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Expats not living the typical expat life?

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mrst3030
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Expats not living the typical expat life?

Postby mrst3030 » Tue, 07 Jun 2016 1:22 am

We will be relocating to Singapore this year. We will have our relocation costs paid but no housing or schooling costs paid. My salary is decent but we will be going from two salaries to one as my husband will be a stay at home dad to start.


Are there other expats out there living a non-luxurious, less typical 'expat' life. I'm starting to worry we will be social outcasts because we will be on a smaller budget than most. We are only a family of 3 (myself, husband and 3 year old) so the salary definitely suffices, but it doesn't allow us the luxury that seems to be the norm for other expats. Would be great to hear from some other expats living similarly.

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Re: Expats not living the typical expat life?

Postby Strong Eagle » Tue, 07 Jun 2016 1:39 am

You really wouldn't want to know the buggers who would look down their noses at you because your expat "package" isn't as big as some. Here are a few realities:

a) Packages and benefits have been reduced through the years that I have been in contact with Singapore. It's not exactly a hardship posting, so you'll find that there are lots of people in similar straits.

b) Expats come in all flavors and nationalities. Just because a senior VP at a EU based company gets a big package doesn't mean that is true for many others.

c) I've known many expats and locals... some of whom who made a lot more than I did, some who made a lot less. I've never seen it as an issue. For the few snooty buggerst that would make it an issue there are lots of additional reasons I wouldn't want to know them anyway.

I've known guys who got a S$16,000 per month house as part of the package, and a guy all in at S$8,000 in total. The guy with the big house throws great parties with free booze as part of the deal, the other fellow makes a mean BBQ and we all bring the beer. It is what it is.

If you like to golf, you'll head for Batam and Malaysia where golf is affordable instead of playing on the very expensive Singapore courses (unless of course, your rich friends are members and you tag along). You probably won't go to the annual AAS George Washington charity ball at S$350 per ticket and righteously expensive auctions... but then again, I'd rather go eat seafood at Fortura, a cheap hole in the wall.

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Re: Expats not living the typical expat life?

Postby sundaymorningstaple » Tue, 07 Jun 2016 8:46 am

As Strong Eagle has mentioned, Full expat packages have been on the wane for a fair number of years (8~10 maybe). There are some but most are in the "C" levels in the financial institutions. In fact, you will find your package is still above the vast majority who now have no allowances or only partial allowances (e.g., car not furnished but maybe 1.5K/mo allowance and you supply the rest). As the vast majority are in a similar boat today, you will find plenty of kindred souls out here. Expats here come in all flavours, genders and persuasions so it shouldn't be too much trouble to blend in easily.

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Re: Expats not living the typical expat life?

Postby bgd » Tue, 07 Jun 2016 10:57 am

Singapore is really what you make of it. If you are adventurous, outgoing and willing to embrace other cultures then you will be fine and find the place rewarding. If you limit yourself just to expat circles then you may find it more challenging, or it may be great. It's really up to you.

Just don't worry about the relative wealth thing. In my experience it doesn't feature for all but a very few. Just avoid those few.

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Re: Expats not living the typical expat life?

Postby PNGMK » Tue, 07 Jun 2016 12:18 pm

My little girl has a school friend whose parents are clearly well paid expats. Live in a beautiful mansion with pool just off Swiss Club Road. I basically can't stand going there and only do it for my kid; the folks are nice enough but I'm not able to build any connection with them We live in a old condo where we know most of our neighbors (almost all locals) and my best friends in Singapore are hard done by locals in the motorbike scene. We enjoy hawker food at the coast and rarely are seen inside the American club or any club. Occasionally my wife who teaches at at Int'l School comes home telling stories of upper class Expat snobs micromanaging a class event and she can't stand it either. It's what you make of it but worrying about whether you've living like a fully found diplomat is not going to help. You don't risk being outcast but be prepared to go through a lot of acquaintances and folks until you find a core group of friends. Singapore is VERY transient and the locals don't make friends easily. If you're inclined I'd suggest joining a church and getting involved with the parents your kids go to school with to start.
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Re: Expats not living the typical expat life?

