If you’re thinking of making the move to Singapore, you’re not alone. This beautiful garden city is a safe, family-friendly place, which could explain why many expat families choose to live there. HSBC’s 2017 Expat Explorer Survey even voted it the best destination for expats, so you should find it easy to make the transition to your new way of life. While moving with kids can often be tricky, Singapore is welcoming, so your family should feel at home soon after settling. English is widely spoken, familiar Western foods are available, there is already an expat community, and there is much to see and do.
If you’re worried about practical considerations and safety for your family such as medical care, then expat health insurance is available for access to high-quality private healthcare, giving you peace of mind. That said, moving overseas and adjusting to a new culture can be a stressful experience, so here are five tips to help your family settle in and enjoy a healthy lifestyle in Singapore.
- Encouraging your kids to socialise
Some children can find it overwhelming to move to a new place where they don’t know anyone. The great thing about Singapore is that many people speak English, so this is one less barrier your kids have to contend with. To make it easy for children to socialise, some expats choose to move into a condominium (or ‘condo’). This means that other kids are always nearby, and they can go out into the communal gardens and play safely together. Once they have made friends with other expats or locals, they should start to feel more settled and happy.
- Trying new foods together
Similarly to New York, Singapore is a truly multicultural city, and the cuisine on offer around the city reflects this. As a family, you can have fun exploring the hawkers (food courts) and trying all the vibrant and flavoursome dishes: from chicken rice (Singapore’s national dish) and laksa (a broth made with spices and coconut milk) to rojak (a salad of fruits and vegetables) and nasi lemak (a spicy Malay rice dish with coconut milk).
Unless your kids are very open-minded, you may want to steer clear of the local favourite of fish-head curry until they are feeling a little more confident! A lot of healthy options are available, including minced pork, stewed vegetables, braised duck and tofu – all of which are low in fat and high in protein and fibre. If your kids are struggling with the food, then there are plenty of restaurants serving western dishes around the city.
- Getting used to the heat
Though the multicultural nature of Singapore means that culture shock is kept to a minimum, there is one change that may take a little getting used to: the heat. Singapore has an average temperature of 27 degrees Celsius and a humid climate, which means you and your kids may feel hot and sticky. One way that expats deal with this is to live in a property that has a pool (or a condo that has a communal pool), so that your children can jump in and cool off if they are getting hot and bothered. Air conditioning will keep your property at a comfortable temperature so that your family can escape the heat and get a good night’s sleep. You may also choose to wear loose clothing to minimise stickiness and perhaps carry a bottle of water with you to stay hydrated (the Public Utilities Board says tap water is safe to drink). Sunhats and sun lotion are essential for protecting your skin, especially in the midday sun.
- Schooling your children
There are two main options for expats in Singapore when it comes to schooling: public school and international school. Some expats choose public school, as it encourages their child to integrate with the local customs. It’s also less expensive than international school, and easier to get into. On the other hand, many expats prefer international schooling as they follow the UK, US or Australian curriculum and can help children feel less uprooted. This second option can reassure parents who will be familiar with the teaching methods (some public schools still use corporal punishment, for instance). Applying for international schooling can take longer than getting a place at a public school, and is more expensive. However, some expats can negotiate an education allowance as part of their work contract, so it might be worth checking with your employer.
- Exploring and travelling
A fun way to get your kids excited about moving to Singapore is to explore and travel as a family. There is so much to see in Singapore itself – from educational highlights like the Science Centre and Singapore Zoo, to attractions like Snow City, the Singapore Flyer, Wild Wild Wet Water Park and Universal Studios – that you can show them what a great time you’re all going to have living there. A lot of expats also like to take advantage of Singapore’s excellent location and take their families to destinations in Southeast Asia like Phuket, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Bintan Island and Krabi – all just short flights from Changi Airport.
From cultural guidance to practical considerations, we hope these five tips are a useful starting point for planning your move and helping your family settle into life in Singapore. With so much on offer in the city and such a welcoming, multicultural environment (not to mention the many easy-to-reach exotic destinations for short breaks) your kids should soon feel right at home.