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Relocating to Singapore

(28 Posts)
Francois Thu 27-Jun-13 20:57:48


My husband has been offered a secondment in Singapore and I'm trying to get some opinions (good and bad) on what it's really like to live there. We have two young children (2&4) so would have to also consider schools and nursery. Neither of us has visited and although I think we would be allowed a trip prior to moving to familiarise, we need to be pretty sure we want to move to do that.

From what he says we would go on a package which would include housing, school,medical and other bits but I have no idea what the finer details of that include

For those that live in Singapore or have lived there what are your experiences, particularly with young children. From limited googling, singapore seems a very safe friendly city with plenty of opportunities to explore Asia in our free time but big concerns are around the climate and general cultural differences between there and the UK

Any advice or comments much appreciated.

Saltedcaramellavacake Fri 28-Jun-13 01:27:07

There are lots of us in SG and it is a great place to live with young kids. Schools and medical care are excellent. There is a big, although transient, expat community and it is easy to make friends. It is very hot but you adapt - outdoor activities for the kids in the morning, home for lunch and to have some down time in the hot part of the day, lots of sunscreen, bug spray and hats when outdoors etc etc. the houses/apartments all have Aircon but if you get one with ceiling fans then you'll be cool and not spend a fortune on electricity. Condos all have pools so you can swim to cool off too.
There are a lot of threads on here about various aspects of life here so maybe search here too. It is a very expensive place to live so make sure your package is a good one!

picklesrule Fri 28-Jun-13 01:59:49

We love it there..not somewhere to stay forever but really fun for a few years. Safe, clean, tons for kids, good schools, lots of help at home and fun places to go out. Great for travel too. V friendly expat community, great restaurants.. (hi salted, I can guess from your username we know each other ;0)
As salted says make sure you get a good package it's expensive here you want as much covered as you can get. Culturally I've heard it described as Asia lite which I think is accurate, it is v easy to move into without much shock other than the heat.

Francois Fri 28-Jun-13 08:42:25

Thanks. What are the major downsides to it?
How long did it take you to adapt when you moved there? I've been reading other threads on here so have been getting some great ideas and views but its always good to get a up to date perspective as I've heard it's getting more expensive.

Also. How common are houses rather than condos? Having never lived in a flat (we've never lived in a city) we'd obviously prefer to get a house with some outdoor space (I'm assuming outdoor space = small terrace rather than sprawling garden) but prices are sky high. Do most families live in condos?

HollyMadison Fri 28-Jun-13 09:09:17

I echo the above. I did not struggle to adjust after moving here from London. If you have never lived in a city you may take some adjustment, purely with things like living space, taking public transport. It is an easy place to live with kids (compared to London!). Loads and loads to do and Singapore itself is very small so you can cross the city fairly quickly. You can buy pretty much anything here, although it may be relatively expensive!

Other people have mentioned the many good points so I'll mention the things I find a bit of a drag for me:
- the cost of running a car is high so I don't own one here. That means getting about with a car seat for my toddler can be a drag.
- often it's too hot to run around outside (but as someone said, you learn to structure your day to adapt).
- if you shop for and cook western food it can be very expensive. Before I moved here I thought I'd be shopping in wet markets and mostly eating local food. I've found that difficult to do with my young DC.

I don't have any experience of houses rather than condos so can't answer that one, but I would say that condos can have many facilities (pools, playgrounds, gym, basketball courts, on site 7/11) that you might find your children have more access to outside space than they would in a house. I have found condo living invaluable for making friends for both me and my DC and activities for my DC and swimming/gym in the evenings for DH and I.

Saltedcaramellavacake Fri 28-Jun-13 09:23:06

Major downsides for me - there is almost no natural beauty (everything is man made), the beaches/sea are a bit dirty, it is very small and can feel claustrophobic unless you get out regularly (another reason why you need to earn well is to fund travel!), the friends you make are likely to be here temporarily so there are lots of goodbyes and lots of effort to make new friends is required (Ive not found it an easy place to make close local friends), you are without your family and support system and your husband is likely to work very, very hard with longer hours/travel (on this, any fault line in your relationship shows up when you relocate, so make sure you're strong together).
I don't think it's become more expensive in the two years I've been here, rents are even coming down a bit, but it is an expensive place to live (the most recent threads on how you need to live here comfortably are still accurate). You could get a house with a decent sized garden for the same price as a mid-range condo (between $8-12,000 per month) but it will be older and may not have the facilities (eg a pool). A lot of families live in condos as a way to meet people and make friends and to have access to a pool, gym, tennis court, kids playground. It's not for everyone, but it's worth considering as a first step.
Hi Pickles - I bet we do! Quite fancy some salted caramel lava cake right now!

