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Reality check before moving to Singapore

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ER2015
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Reality check before moving to Singapore

Post by ER2015 » Mon, 05 Jan 2015 6:08 am

Hello all, my company offered me a position in our Singapore office. Although I'm excited about the opportunity, I'd like to do a reality check before accepting the offer. Some facts are:

I'm single female in early 30's. No kids/spouse to support but would like to bring my 5-yr old dog
US citizen (will need to pay some US taxes)
Salary offered: $120,000 (us$)
One time relocation allowance: $10,000 (us$)
NO other allowance. Standard company policy, will be hard to negotiate

My questions are:
1. With this amount $, will I be able to rent a decent size apartment (>= 800sft) within 20 min (by public transportation) of work (near Great World in central area)?
2. Will I be able to have a "comfortable" lifestyle? I don't drink or party a lot but do enjoy eating out once in a while, and some regional travel
3. How easy is it to bring and live with a dog (medium to large size) in Singapore? Easy to rent a pet friendly apt? Is it easy to find dog walkers/sitters? Are there areas/parks that allow dogs to roam around off leash?

I'm currently living & working in NYC, which cost of living is considered comparable to Singapore. But I've also heard Singapore can be more expensive in a lot of ways. Therefore I'd like to make sure if I relocate to Singapore to work a few years, at least I'm not lowering my current standard of living. Any insights/suggestions will be greatly appreciated. Thank you in advance!

E.R.

 



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Re: Reality check before moving to Singapore

Post by nakatago » Mon, 05 Jan 2015 6:17 am

ER2015 wrote:Hello all, my company offered me a position in our Singapore office. Although I'm excited about the opportunity, I'd like to do a reality check before accepting the offer. Some facts are:

I'm single female in early 30's. No kids/spouse to support but would like to bring my 5-yr old dog
US citizen (will need to pay some US taxes)
Salary offered: $120,000 (us$)
One time relocation allowance: $10,000 (us$)
NO other allowance. Standard company policy, will be hard to negotiate

My questions are:
1. With this amount $, will I be able to rent a decent size apartment (>= 800sft) within 20 min (by public transportation) of work (near Great World in central area)?
2. Will I be able to have a "comfortable" lifestyle? I don't drink or party a lot but do enjoy eating out once in a while, and some regional travel
3. How easy is it to bring and live with a dog (medium to large size) in Singapore? Easy to rent a pet friendly apt? Is it easy to find dog walkers/sitters? Are there areas/parks that allow dogs to roam around off leash?

I'm currently living & working in NYC, which cost of living is considered comparable to Singapore. But I've also heard Singapore can be more expensive in a lot of ways. Therefore I'd like to make sure if I relocate to Singapore to work a few years, at least I'm not lowering my current standard of living. Any insights/suggestions will be greatly appreciated. Thank you in advance!

E.R.
First, just to structure things, go with this template: http://forum.singaporeexpats.com/viewtopic.php?t=101985" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; You've already answered some questions but maybe looking at it will help identify those that you haven't.

Just a ballpark guesstimate, you should be able to live a comfortable lifestyle. It seems that you'll be better off than most (being single and all) but YMMV of course; other posters would elaborate on that.

For places to rent, you can try looking at properties online (this forum is sponsored by a real estate agency). That way, you can survey the general prices and how properties are described/posted. You can then use Google Maps/Gothere.sg/use your favorite search engine to find other Singapore-based mapping websites to get travel directions to and from work.

Eating/drinking out every once in a while is definitely possible but that also depends on how much you will spend. You can use http://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/co ... York%2C+NY" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; as a rough guide.

Regional travel is also in the cards; people making less than half of what you will can do it often enough; though, through budget airlines.

Dogs would be a bit of a problem, especially bigger ones. Some lease property don't allow them, locals can be easily spooked by large-ish dogs and Muslims consider them haram (unclean). Your specifics, however make or break bringing a dog with you so use the search function to look for the previous discussions about dogs. For example, here's just an example with a cursory search: http://forum.singaporeexpats.com/viewto ... inging+dog" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; Other issues are identified in those threads already as well.

