For professional expatriates, there are generally two key factors that influence the decision to relocate to a new country: the perception of how easy it is to do business there, and the overall quality of life (a factor that itself takes into account ease of socialization, ease of mobility and the peace of mind that one will be free from criminal harassment or local prejudices.) As mentioned elsewhere at Expat Focus, Singapore is a prosperous financial center that – along with Hong Kong, Finland and the United States – tops the Transparency International global list for competitiveness. So, it would seem, the first of these two items is taken care of: from the initial stages of obtaining a work visa to the levels of government intervention that can be expected during business undertakings, Singapore is highly thought of as a place where minimal authoritarian intervention encourages entrepreneurship and long-term employment alike.Food and Culture
The nation’s cultural amenities, meanwhile, can cater to all but the most obscure of personal proclivities. Among these, expat residents have spoken highly of the dining opportunities – despite the lamentable lack of Mexican cuisine that has never really been a hit in Asia, many expatriates have been pleasantly surprised at how authentic the cuisine of foreign nations can be prepared in Singapore, while the variety of such food has also been noted. As this website’s article on rest and relaxation in Singapore should hint at, there is a wealth of opportunity for after-hours socializing and clubbing packed within Singapore’s borders (particularly on the waterfront areas), making boredom and cynicism fairly easy to shake off.
Public Safety and Security
The level of public safety also seems to be unparalleled, with public nuisances tending to be more of the ‘amusing’ variety (e.g. the tipsy club patrons hanging out at local nightlife meccas like ‘Zouk’) than the ‘threatening’ variety. Countless testimonials from expats praise the ability for women to walk the city at night unaccompanied, for children to walk at any time free from the fear of kidnapping, and for all citizens to be relatively free from encounters with panhandlers, drug addicts and conmen. While this is partially due to the strict corporal punishment meted out to any would-be urban hoods (including vandals and petty thieves), credit can arguably be given to the personal discipline of the local citizens themselves.
According to data compiled by the Mercer human resources consulting group, Singapore is ranked at the top of all cities surveyed for “infrastructure,” a category that comprises “electricity supply, water availability, telephone and mail services, public transportation, airports and traffic congestion.” (i) When compared with the densely populated Asian hyper-cities that it has beaten to take this top ranking (e.g. Hong Kong and Tokyo), it is easy to see where Singapore can be a more comfortable environment in terms of motor vehicle traffic, though its superiority in these other areas may come as a surprise.
Cost of Living
It is interesting to note, then, that in spite of this very positive determination regarding Singapore’s infrastructure, neither Mercer nor the similar Economist Intelligence Unit or Monocle surveys rank Singapore in the top ten of global cities for “quality of living” itself.
Cost of living, of course, can be a major influence upon quality of living, and many will be curious how this compares against other global centers of commerce. The reputed low income tax rate may go some way towards keeping this living cost down (income taxation in Singapore is also ‘source-based,’ meaning that only income earned in Singapore, or income earned abroad and ‘received’ in Singapore, is taxed.) For non-residents, short-term employment of two months or less will not be subject to taxation, though non-residents working for a period of up to 182 days may be taxed up to 15% on their earnings. Outside of the taxation issue, the major expense of life in Singapore (housing) is certainly worth considering. The ubiquitous private condos preferred by professional expats can, at their most expensive and most ideally situated within Singapore, bear a monthly price tag of 8,700-18,750 USD, though fresh arrivals on a budget should have no problem finding a cheaper ‘HBD’ [government housing] flat in the range of 2,700-3,700 USD monthly. If this presents a problem, there is at least some truth to the claims made on numerous “Singapore-positive” websites, namely that daily necessities remain cheaper than they would be in European locales: monthly food costs, for example, will likely not exceed around 400 USD unless you dine extravagantly.
A Convenient Launch Base
Though it seems unfair to include something of a “non-Singapore” item in a list of reasons to move to Singapore, its status as a convenient launch pad for other vacation / holiday areas should not go ignored. Bali is comfortably near, for example, as is Phuket, while flights from the award-winning Changi International Airport to destinations like Thailand should be well within the budget of those who can afford to live in Singapore to begin with.
(i) http://www.mercer.com/qualityofliving. Retrieved March 28, 2013.