ThePurpleCarrot Fri 28-Jun-13 17:32:34

We lived in Singapore for a couple of years a couple of years ago. Personally, we found it very difficult. The year round humidity was the worst thing and I don't think that's mentioned very often. If you said to someone "you are going to live in a flat/house and you can't open your windows or put off your air conditioning EVER" - how would you feel living 24 hours a day in air conditioning?

There were other things that we found very difficult however I don't want to be too negative but just want to bring up a subject that not many people talk about.

Cerisier Sat 29-Jun-13 05:31:20

We lived in a condo when the DC were smaller but moved to a house when they became teens.

I would say SG is a great place for teenagers unless they are very sporty boys, in which case it isn't ideal due to the heat and humidity.

As others are saying the humidity is a nightmare. You get used to being wet with sweat all the time outside, unless sitting still.

The trouble with condos is that you have to be with the DCs all the time downstairs, you can't just let them play in the garden while you potter doing other jobs while keeping an eye on them. I found this very tedious.

picklesrule Sat 29-Jun-13 06:09:54

Ooh salted caramel lava cake yes!! We should go for that when back in sg!
Back on topic! The car pricing in sg is crazy so if you an negotiate an allowance in that would help, I have two small kids and find it so much easier with a car esp in the heat.
We live in a condo and love the facilities and ready made friends at the pool, gym etc. but I do hanker after a house with garden sometimes..
I have actually not found humidity too bad, we have acclimatised quite well and don't run aircon that often now. You do just get used to being always sweaty!!
We feel sg is a bit like candy land, it's not quite real life but it is really good fun (as long as your package is good) and for a couple of years is a nice place to be.

ThePurpleCarrot Sat 29-Jun-13 12:32:26

OP, if you are an intuitive person then I think you'll manage to work out if Singapore is for you or not.
For us, it was not. We knew that before we went there. (I had been there as a backpacker in 1989 and found it the most boring place I'd ever been) and I had no desire to return.
We're currently in Fremantle in Western Australia and I actually find it difficult flying in to Singapore Airport en route to Europe, because I REALLY don't want to be there.

Francois Sat 29-Jun-13 13:33:12

Thanks. I guess we really need to visit before we can make a decision and find out what the package would be as it would mean quitting my job. Is it possible for me to work out there if I don't have an employer when we go out?

What's the situation with maids? Have heard people mention them as a positive thing but are they still commonplace? If I did work we'd need some pretty full time childcare for the youngest at least so thinking through options.

Thanks for all this, got so many questions running through my mind so asking as I think about them

ThePurpleCarrot Sat 29-Jun-13 13:43:47

Francois - Be prepared. When I went to look round flats (aka condos) there were cupboards which I was shown and I couldn't work out why they were so big for keeping your mops and vacuum in.

I was then informed these are the poor slaves maids' rooms.

Our "maid's room" was a wonderful store room for DHs bike and the rest of our clutter. I wouldn't have dreamt of expecting someone to sleep there.

Our flat was immediately taken over by a young wealthy family from India who, when I showed them round, were very keen to know where the "maid's room" was. Makes me feel sad that what we had as a junk room and with no natural light or airflow is now being used as a living quarter for someone.

I decided not to work there. I didn't think I'd fit in to the "culture".

Francois Sat 29-Jun-13 15:15:54

Thanks. To be honest we're still very much on the fence on the whole maid issue. I'm not even allowed a cleaner a couple of hours a week at the moment so someone live in would be a huge step and I'm not sure I'm comfortable with the idea as yet but just trying to find things out

ThePurpleCarrot Sat 29-Jun-13 15:55:16

Francois - what do you mean your're "not allowed a cleaner a couple of hours a week at the moment" confused

Francois Sat 29-Jun-13 16:04:11

Ha ha. My husband does all the cleaning pretty much so thinks its a waste. He's no scary tyrant don't worry!

Cerisier Sat 29-Jun-13 16:47:25

Our housekeeper has a double spare room with en-suite. We also use what is designated as the maid's room as a store room. I refuse to put anyone in a room I wouldn't use myself. I know that not everyone out here feels the same though.

I work FT so having some help has been utterly wonderful.