Not sure about lowering your standard of living but you definitely will need to change it. For example, expect no dishwashers. Learn to eat/cook local produce. "Everyone speaks English" isn't as straightforward as you've been told. That sort of stuff.

Other issues include:
* are you in it for professional mobility, adventure, cultural/professional experience or change of scenery?
* how long do you think you'd want to do this gig if you will accept it?
* do you plan to settle down soon?
* how much of the local culture would you be immersing yourself in? This includes general socializing and how corporate culture will entail you to adjust your usual approach in your job.

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Re: Reality check before moving to Singapore

Post by zzm9980 » Mon, 05 Jan 2015 1:03 pm

ER2015 wrote:Hello all, my company offered me a position in our Singapore office. Although I'm excited about the opportunity, I'd like to do a reality check before accepting the offer. Some facts are:

I'm single female in early 30's. No kids/spouse to support but would like to bring my 5-yr old dog
US citizen (will need to pay some US taxes)
Salary offered: $120,000 (us$)
One time relocation allowance: $10,000 (us$)
NO other allowance. Standard company policy, will be hard to negotiate

My questions are:
1. With this amount $, will I be able to rent a decent size apartment (>= 800sft) within 20 min (by public transportation) of work (near Great World in central area)?
2. Will I be able to have a "comfortable" lifestyle? I don't drink or party a lot but do enjoy eating out once in a while, and some regional travel
3. How easy is it to bring and live with a dog (medium to large size) in Singapore? Easy to rent a pet friendly apt? Is it easy to find dog walkers/sitters? Are there areas/parks that allow dogs to roam around off leash?

I'm currently living & working in NYC, which cost of living is considered comparable to Singapore. But I've also heard Singapore can be more expensive in a lot of ways. Therefore I'd like to make sure if I relocate to Singapore to work a few years, at least I'm not lowering my current standard of living. Any insights/suggestions will be greatly appreciated. Thank you in advance!

E.R.
Yes, you shouldn't have a problem. Your salary will be pretty good to live a comfortable lifestyle.

Rents will be comparable to Manhattan for you, but your taxes will be much lower. You'll only be paying US taxes on everything over about 100k. Go google for "IRS Form 2555" and "Instructions for Form 2555". It should answer all of your questions on taxes for your salary. Non-cash compensation (stocks) will still be paid normally. Look up tax residency for state and NYC to make sure you won't be considered a tax resident there either.

Your dog will be an issue.

Does the company give you temporary housing of any kind when you arrive? Finding a place and leasing takes a while, and hotels/temp housing is expensive.

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Re: Reality check before moving to Singapore

Post by uscate » Mon, 05 Jan 2015 7:51 pm

Regarding apartment rentals, I think you'll notice that rental rates are high, but they seem to be going down, and I think you'll find some wiggle room for further negotiations.

Regarding your dog, please check the AVA site - they have a list of dogs that aren't welcome in Singapore, so that will be a good guide. Also, on the dog side of things - please be aware that if you relo your pet, you'll need to pay strict attention to all of the animal import guidelines set by the AVA, and these people REALLY love their paperwork! Finally, if you do end up moving to Sing with your dog, contact PetBuddies for dog walking / dog sitting services. They're great!

Good luck with your move!!

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Re: Reality check before moving to Singapore

Post by ER2015 » Mon, 05 Jan 2015 11:30 pm

Thank you all for your very helpful replies and information! I am not too worried about the language or local culture (parents were originally from Taiwan so I am fluent in Mandarin, but have limited experience living in Asia and have never been to Singapore). My biggest concern, apart from the financial aspect, is my dog. Her breed is not restricted in Singapore, but I understand housing will be an issue.
As for temporary housing, I may be able to have my company pay for it, but at 2-3 months max. Is 2-3 months enough time to find an apt/sign the lease, in general? It usually doesn't take more than 1 month to find something in NYC (unless someone is extremely picky, which I am not - but again, the dog thing may be an issue). I hope it is not much harder to find a decent apt in Singapore that allows dogs. My Singapore office may be able to help a bit, but we don't have a "relo department" that can devote full-time resources into this.
The assignment will be 3-5 years, and will be a great opportunity for my career advancement. I will check out the AVA site and get more information reg. importing a dog.

