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Singapore move? What is a good expat package?! Help.

(45 Posts)
SweetieBumMum Fri 24-Jun-16 20:06:35

Hi, my DH has been offered a job in Singapore, just today so it's early days, but I'm well into panic mode. If anyone has any experiences to share or can offer advice then I'd be hugely grateful.

It's an internal job thing so there was no salary advertised, but we would go from the uk and be put on a local contract. They make sure they have the right person for the job and then the negotiation begins.

We live a comfortable life in the uk. We have four children, a six bed house, two cars, etc.

The eldest two will be at grammar school from Sept (yr7&9), no3 will be year 6 and hopefully following them in a year and no4 will start reception.

So I'm not overly motivated to move from that perspective as life is good. We have however done a 3 year stint in Europe before when we just had 3 children and loved it. And the thought of exploring a new country again sounds tempting.

So for me that boils down to the right package. I realise it can be as long as a piece of string but I'd like to lead a decent expat life style and education is expensive!

Is there anything that's a must to have in a package?
Is there a ball park figure that you personally would say, no, it isn't worth it?
What's your experience of monthly outgoing for a large family?
Some posts I've read suggest it's v expensive and not needed - others that a car is a must?
Do people really have a live in help? Would I be odd if I didn't?

This is probably a long and slightly rambling post but I appreciate you taking the time to read it smile

papooshka Fri 24-Jun-16 20:49:28

Do a search on here as theres loads of info, but just as a rough guide.
4 kids at international school is minimum $30k each child per year.
I would say you do need a car with 4 kids, but you could lease one for approx $2k per month.
Rent for 6 of you, I'm guessing you would want a house, but depends on the area you choose, could be anything from 8k to 15k per month.
Utilities (gas/elec/water etc) would be approx 1k per month.
Food is expensive but there are cheaper supermarkets but still probably minimum $1k per month.
Then you've got broadband/phones etc on top which are pretty similar to the UK.
Most people do have live in help, however we lived there for 12 years and never had it. We did have a weekly cleaner however. A helper is approx minimum $1k per month.
Then you've got entertainment on top too, drink is really expensive, a bottle of wine that would cost 5quid here is about 15quid there.
But you do have amazing food and cheap local food.
Hope this helps !! :-)

SweetieBumMum Fri 24-Jun-16 21:58:40

Thanks so much. I'm slightly worried that I'm more concerned by the cost of wine than I am housing!?! Although I think housing may be our make or break criteria.
I've discovered DU would be work g near the airport direction which is another factor.

TerrorAustralis Sat 25-Jun-16 09:43:51

What's a good package really depends on your perspective and the lifestyle you're used to. The thing with a local package, is it means you don't get anything other than salary, bonus and health insurance (usually covers family members, but is often limited and you need to buy top up insurance).

What this means is that on a local contract you would have to pay for schooling yourself, which could easily cost you around $150K for four kids. So if there is any way to actually get an expat package with schooling covered, I'd definitely try to get that.

If your DH is working near the airport (Changi Business Park?) then it would make sense to live in the East. Rents there are lower than the more central areas where expats have traditionally lived. There are now a lot of expats on the East Coast. The cost of a 4-6 bedroom house can be lower than a 4 or 5 bed apartment (those are rarer and often penthouses, so you're paying a premium). You can also look at cluster houses, that are like terrace house developments with the advantage of condo facilities.

Most people live without a car. But with 4 kids it would be more difficult. Catching taxis you would need 2 or a maxicab to fit all of you. Schools have bus services, but again with 4, it might actually be cheaper to run a car than pay for 4 x school bus.

Many people live without helpers, but IME most expats with kids do tend to have helpers, especially when the kids are younger. Apart from everything else, it's handy to have a babysitter on tap. But if your oldest is mature enough to babysit their siblings, that might not be an issue for you.

I don't have a big family, so can't comment on living expenses. It definitely is a 'how long is a piece of string' question, depending on how you shop and eat. There are ways to keep costs down. But sometimes you just pay a ridiculous amount of money for treats from home.

Wine is expensive, but you can get reasonable everyday drinking kinds of bottles for about $18-20 on special.

Good luck with your decision.