Postby x9200 » Tue, 07 Jun 2016 1:11 pm

mrst3030 wrote:We will be relocating to Singapore this year. We will have our relocation costs paid but no housing or schooling costs paid. My salary is decent but we will be going from two salaries to one as my husband will be a stay at home dad to start.


Are there other expats out there living a non-luxurious, less typical 'expat' life. I'm starting to worry we will be social outcasts because we will be on a smaller budget than most. We are only a family of 3 (myself, husband and 3 year old) so the salary definitely suffices, but it doesn't allow us the luxury that seems to be the norm for other expats. Would be great to hear from some other expats living similarly.

I think it is a mistake to see the package and the whole move as a ticket to some more or less luxurious living. I believe it was never a case. The package is generally to compensate for this rather abrupt change in your life and easily adapt to the new reality. Depending how important the person is, it may be less or more attractive to carry enough of the convincing power but as the other said, it comes in all possible flavors. If you are a good person nobody is going to outcasts you and your family unless you see yourself only among these top paid luxury expats. Only then you have some real reasons to be worried but it will have nothing to do with your income level.

I have a friend, or better say an acquaintance who earns a reasonable salary (sub 10k though, so probably less than you were offered), while his wife finds all sort of possible excuses to stay as a housewife. I am writing this, because she seems to be obsessed with what is the concern of yours. She would like to live off the Orchard Rd and spend her days meeting some other ladies (the real real expat wives) in Shangri-La and such. Man, this is f---BEEP.

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Re: Expats not living the typical expat life?

Postby sundaymorningstaple » Tue, 07 Jun 2016 1:31 pm

mrst3030, I have to ask. Have you ever been an expat before? Do you have any clue at all what a 'typical' expat life IS? Or, is your knowledge of 'expats' garnered from the likes of the Wall Street Journal or some other 'vaunted' newspaper/magazine/survey. I ask because almost all of those surveys are geared primarily to the financial/banking industries and that is only a very, very small percentage of the total expat population. IT personnel, Engineers working on major construction projects either buildings or civil works, OiL & Gas personnel. Scientists, Lecturers, so many other type of expats here as well. Some with some allowances, the bulk on local contracts or something very close to local contracts.

Most expats today live a non-luxurious "typical" expat life. You need to change your perception or you are going to be very unhappy.

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Re: Expats not living the typical expat life?

Postby Barnsley » Tue, 07 Jun 2016 3:35 pm

mrst3030 wrote:We will be relocating to Singapore this year. We will have our relocation costs paid but no housing or schooling costs paid. My salary is decent but we will be going from two salaries to one as my husband will be a stay at home dad to start.


Are there other expats out there living a non-luxurious, less typical 'expat' life. I'm starting to worry we will be social outcasts because we will be on a smaller budget than most. We are only a family of 3 (myself, husband and 3 year old) so the salary definitely suffices, but it doesn't allow us the luxury that seems to be the norm for other expats. Would be great to hear from some other expats living similarly.


I can come and pretend to be your butler on weekends if that helps? :mrgreen: :mrgreen:

If you are not getting housing or schooling then you will join the thousands of others here in exactly the same boat as yourself, they have come here for a job , to work. That's life these days I am afraid , Singapore has spent billions on education in an effort to force companies who come here to put local folks in the positions where "expats" used to be the norm.

As SMS says , I would stop reading the websites whereby everyone who works overseas appears to get $50k/month for housing and 1st class travel home every other month.
Life is short, paddle harder!!

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Re: Expats not living the typical expat life?

Postby Barnsley » Tue, 07 Jun 2016 3:37 pm

sundaymorningstaple wrote: Most expats today live a non-luxurious "typical" expat life. You need to change your perception or you are going to be very unhappy.


