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The people, culture and climate

One of the twenty smallest countries in the world, with a land area of just 719.1 km, Singapore consists of one main island and 63 other tiny (mostly uninhabited) islands.

Despite it being the third most densely populated country in the world, the Expat Insider's InterNations Survey 2017 rated quality of life for expats very highly. The survey also shows that 99% of expats living there feel safe - backing this up is the Global Peace Index (2016), which places Singapore in the top 20 most peaceful countries.

Cost of living and transport

The country also performs superbly in the survey when it comes to its excellent transport services, taking first place in the Travel & Transport subcategory. The country also performs superbly in the survey when it comes to its excellent transport services, taking first place in the Travel & Transport subcategory. Travel opportunities are given the highest rating by 76% of respondents. Salaries are usually high for expatriates, but so too is the cost of living. In 2018, The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) announced Singapore as the most expensive city in the world for the fifth year running.

The climate

Thanks to its tropical climate, Singapore is known as ‘the garden city’ with an abundance of green spaces and nature reserves. The average temperature is over 30 degrees Celsius (hotter in the day), and it is extremely humid, with humidity reaching 70% - 90% especially in the morning when the air is at its most muggy. On very rainy days, the levels can top out at 100%, so staying hydrated is incredibly important, as is sheltering inside the safe confines of your air-conditioned home or workplace. The Meterological Service Singapore reports that weather can be erratic and unpredictable all year round. There is approximately 2166mm of rainfall annually and lightning storms throughout most of the year.

Singapore's seasons

According to the region’s Meterological Service, there are two monsoon seasons:

  • Northeast Monsoon (December to March): Heavy rainfall in December and early January, usually in the afternoon and evening. This is followed by a dry phase from late January.
  • Southwest Monsoon (May to September): This is the season of the ‘Sumatra Squalls’ - heavy rainfall and strong winds that start before dawn and last throughout the morning.

Between these seasons, the weather is typically storming, particularly in the afternoon and early evening.  Despite the rain, the country receives just as much brilliant sunshine, making it a popular beach destination with plenty of opportunities to soak up the rays.

Culture and lifestyle

A multicultural city with diverse languages, cultures, and cuisines, expats can expect to join a community of welcoming people from all over the world, and you can get involved with plenty of clubs and associations. The country has a 'work hard, play hard' culture and with one of the longest working weeks in the world, citizens and expats also enjoy 11 public holidays each year. Among them are Vesak Day (a Buddhist holiday), Chinese New Year, Deepavali (the Hindu festival of lights), and some Muslim celebrations such as Eid al-Fitr. The Lantern Festival, Art Festival, and the Grand Prix season are other highlights not to be missed. Downtime is hard-earned and work-life balance ranks at 49th out of 64 countries in the 2017 Expat Insider survey. But with generous salaries and good disposable income, expats can enjoy the out-of-office-hours fun the island has to offer its expat crowd.

In spite of the heat, opportunities for outdoor activities abound with lots of green spaces and places to walk, cycle, and jog. Shopping and eating are both big pastimes, with a wealth of bars, clubs, and restaurants — from hipster jazz clubs to stunning venues where you can enjoy Singapore’s skyline. One of Asia’s hottest places for food, Singapore’s cuisine forms an enormous part of the culture here. Whether you want to grab a bowl of noodles from a vendor at a hawker centre — large food courts selling a wide range of food and drinks — or book a table at a rooftop restaurant, you can find every country’s recipes represented in the city. Expat families can enjoy lots of affordable activities too, with world-class museums and art spaces to visit, along with cultural treasures like the oldest Hindu temple, Sri Mariamman, in the heart of Chinatown, to the impressive Sultan Mosque, the focal point for Singapore’s Malayan community. For nature lovers, don’t forget to visit the Wildlife Reserves attractions and the beautiful Singapore Botanic Gardens.

Top tips:

  • Don’t smoke in public spaces – always research where you’re allowed to light up legally.
  • Always take your shoes off when you enter a house.
  • Wait patiently in line – queuing is part of the culture.
  • Don’t tip as your bill will include service tax and waiters won’t expect it.
  • Stay on the left if you’re walking down the street or on an escalator.
  • Leave roadside offerings alone; they aren’t litter or artefacts for you to take home.
  • If you’re visiting religious temples or mosques, cover your hair, shoulders, and legs to show respect.

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