Saltedcaramellavacake Sun 30-Jun-13 06:22:02

If you plan to work you won't have much option but to have a helper to look after your kids after school... There's no family to pick up the slack.

picklesrule Mon 01-Jul-13 02:02:03

Wow purple carrot you can tell you really hated Singapore!I you might want to hop down off that high horse a little though..
I am sure there are a lot of people in sg who treat their helpers badly but there are a lot who do not. We have a fantastic helper, she is amazing with the kids and part of the family. We are helping her finance a college course and pay for her own home in her hometown. She has plenty of time off and is given lots of holiday time. She is in no way a slave.
Sorry to hijack slighty there can be great fun, like any expat posting the more effort you out in the more you will get out. If you plan to work a helper will be invaluable unless you want kids in full time childcare.
Good luck with what you decide!

Cerisier Mon 01-Jul-13 02:29:35

I love living in Singapore. It is hot and sticky but I love the bright light and warmth. It is organised and shops stay open late, which is good when you are working. The places you can travel to from here are amazing, we have had some great holidays. My teens have a good time as there is lots to do and public transport is safe and cheap. They get far more freedom here than they could have elsewhere.

suburbophobe Mon 01-Jul-13 04:06:04

What are the major downsides to it?

I'd say the photos I saw of the pollution blanketing it from the forest fires in Sumatra (and Malaysia, I had to drive through whole palm oil plantations on the way to the East Coast) wouldn't be too healthy for anyone, and especially young kids.

Culturally and economically it sounds fantastic though.

Saltedcaramellavacake Mon 01-Jul-13 06:40:01

I agree, Suburbphobe. It was awful. It lasted a week and a lot of expats left (another reason to be thankful for a generous expat package...). If you have to be placed somewhere in Asia though, SG is far better than China, HK, Malaysia in terms of air quality. SG had not had haze like that since 1997 (once in 16 years...).

Francois Mon 01-Jul-13 06:41:28

Thank you all

I really want to go now, spent the weekend googling and reading expat blogs and it looks amazing. Not without its downfalls of course, and it would clearly take a while to settle down as it would anywhere when we move country.

butterfliesinmytummy Mon 01-Jul-13 13:05:43

We're just finishing our third posting in singapore, this time for 5 years. Absolutely love living here and would not have missed this posting for the world. There are downsides of course like humidity, once in a decade haze etc but I think people are less accepting of foreign countries than their own countries, where they are used to things. Also the expat spouse population in Singapore is largely SAHMs which gives them lots of time for discussing the pros and cons of maids, customer service and the price of wine etc, whereas in the UK they would just get on with it and try juggling a 50 hour working week with 3 kids and a house to run wink

Disclaimer: two singapore slings down, it's not all humidity and haze, you know ...

BegoniaBampot Sat 06-Jul-13 18:59:50

We had a lovely 3 years in Singapore with two young children. after 3 years when our contract ended I was fairly happy to leave as al the little annoyances were building up but I would go back and live there again as there are so many interesting sides and positives.

We stayed in a house but it was pricey and had a smallish garden and a little pool. Loved it as the kids were young and high rise condos scared me, also the having to always pack to go to the park or pool with the kids rather than them pottering in the garden. Downside was that I had to make much more effort to arrange play dates and make friends etc as other kids from condos had friends on tap. Also the maids rooms was often much better in houses than some of the condos and gave more privacy in the evening as she could come and go as she pleased.

As others have said the heat is quite overpowering which was difficult with a 1 yr old as we would have been out and about more in the UK through the day. Evenings are lovely though from 4 or 5 on and families do lots of stuff then.

Transport, everyone says the public transport s great and you don't need a car. I loved having a car, especially with two young ones. Felt safer and we probably got out and about more and discovered more of the island. It is very expensive though.

We were lucky to meet a great group of friends almost straight away and had lots of fun. Was just always something to do or people to hang out with. Definitely drank more and partied more, easier when you have a maid who can keep an eye on the kids when they are in bed - a freedom we never had back home as we had no family to babysit etc.

Now I'm getting all homesick for the small island, and it is very small. I did miss the natural beauty and quiet green places from back home but you can find little spots tucked away if you know where.

A99Sing Tue 09-Jul-13 09:43:36

We've not been living in Singapore that long and I'm finding it hard work. Really missing our car as whilst public transport covers most places the reality of getting a 2 year old around in the heat is exhausting. Buses are out as your buggy has to be folded and i don't have enough hands. Getting groceries I'm doing a dull almost daily visit instead of my London once a fortnight with couple of top ups. We're using a lot of taxis and spending a lot of time indoors which takes some getting used to. It's the mundane things that are getting me down like our washing not drying properly in the humidity and going stinky! Silly but frustrating

If you can afford a car and some help I think it must make a big difference

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