We are excited to welcome Sarah to our Expat Life Interview Series. She talked about her expat experience in Singapore. As you all know, Singapore is one of our favorite destinations, and our most visited country. I have a lot of friends living in Singapore, so I am really thrilled to have read her experience and, at the same time, share it with you guys!
Q: Where are you originally from?
A: I was born in the Philippines, spent part of my childhood in England, but have mostly lived in the USA.
Q: In which city and country are you living now? Did you move there alone or with a spouse/family?
A: I live in Singapore with my husband, Tim. We moved here from the San Francisco Bay area in California.
Q: How long have you lived there and how long are you planning to stay?
A: We moved to Singapore back in October 2017, and currently have no plans to relocate.
Q: Why did you move and what do you do?
A: My husband was offered a position that we couldn’t refuse. I started blogging after a year of living abroad.
Q: Moving from the USA to Singapore, what was your first impression?
A: How clean and lush the city is. Singapore loves to create a mix of use in development that focuses on Eco-friendliness. Also known as urban jungle living. Seeing office, residential and hotel buildings transforming the city with their architecture that embeds dense lush gardens & waterfalls, is quite stunning.
Q: What do you enjoy most about Singapore? What were some of your favorite experiences?
A: I’m still exploring and experiencing everything that Singapore provides. My first year here I traveled quite extensively (I was gone 1/2 of the year traveling to 16 countries). So, I feel my second year here is to really get to know my (relatively) new home.
It’s such a dense city-state that offers both city and tropical rainforest areas to enjoy. I love walking around wet markets, buying veggies from stalls and nature trails. The dining is vast and offers ample choices. Hawker centers are new experiences for me and it’s fantastic to have readily available local food, especially when a stall has been awarded a Michelin star.
Q: What do you miss most about home?
A: I miss the ease of seeing my parents. I also miss living in a non-humid climate.
Q: What has been the greatest aspect of your expat experience so far? What are the adjustments you had to make when settling into expat life there?
A: The ability to explore so many countries. Singapore hosts an extremely efficient airport. It takes a couple of minutes to clear security & immigration. It also provides us easy access to visit many countries throughout South East Asia.
I would say the biggest adjustment I’ve experienced is not having a job. I’ve worked full time for the past 20 years, so not incorporating a 9-5pm is new.
Q: How would you rate the quality of life compared to your home country, in terms of cost of living, public transportation and healthcare system?
A: Singapore is one of the top safest locations in the world – which is fantastic. When I am out and about, I never have to be on the defense no matter where I go and at what hour. I’ve seen people at restaurants leave their purses & phones at the table while they step outside to smoke a cigarette.
We don’t have a car, which I prefer. I can honestly say, I do not miss driving at all. The public transportation is extremely systematic and clean. The longest I’ve ever waited for a train was 3 minutes. In comparison to the Metro in Washington, D.C. & the Bart in San Francisco. The subway systems back in the States need improvement.
As of late, I’ve become very fond of taking buses. I’ve never utilized the bus system back in the States because we owned cars. Like the subway system here, I’m finding the buses just as well organized. We also Grabshare riding as well.
The city is pristine that it has often been described as sterile. There’s a good infrastructure of good sewage and waste removal. Being an unblemished and green city is the main focus that makes it one of its’ highest achievements.
There’s also a structured housing policy that ensures everyone has a home.
In regards to healthcare, permanent residents and Singaporeans have access to subsidized government healthcare programs. Expatriates receive healthcare through their employer or purchase it privately (which can be much more expansive than the States). Yet, not all employers provide healthcare packages.
The educational system is cheaper than the USA, that attracts a lot of international students.
Q: What are the best things to do or places to visit in Singapore?
A: After seeing most of the tourist areas. I’m still learning about my new city, the museums and the local communities. For me, I love being outside. Taking walks along the Singapore River is always a nice nighttime enjoyment. Being outside in Fort Canning, Bukit Timah Reserve, Botanical Gardens, McRitchie Reserve are always welcome outings.
Just like the melting pot of cultures here, the mix of neighborhoods is great to wander around and experience their personalities. I love the closeness of shophouses, skyscrapers, and temples creating interesting architecture landscapes.
Meeting people and making friends
Q: Tell us about your typical day as an expat in Singapore.
A: I do not have a routine which I have come to embrace. If I’m not traveling, hosting out-of-towners. I spend my days researching and learning all things related to blogging. I’m slowly learning Japanese, I have a love for the arts and have been learning how to sew. I visit the gym, run errands, socialize with friends and read up on topics about whatever what draws my curiosity – I feel like I Google things about 50x a day.
Q: Was it easy meeting people and making friends? Have you made friends with locals or do you mix mainly with other expats? Did you feel you fitted in culturally?
A: Cultivating new friendships in my adult life is not a new muscle for me. But not being in an office environment and not knowing anyone before we moved was new to me. Which made meeting new people a bit of a challenge. I am a friendly person and always open to socializing. Which has helped me to place myself into friendly and welcoming social environments.
I have a mix of local and expat friendships, which is great to have. Singapore is flooded with expatriates and it’s very transient. So knowing locals is fruitful.
Q: Did you have a problem getting a visa or work permit? Did you tackle the visa process yourself or go through an agency?
A: I am classified in Singapore under a Dependent Pass because I am here as a trailing spouse. We are fortunate that my husband’s employer-provided the efforts to get the paperwork processed.
Q: How does the work culture differ from home?
A: I can’t speak to this from personal experience, but I assume it’s comparable.
Q: What are your tips or advice for anyone looking to live and work in Singapore?
A: I say do it. If you are offered a position, take it (of course be pragmatic in doing proper research, expat package, what makes financial & longterm sense, etc.), but do it. If it’s something that one is toggling with, my two cents is – you can always go back home if it doesn’t turn into something you would like.
For me, it’s an amazing experience that I’m still learning and growing from. I absolutely have a different perspective on life and I love every second of it.
Thank you, Sarah, for taking the time to be part of our Expat Life Interview Series! Sarah Emery is the Founder / Writer of SarahWithASmile.com. She is an American expatriate living in Singapore who blogs about travel and food. She writes with the intention to inspire her readers’ sense of adventure. Her articles focus on how to thrive at the expat lifestyle, traveling in varies countries and her personal journey of exploring the foodie world.
*All photos are the sole property of the author. They were provided and used with permission for this interview only. Any unauthorized use of these photos is prohibited.
The Expat Life Interview Series was created to know more about the country, not just from a traveler's perspective. We hope to help others who are thinking of working abroad to know how it is to live and work with the locals. If you are living and working abroad even for only a few months or several years and would like to be featured on Wellington World Travels, please Contact Us so we can send you the questions and you can share your expat life experience.
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