Singapore is where east meets west. In this melting pot of different cultures, you can do and get and everything you can imagine. With its advantages and opportunities for businesses to expand and grow in Asia, its no wonder that Singapore received 1.8 million business travellers and had a 4% growth in business tourism receipts in 2017.
Whether you are here to set up your Asian operations or just to assess the opportunity, here are some tips to help you with the (small) culture clash in your first week in Singapore.
Singapore’s transport infrastructure is excellent. Most Singaporeans rely on public transport services since it is pretty expensive to own or to rent a car in Singapore. Wherever you want to go, you can use trains (Mass Rapid Transportation (MRT), Light Rail Transit (LRT)) or busses. Therefore, a public transportation card (known locally as an EZLink card) is highly recommendable. It is a prepaid card, which can be purchased at the Airport or MRT station with a deposit of S$5. A normal trip by bus or MRT costs about S$1.30.
Taxis are also a good way to get around in Singapore. Compared to German taxis they are quite cheap (around S$10 for a 10min drive). The Grab taxi app, which is comparable to uber, is a very easy option to order cabs. ComfortDelGro and SMRT Taxi are also commonly used apps.
Additionally, bike sharing is getting more and more popular in Singapore. With bike rental apps like Mobike, you can make use of one of the numerous bikes that are parked around the streets. For half an hour the price is about 50ct to S$1.
Now, you know how to get from one place to another. But that doesn’t help you when you don’t know how to read Singaporean addresses! Since office and housing buildings are huge, at the end of the addresses there is a number of the floor (counting from the ground level on) and a number for the office. The address of German Accelerator, for example, is: 75 Ayer Rajah Crescent, Block 75, #02-16. So, it is located on the second floor and is the sixteenth office.
The Internet surely is one of the most important things that will help you not to get lost in the 6-million-metropolis and the thing you need to keep your business on track. Therefore, getting a phone card right after arriving in Singapore is highly recommendable. You can buy prepaid tourist SIM cards right at the airport or at shops of the different telecommunication providers. The most common telecom companies are Singtel, Starhub and M1. They offer various cards that differ in balance and validity.
Telecommunication costs are pretty low in Singapore (local calls: ~12ct/min; SMS: 5ct; data: 2,7ct/10KB). Besides, Singapore has a pretty good WIFI-system. You can easily access free public WIFI at most locations.
The national currency in Singapore is the Singapore dollar (SGD). One dollar equals about 0,73 USD or 0,64 EUR. With a normal credit card, you should be able to withdraw money at one of the numerous ATMs in Singapore. It is recommended to get an international credit card, which allows you to withdraw cash without fees. For international money transfers, Revolut or TransferWise would be some great options.
In Singapore, it is very easy to pay by credit card. Even taxis or food stalls have credit card payment opportunities. NETS is a wireless payment alternative that is also commonly used.
The living costs in Singapore really depend on the type of accommodation. Whereas shared apartments are about S$1,500 per month, hotel costs are a lot higher. Prices of S$150 to S$200 per night for a middle-class hotel are normal. The costs for food, however, are comparably low. You should calculate about S$100 per week as well as additional S$100 for entertainment.
To cover their costs of living, Singaporeans are usually pretty hardworking. As in Europe, Singaporeans work from Monday to Friday. A normal working day starts at around 9 am and goes until approximately 6 pm with a lunch break of about an hour in between. Business lunch appointments and business dinners are also quite common.
Want to walk home alone after a business dinner that took longer than you thought? Don’t be afraid! Singapore is a very safe country. As the second safest city in the world, crimes are very rare.
In Singapore, there are no real seasons as we know them in Europe. All year round the daytime temperatures is about 30°C while they fall to 25°C at night. Make sure to bring sun protection as the sun can get quite intense. The humidity is pretty high, and you might experience some spontaneous tropical rains and thunderstorms. In winter the rain is usually heavier than in summer. So, carrying along a small umbrella might be a good idea.
Still, Singapore did not get the nickname “Airconditioned Nation” for nothing. Offices, shopping malls, restaurants, taxis, and the MRT are usually cooled down below normal room temperature. Be aware of not catching a cold in the tropics!
As a multicultural country, Singapore has many official languages. Still, English is most commonly used. The local colloquial language is “Singlish” – a mixture of English and phrases with influences from Chinese, Malay and Indian languages. It is for example very common to add a “lah” at the end of a phrase. The pronunciation of some words might also be (slightly) different to the formal English you are used to.
Furthermore, you should know that Singaporeans use lots of abbreviations to keep the language as simple as possible. Reading about the transportation you might have already learned the abbreviations for the trains MRT and LRT. Another acronym you will hear a lot is HDB (Housing Development Board). Singaporeans are using it when talking about big public residential buildings built by the government.
If you feel like having some coffee to overcome long working days, it might get a bit more complicated than you thought. There are lots of new “Coffee-vocab” to learn to order local coffee. “Kopi” for example equals to a coffee with milk and sugar, while “Kopi-O Kosong” is black coffee without sugar. Have fun figuring out what you have to say in order to get your coffee!
You won’t just need a guide to order coffee in Singapore. Singapore offers a great variety of food as well – check out the comprehensive Michelin Guide. Even though the people in Singapore have different backgrounds, ethnicities, and religions, they all have one thing in common: their love for good food.
You can get everything here: Indian Prata, Malay Nasi Lemak or Chinese Dim Sum, just to name some of the numerous delicious dishes. Locals will mostly have their lunch and dinner in restaurants or at food courts. The Singaporean food courts are called hawkers. They contain a mixture of different cuisines. Typical local dishes are Chicken Rice, Laska, Kaya Toast. You can get your lunch or dinner starting from S$5.
Hopefully, this short article can provide answers to some of the questions you’ve had and will facilitate you settling in in Singapore. Enjoy your stay and have a great time experiencing all the different faces of this wonderful country!