SweetieBumMum Sat 25-Jun-16 10:30:30

Thank you terrorAustralis, that's great advice. We're so early on in negotiations but I really do want to be armed with the facts.
I want to enjoy living there rather than survive. When we did our European assignment I had a friend who was in that unenviable position and decided to leave after 18 months. She was lovely but couldn't keep up with us on packages, not that we were doing anything out of the ordinary, but once a month Mums nights out, gym membership. I really don't want to move to Singapore and find that I, or the children more importantly, can't join in with their peers.

ChopsticksandChilliCrab Sat 25-Jun-16 16:15:00

A good list from Terror - I would also add moving costs, storage (if appropriate), health insurance and flights.

Individual gym membership is about SGD150 a month. If you want a club membership eg British Club/Swiss Club, prices vary depending on which type of membership you go for.

SweetieBumMum Sat 25-Jun-16 16:23:30

Thank you Chopsticks, having never bought health care before (last time it was part of the package but the company are a lot less generous now) would you have a ball park figure for very comprehensive cover?
Just before Christmas my husband broke his foot, followed a week later by ds who broke his arm followed a week later by dd who broke her arm so I think I should probably get the best cover available! grin

KeyserSophie Mon 27-Jun-16 13:34:35

Re the live in help, it would be unusual if you didn't (although not as unusual as in HK where its almost unheard of) and with 4 children and various activities I think you'd struggle without. Most people in Singapore for 4 kids would have 2 helpers- I shit you not. I guess it also depends where you live and if you're happy with your older ones getting public transport on their own etc. You have the potential to have an awesome social life as everyone has on tap babysitters. If you didn't have that, you might find it limiting, although is the oldest one old enough to look after the others ? (sorry- my kids are younger so not sure )

Similarly with the car, the problem with Singapore is that there aren't enough taxis and when it rains they all disappear. A car is not necessary but there are days when it's massively handy to have one, especially as you won't all fit in one standard taxi.

ChopsticksandChilliCrab Mon 27-Jun-16 16:17:20

Health insurance- cover and costs vary hugely. Your DH should discuss this with his new office and find out what everyone else does.

SweetieBumMum Mon 27-Jun-16 17:43:37

Thank you all. Ok, so I've been putting together a ball park figure as we'll be local so will need to cover it all out of a wage and I'm up to an eye watering figure already - without any money to save or spend!
Brace yourselves - so just for education x4, housing to fit 6, uplift in utilities, food and plus a lease 7 seater car. Rounding up rather than down to be in the safe side, I've got to 530,000 S$D before tax confusedhmmshock
Ha, ha, ha.
I really don't know way to say. I am definitely over estimating, but ??? I don't know what to think?

Have I 'over' over estimated?

SweetieBumMum Mon 27-Jun-16 17:53:16

PS KeyserSophie, 2 helps? I have a cleaner for 2 hours here in the uk and live in an extremely rural location. I've often thought that an extra pair of hands would come in handy though, so perhaps I'll be a convert.
Although looking at those figures I do wonder if it's now unlikely as I'm not sure his massive blue chip company will pay. They do like to think of themselves as a charity that need to be helped by employees.....

TerrorAustralis Tue 28-Jun-16 02:39:44

I would say you may have over-overestimated. But we are expat church mice by some people's standards (we are comfortably off by our own standards). It depends on how you're used to living and what your normal spending is like.

KeyserSophie Tue 28-Jun-16 05:39:26

Tbh on a local package in industry (as opposed to front office IB or similar), the schooling is likely to make it unfeasible on a standards of living basis, as you're moving from somewhere where you can use the state system to somewhere where it would be unusual, and probably inadvisable given the age of your children, so I guess it depends if your DH's company will cover that.

beingorange Tue 28-Jun-16 06:03:45

rents are coming down, and it is perfectly possible to get something decent for around 5-6 k a month. but yes school fees are high, as is health care. And also: how vulnerable would be be on a local package? I know a lot of expats who have really struggled with Singaporean employers and are left very vulnerable. If a contract is terminated, for eg, you all have a month to leave the country, and the last few months salary will be witheld till you have proved you have paid all tax owed. And wouldhe be guaranteed a job back in your own country?

