. The modern infrastructure and cultural blend of natives and foreigners creates a unique culture and easy adjustment process to the way of life in this expat hotspot.

So, What is Culture Shock?

Culture shock is caused by the stress of being in a new place and adjusting to new foods, customs, languages and people. Manifesting in constant complaints about the climate, a preoccupation of being robbed or cheated and being overly concerned with health and lowered work performances, many people experiencing culture shock find themselves withdrawing from their daily tasks. Expats living in Singapore report few, if any of these problems. With so many other expats relocating to live in the country, there are numerous friendly and helpful sources to resolve any problems that materialize. To further address any concerns American or British expats may have upon relocating, however, common sources of culture shock are addressed below.Climate

For those coming from a non-tropical climate in the United States or from Britain, the climate may be one of the hardest things to get used to. Singapore lies almost directly on the equator, therefore enjoying a tropical climate year-round with no sharply divided seasons. With high humidity, large amounts of rain, and the probability for monsoons between November and December, some expats may find this a difficult adjustment. This is especially true if expats have lived in cool or cold climates for a significant period of time.


With English as the primary spoken language in Singapore, many expats have no trouble upon arrival getting directions and communicating with locals in their daily tasks. There are three central ethnic groups in Singapore, specifically Chinese, Malay and Indian. Thus, although expats can communicate in English literally everywhere, it is not uncommon to hear multiple spoken languages throughout the day. Expats with children, or planning on having children, can expect them to learn at least Mandarin Chinese while in school. A rigorous, high-quality and inexpensive education is one of Singapore’s greatest assets, and multilingual students are one product of this dedication to excellence.

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Basic Needs and Services

Held in high regard for its modern and technologically innovative society, Singapore is only improving over time. It is possible to live on a very limited budget in the country, but expats must be cognizant that Singapore is among the top ten most expensive places in the world to live. Food is relatively cheap in markets and what are referred to as “hawker centers”. The cost of living, and associated culture shock, can be reduced in the form of compensation packages.

Expats may receive benefits through these packages in the form of allowances. Some of these allowances benefit recipients in terms of transportation, housing, child care, payment of school fees, entertainment and work-related benefits. Additionally, healthcare is not a problem for expats with international medical insurance. This coverage grants expats access to a wide range of medical care throughout the country, including their plan for eight new hospitals. Singapore truly tries to accommodate those who want to relocate there, as their growing economic center poses a need for skilled workers.

With modern conveniences and a growing, transformative infrastructure, Singapore feels surprisingly western. This brings comfort to many expats in knowing that upon moving, the biggest concern they may have is with the humidity. In fact, Singapore is often praised for how it accommodates foreigners and their families.

However, in the rare case that an expat does find them self in a state of culture shock, there are some ways in which to lessen the impact. Before leaving home, expats would be wise to familiarize themself with Singapore to find out about living conditions, politics and simple phrases to communicate in the foreign language. Some expats also find it helpful, if possible, to visit Singapore for a vacation prior to moving. Once an individual has moved, some find it helpful to stay in a hotel for a couple of weeks while getting things in order. This allows an expat to familiarize themself with where they must travel to meet their daily needs and where all of the major destinations they will need to get to are located.

Singaporean culture shock is, if anything, mild. With a tropical climate and a multilingual society, some expats, especially from countries like the United States and Europe, may begin to feel stress. The best thing to do is to prepare oneself for issues that they can foresee prior to an actual move. Singapore is an accepting, diverse nation of friendly locals and expats willing to help others adjust. Thus, a better name for culture shock in Singapore may be a cultural buzz, because just as quickly as it may come, it is gone.

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