Having lived in various parts of the UK my whole life, the beginning of the year saw me move to Singapore to teach. I have lived in Lion City for ten months now, and I consider myself well and truly settled in. So I thought I’d share a few tips that I’ve picked up along the way (one for every month) for anyone who might be considering the move. Please forgive me if I sound like I’m stating the obvious on some of them. This is, of course, my first expat experience. Here’s what you need to know about settling in Singapore.
- Learn some basic Mandarin/Malay/Tamil-it will not go unappreciated. And the look of sheer amazement on people’s faces when you greet or thank them in their mother tongue is well worth the effort involved!
- Invest in a pair of sunglasses AND an umbrella and make sure that you have them about your person at all times, due to the extreme rain/heat. And maybe a shawl or light cardigan, due to the extreme air-conditioning in many public places!
- Get set up with a Singapore SIM card, bank account, etc. as soon as possible. Once you’ve sorted out all of the boring, albeit necessary tasks, you’ll be free to start enjoying your new life.
- Go exploring – familiarize yourself with your new surroundings. You will soon be too busy discovering the many delights of the island to miss your old life. To start with, I would recommend a trip to 1-Altitude for a view of the whole city lit up at night, a visit to a couple of the museums to brush up on the island’s history (my current favorites are Reflections at Bukit Chandu and the Asian Civilizations Museum) and, of course, a trip to the Merlion, which features on nearly every postcard/souvenir I have seen here. The hawker centers are also worth a look, as is the zoo, and, if you’re looking for something a little different, a trip to Haw Par Villa (a themed park – not to be mistaken for a theme park!) is a must.
- Try to find accommodation near an MRT station or bus stand. This will obviously make traversing the island easier and avoid the unpleasantness of a walk, however short, in the aforementioned extreme heat/rain.
- On a more serious note, try to get into a routine as quickly as possible. It is obviously difficult to settle into a new place at first anywhere. Still, even things as simple as going for a swim each day, or grabbing a Coffee Bean as a weekly treat (and thereby building a rapport with the friendly staff) will make it feel like home more quickly.
- Make an effort to meet people wherever you are in the world. Personal relationships matter. It will take time to make new friends, but they will probably be the most important determiner in how you expat experience pans out, so the sooner you start, the better!
- Talk to your friends and family back home (and properly, not via Facebook), especially if you feel a little down. It happens to the best of us and is NOT an admission of defeat.
- Look up the laws! It’s not for nothing that Singapore is known as a ‘Fine City.’ Chewing gum is obviously out, as is eating and drinking on the MRT. It is worth doing some research. Otherwise, you might find your expat adventure over somewhat quicker than you’d expected!
- Go on holiday! There is nothing like returning from a trip abroad to make somewhere feel like home!
And here’s another one for free!
- Buy some tourist tat, send a few postcards…..you’ve worked hard to get where you are and are entitled to gloat a little!
This article was written by Lauren, who recently moved to Singapore at a week’s notice.