ShanghaiDiva Tue 28-Jun-16 06:17:52

I think your sums are probably reasonably accurate. We are in China and I estimate that our actual cost to the company (car, utilities, rent, schooling etc) is about GBP 350K per year.

whiteagle Tue 28-Jun-16 06:32:20

I guess the yardstick is - would you be able to pay 4x private school fees out of his salary here is the UK? If no, then it is unlikely you will be able to pay them out of salary in Singapore unless school fees are part of the package.

ChopsticksandChilliCrab Tue 28-Jun-16 09:58:57

You won't be able to get your children into the local system so unless you are going to HE them, school fees are going to be the big thing to negotiate.

Finding four places in one school will not be easy. Would this be for August 2017? If so you need to start talking to the schools and see who might have places. Prioritise your oldest as they will be going into Year 10 presumably at that point.

Pupsiecola Tue 28-Jun-16 10:09:35

Remember too that you'll only pay around 15 to 18% tax in Singapore.

SweetieBumMum Tue 28-Jun-16 20:13:08

Thanks so much for your thoughts. We definitely cannot pay for private schools on the salary now but we're fortunate to live in a grammar school area with the two eldest in already and hopefully the younger ones as they get closer to high school age.
That's why unless the package is good I really don't see that it's worth uprooting the children, although the chance of a new experience is alluring.
I'd really like to see the schools before committing but if I was offered a place should I just snatch it now without a visit? Any thoughts on Dulwich or Tanglin?
So far no word on first offers, I think that'll happen next week. Eeeek!

FreddoFrog Thu 30-Jun-16 10:49:11

Dulwich and Tanglin are both well-regarded. However, Dulwich is located very far west which will be tricky if decide to live east (for your DH's job). Dulwich will be fine if you live centrally or west. You would also need to check if they have year groups for your eldest (ie whether they are teaching year 9 yet). Might be tricky to get your youngest in too but having the older kids in would give you sibling priority.

Tanglin is centrally located but again I think hard to get all four in there especially your youngest. I would be calling them asap as schools are closing for the summer this week.

When are you aiming to get them into school here?

There are loads of preschools here (which go up to 6 years old) so your youngest could always attend a preschool until a place is available at your chosen school.

SweetieBumMum Thu 30-Jun-16 11:08:27

Thanks Freddo, I have a yr9 place secured at Tanglin and then would get sibling priority but goodness only knows when that the other two will get a place. A bit daunting. There's no way we could get out by Aug so I'd end up paying for yr 9 place and attending in Jan when hopefully other spaces for the others would come available.
I can't really deal with the uncertainty very well as it all seems to be as long as a piece of string....

FreddoFrog Fri 01-Jul-16 04:35:53

I agree the uncertainty is really stressful. Have you spoken to Dover Court for your children #2 and #3? It also follows the British curriculum, is a great school and is only about 5/10 minutes' drive from Tanglin. You could then decide to move them across to Tanglin if a place becomes available. You don't have to pay an application fee for Dover so you may as well get their names on the waitlist.

My children are at Dover (but are much younger) and are very happy there.

UWCSEA Dover is another to talk to. Again, it's located centrally, close to Tanglin. Also, Overseas Family School (east coast) and the Canadian International School (though I think their east coast campus only goes up to about year 6?).

ChopsticksandChilliCrab Fri 01-Jul-16 05:06:56

If you pay Tanglin from August for the oldest, the younger ones should get in on sibling priority in January. There is quite a bit of movement over Christmas as the Australian school year starts in January so families moving there often move over December/January.

SweetieBumMum Fri 01-Jul-16 08:09:06

Thanks Freddo, I've emailed all the British schools but had missed Dover somehow! Rushing I guess.
Chopsticks, thank you. I had forgotten about the different school years for Australia so that gives me hope!
I may start to get more relaxed soon. grin

On another message someone mentioned that lots of expats are leaving Singapore right now and rents are dropping. Would anyone know if that's true or if it is why that would be?

ShanghaiDiva Fri 01-Jul-16 08:27:16

What about One World International school? It's a small school, but I think they offer iGCSEs and then IB.

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