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Re: Reality check before moving to Singapore

Post by GSM8 » Tue, 06 Jan 2015 1:01 am

zzm9980 wrote:Rents will be comparable to Manhattan for you, but your taxes will be much lower. You'll only be paying US taxes on everything over about 100k. Go google for "IRS Form 2555" and "Instructions for Form 2555". It should answer all of your questions on taxes for your salary. Non-cash compensation (stocks) will still be paid normally. Look up tax residency for state and NYC to make sure you won't be considered a tax resident there either.
Minor correction is that one can exclude more than usd 100K as there is also foreign housing exclusion. Rough rule of thumb for single person is usd 625 on the first usd 100k + annual rent. So if rent+utils is a realistic usd 30k per year, US tax will be limited to usd 625 on usd 130k salary. $625 is derived from (28-13)% * (14500-10000). Form 2555 instructions explains rationale.

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Re: Reality check before moving to Singapore

Post by Strong Eagle » Tue, 06 Jan 2015 4:26 am

GSM8 wrote:
zzm9980 wrote:Rents will be comparable to Manhattan for you, but your taxes will be much lower. You'll only be paying US taxes on everything over about 100k. Go google for "IRS Form 2555" and "Instructions for Form 2555". It should answer all of your questions on taxes for your salary. Non-cash compensation (stocks) will still be paid normally. Look up tax residency for state and NYC to make sure you won't be considered a tax resident there either.
Minor correction is that one can exclude more than usd 100K as there is also foreign housing exclusion. Rough rule of thumb for single person is usd 625 on the first usd 100k + annual rent. So if rent+utils is a realistic usd 30k per year, US tax will be limited to usd 625 on usd 130k salary. $625 is derived from (28-13)% * (14500-10000). Form 2555 instructions explains rationale.
Another correction. The foreign housing exclusion is only available if your employer is paying the rent, not you. If you are not receiving a verifiable housing allowance or if the company is not leasing the propery for you to live in, you cannot claim this allowance. Allowances are taxable in Singapore. More info... slightly dated but still accurate:

http://www.usexpattaxhelp.com/us-expat- ... lusion.php" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Also, with respect to zzm's comments... taxes on unearned income... rents, dividends, royalties, etc... is taxed at a rate as though your excluded earned income were included for tax computation purposes... ie, the higher tax rate.

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Re: Reality check before moving to Singapore

Post by zzm9980 » Tue, 06 Jan 2015 11:25 am

ER2015 wrote:Thank you all for your very helpful replies and information! I am not too worried about the language or local culture (parents were originally from Taiwan so I am fluent in Mandarin, but have limited experience living in Asia and have never been to Singapore). My biggest concern, apart from the financial aspect, is my dog. Her breed is not restricted in Singapore, but I understand housing will be an issue.
As for temporary housing, I may be able to have my company pay for it, but at 2-3 months max. Is 2-3 months enough time to find an apt/sign the lease, in general? It usually doesn't take more than 1 month to find something in NYC (unless someone is extremely picky, which I am not - but again, the dog thing may be an issue). I hope it is not much harder to find a decent apt in Singapore that allows dogs. My Singapore office may be able to help a bit, but we don't have a "relo department" that can devote full-time resources into this.
The assignment will be 3-5 years, and will be a great opportunity for my career advancement. I will check out the AVA site and get more information reg. importing a dog.
One month should be sufficient even with the dog as long as you're not extremely picky. I was rather picky on a particular style of unit and limited myself to a small ~750sq/m neighborhood and still found something in a month. Finding something isn't extremely hard, the catch is usually just that once you find something agents and landlords take their time and it might be another 2+ weeks between indicating interest and actually being able to move in. As opposed to the US, where I've received keys the same day.

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Re: Reality check before moving to Singapore

Post by michellell » Wed, 07 Jan 2015 9:59 am

Keep in mind that moving a dog internationally could easily use half of your relocation allowance or more. I moved my dog from Texas to Asia a couple of years ago. The company I used was expensive but they did a good job. I was super worried about my dog because he has never travelled. They gave him food and water when transferring planes, and walked him. They also sent me pictures to show me that he's find. I was very happy with the move, but again, it was expensive +US$5,000. I haven't seen any dog parks in Singapore so far, doubt there are many given how scarce land is here.

