Singapore is an incredibly attractive and hospitable country for foreign workers for a large number of reasons. Its high salaries, top-notch justice system, and large pool of educated citizens and residents make it a dream for non-citizens who want to work in the city-state. However, there are a few quirks of living in Singapore that many foreigners, especially Westerners, have a tough time adjusting to. Here are just some of the things you should expect when you move to Singapore.

1. Expect Singlish, lah?

Chances are Singaporeans will be able to understand your English just fine. They consume a lot of English language media from other countries and are quite capable of understanding you. However, most Singaporeans you meet outside a formal work environment are likely to converse in Singlish, a local variant of English that combines Cantonese, Malay, and South Asian sentence structures and vocabulary. Expect to have to learn this local take on English if you plan on working as a permanent resident.

2. Expect to commute

Cars are crazy expensive in Singapore, and typically only the richest, most determined Singaporeans are able to use a car for personal reasons on a daily basis. As the city-state has only a limited amount of land and a high population density, repeated traffic jams can be a very real danger to their economy, thus the Singaporean government has taken active steps to discourage car ownership by taxing them out of the reach of most people.

Fortunately, Singapore has some of the best public transportation in the world, and the MRT and bus systems are routinely studied as a basis for other systems the world over. Between the buses, trains, and excellent cabs and rideshare options, you probably won’t even miss owning your own car.

3. Expect to pay through the nose for healthcare

The Singaporean healthcare system is among the best in the world in terms of patient outcomes, and also one of the most affordable — if you’re a citizen or permanent resident that has bought into the state insurance scheme. If you’re a non-permanent citizen, it can be mind-bogglingly expensive to be seriously ill in Singapore. Even a short 10-minute check-up can set you back $100 or more and it just gets more expensive from there. If you’re planning to work in Singapore, make sure to invest in international health insurance. Check out Now Health International and other specialized insurers that provide coverage specific to expats.

4. Expect laws to be enforced – even ones you think are crazy

Singapore does not mess around when it comes to maintaining a certain level of law and order within the little territory that it does have. For many Westerners, this often means the draconian enforcement of laws that they simply may not be able to understand the reasons for. For instance, Singapore has a famous ban on chewing gum, unless needed for a medical condition, and the country does not interpret free speech in quite the same way as most Western countries do.

However, most Singaporean citizens and permanent residents do believe their system works, for them at least. This means that you can’t and shouldn’t expect to change anything about the legal system. In any case, don’t expect to get away with things in Singapore that you were able to do in your own country.

Read Living in Singapore: A Complete Singapore Expat Guide for a better idea of what to expect in what may be the world’s most vibrant micronation.


Now Health International provides international health insurance that is perfect for expats, global citizens, international students, SME’s and corporations. There are also some territories they can also offer cover for local nationals. Their award-winning company offers affordable basic health care plans as well as comprehensive plans with all the bells and whistles.

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