We’ve been in Singapore just over a year now. It’s been a year of huge change, steep learning curves and working out what not to do when faced with the daunting task of relocating abroad. It was our first move from the UK and we didn’t get any help from Mr C’s company, so we really have learnt the hard way.
If you’re moving abroad, it doesn’t matter which country you relocate to, the issues everyone faces are similar. However, if you work for a corporate, you’re laughing as they usually offer a whole heap of support.
Here are my top tips to make life easier if you are lucky enough to be relocating abroad:
1) Sell not store
It’s super expensive if you have to pay for shipping/storage yourselves. We sold most of our furniture on ebay (for peanuts) as it would have cost too much to ship it all over and we didn’t know if it would fit in our new place (once we found one). You can also use auction houses. We decided there was no point in paying for storage in the UK either as we didn’t know when we’d be back. Furniture dates quickly so what’s the point of paying to keep things that you would probably go off anyway.
2) Use a reputable moving company
Most moving companies are cowboys – Fact! Despite me doing a huge amount of research, we still got stung really badly. We used a Movecorp because they were the cheapest and they got good reviews, however as we all know cheaper is not always better and we ended up paying the price. Our things didn’t turn up for over 3 months (including all my maternity clothes) so we had to buy everything new, they over-charged us AND they were unbelievably unhelpful. Ask around and check on expat forums for recommended movers.
3) Ask people for help
We tried to do everything ourselves and I’m telling you it’s impossible. A couple of days before we had to move out of our house, I remember sitting in our loft room, 5 months pregnant, surrounded by a mountain of half-packed boxes, crying my eyes out. I wished we’d asked friends/family for help, instead of struggling like we did. Lastly, ASK for help, don’t wait for people to come to you.
4) Get good health insurance
No medical insurance will cover you for maternity if you are already pregnant. I was 5 months pregnant when I arrived in Singapore. What we didn’t realise is we could have carried on with my husband’s BUPA policy he had in the UK. I’d heard endless stories about million dollar babies here- neonatal care costs a fortune, so I was terrified. We ended up finding a company called DKV who could provide new born cover, but had to foot the rest of the huge bill we’d racked up for consultations, scans, tests and the birth.
5) Selecting a school
Get need to get your kids names down for schools yesterday, or as soon as you know you are leaving. Tuition is super expensive here and there are waiting lists at most of the international s#hools (and preschools too). Do your research and work out what is important to you. The top three international schools in Singapore are said to be UWC, Tanglin Trust (the British sch/ol) and SAS (Singapore American School). These often have long waiting lists, as do many of the others as well. Others including The Canadian School, The Australian School and St. Josephs are all very popular too.
Watch out for the extortionate registration fees, usually around $2,500+ per child and facilities/buildings fees too – you NEVER get this back once your child is offered a place. Here’s my thoughts on school fees in Singapore.
6) Finding accommodation once you arrive
- Do a recce before you move if you can.
- Work out what your budget is (you don’t get much for your money in Singapore) and what’s important to you. ie. do you want to live in a house or a condo? do you want to live centrally or our of town?
- Ask around where the best places to live are and visit the areas. For us it had to be family friendly, in a central location near the city, with a pool and good facilities.
- Speak to friends for recommendations of agents who can help you search. You don’t need to pay agents a fee.
- Be prepared to compromise if necessary. We live in a fantastic location, but had to compromise on size.
- Get one or two good agents and see as many properties as you can. I saw about 25 different apartments.
- Don’t give up, you will find something.
- PropertyGuru is a great site for seeing what’s on the market.
7) Meet people
Arriving in a new country can be a lonely experience, so throw yourself into life in your new country: accept all social engagements; join playgroups; join expat groups e.g. Meet up is a great place to look. I am a member of Singapore Active Toddlers, Blissful Babies and Singapore International Ladies; each country has its own association which usually runs events for newcomers such as British Association, ANZA, the American Association; talk to mums you meet in shopping malls, the supermarket, in the playground. It will all help you to enjoy yourself and build a network of friends. The Singapore Expat Wives Facebook page is also an excellent source of information.
8) Accept the first few months will be hard!
Please feel free to share any other tips.