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Re: Reality check before moving to Singapore

Post by the lynx » Wed, 07 Jan 2015 10:28 am

So far the only place I know where dogs can play unleashed is at one section of West Coast Park. Some HDB RC groups set up own gated dog playground in open spaces where dogs can mingle and play with each other.

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Re: Reality check before moving to Singapore

Post by JR8 » Wed, 07 Jan 2015 11:27 am

the lynx wrote:So far the only place I know where dogs can play unleashed is at one section of West Coast Park. Some HDB RC groups set up own gated dog playground in open spaces where dogs can mingle and play with each other.
I've also seen a large 'dog run' area in Bishan Park.
refer: http://www.expatliving.sg/Living_In_Sin ... -44950.ece" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
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Re: Reality check before moving to Singapore

Post by Brah » Wed, 07 Jan 2015 8:24 pm

ER2015 wrote:I'd like to make sure if I relocate to Singapore to work a few years, at least I'm not lowering my current standard of living. Any insights/suggestions will be greatly appreciated.
The others have given you some good input already, to add, it really depends on how you define "my current standard of living".

You're moving from one of the top cultural locations in the world to one of the lowest, in terms of arts and entertainment in general, and variety in many things.

Yous will become an arduous and expensive journey to visit people back home, one that you may do less and less over time, and it is hard to maintain those relationships from here.

And you will very much miss the quality, value, and variety of food to which you are accustomed, as well as the depth and quality of casual interpersonal interactions. If hipness is important to you you will miss this as well.

Given your age, don't underestimate this, as I did, and think of it as living in Florida somewhere - nice, pleasant, warm, sunny. But dull.

I would caution against any expectation of a deep Asian cultural experience, but there are nearby countries for that.

What you will get is 24x7 safety, consistency, a new experience, proximity to many good countries to visit, and efficiencies in certain things you probably never encountered.

Any place is what you make of it, as they say, and that applies here as well. That of course only goes so far.
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Re: Reality check before moving to Singapore

Post by ER2015 » Thu, 08 Jan 2015 4:11 am

Thank you for the information on dog/dog run - I have made notes of it. =D>

I was a bit surprised about this comment: "You're moving from one of the top cultural locations in the world to one of the lowest, in terms of arts and entertainment in general, and variety in many things." - I had thought Singapore, like Hong Kong, is quite diverse in multinational culture as there is a large number of expats from all over the world. Is this not the case? Do expats often interact with each other and the locals?

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Re: Reality check before moving to Singapore

Post by nakatago » Thu, 08 Jan 2015 5:45 am

ER2015 wrote: I had thought Singapore, like Hong Kong, is quite diverse in multinational culture as there is a large number of expats from all over the world. Is this not the case? Do expats often interact with each other and the locals?
It's not as diverse as you think. I've seen more diversity in a particular train station in suburban Sydney than the whole of Singapore. It's United Colors of Benetton (the train station) vs. Chinese-Indian-Malay-White (Singapore).

I am not exaggerating.

Moreover, some expats (the highly paid ones) think they're above locals and migrant workers (the technically expats but not on overseas assignment by their companies). Some Singaporeans think they're above migrant workers. Some Chinese Singaporeans think they're above the Chinese. Some Indian Singaporeans think they're above Indians.

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Re: Reality check before moving to Singapore

Post by zzm9980 » Thu, 08 Jan 2015 8:53 am

ER2015 wrote:Thank you for the information on dog/dog run - I have made notes of it. =D>

I was a bit surprised about this comment: "You're moving from one of the top cultural locations in the world to one of the lowest, in terms of arts and entertainment in general, and variety in many things." - I had thought Singapore, like Hong Kong, is quite diverse in multinational culture as there is a large number of expats from all over the world. Is this not the case? Do expats often interact with each other and the locals?
If you're comparing it to Hong Kong, then you'll find it similarly diverse, if not more so. It is not a NYC or LA where you have ethnic enclaves all over. But of the represented cultures (mentioned by Nak above) you'll find a lot.

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