I believe the term "Expat" is getting closed to being redundant in the original sense of the word and what it means for almost every single foreign national who works here these days.
Life is short, paddle harder!!

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Re: Expats not living the typical expat life?

Postby mrst3030 » Tue, 07 Jun 2016 5:04 pm

Thanks so much for all the reassuring responses. I should have added that I have no real interest in that stereotypical expat lifestyle, so I'm excited to meet likeminded people when we arrive later in the year :)

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Re: Expats not living the typical expat life?

Postby Max Headroom » Tue, 07 Jun 2016 5:23 pm

My first stint in Singapore, I was an expat kid. Them were full-on package times and, truth be told, it was awesome; all the trimmings mentioned above, as well as a few tossed in for good measure. A great time was had by all.

But right now, given the lack of goodies, I'm no longer a true expat I guess.

Luckily, I'm still FT though :)

More importantly, plenty of good times are still being had.

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Re: Expats not living the typical expat life?

Postby kmnyny » Tue, 07 Jun 2016 7:19 pm

Agree with what everyone says. Like you, only my moving costs were provided for when I moved and nothing else. I'm told by my Singaporean colleagues that things are quite different now and this is increasingly becoming the norm. What's been nice is that they feel that things are equalizing between locals and expats (at least in my area of design, probably still different in finance) which also means our worlds are becoming more intertwined—the most rewarding part for me so far. I haven't found it difficult meeting people from all walks of life—both expat and locals. I haven't found things difficult at all as long as you're open to chnanging and expanding on the way you used to live. I've found that those people that try to live exactly the same life as they had before might find it more challenging. Explore the hawker centres, wet markets, and heartland malls and you will not only discover an amazing side of Singapore, you'll find it much more financially beneficial too! Enjoy!

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Re: Expats not living the typical expat life?

Postby JR8 » Wed, 08 Jun 2016 1:13 am

mrst3030 wrote:We will be relocating to Singapore this year. We will have our relocation costs paid but no housing or schooling costs paid. My salary is decent but we will be going from two salaries to one as my husband will be a stay at home dad to start.
Are there other expats out there living a non-luxurious, less typical 'expat' life. I'm starting to worry we will be social outcasts because we will be on a smaller budget than most. We are only a family of 3 (myself, husband and 3 year old) so the salary definitely suffices, but it doesn't allow us the luxury that seems to be the norm for other expats. Would be great to hear from some other expats living similarly.


There are so many wise insights in reply already there's not much to add. [Despite inevitably huge treatise to follow.... lol]
BTW congrats on the relo, and welcome to the forum... :)
When I first relo'd to SG (mid 90s) they were big-swinging times, and some colleagues I worked with had that v high end package and lifestyle. They were very senior colleagues and were apparently given membership of the American Club and so on. I never missed not having that, nor did I get invited there either, nor feel I was missing out. I found my own social circle that worked for me. Perhaps worked out best as private-member clubs can being painfully cliquey and snobbish, and so on. And I felt I was there to experience more of the real Singapore, than some gratuitously snobby hierarchy from back home.
As others have said this kind of club membership as a perk really got pared back. It's expensive, increasingly so. So gawd knows the kind of people you'd encounter there as a newbie these days...
Next time I moved back ['08 or so] I was semi-retired/self-employed and doing well. Faced with no local employment via which to provide the basic foundations of a social life on a plate, I again wondered if joining one of the Clubs might be a useful social avenue. By then I could have afforded the fees myself. So I looked at various of their websites and was struck by several things. The crazier than imagined fees. All the snobby blah-blah about having to proposed by a member and ditto seconded blah blah (for transient expats far from home, come off it), and I just concluded I'd take it if it was free as a perk, but no way would I pay for it myself. It looked like paying to be in a 24/7 'keeping up with the Jones's' scene...

So I think you might be better off away from all of that, probably happier, and certainly retaining more of your income. Instead, try and hook-up with colleagues via work. At the same time start looking up local 'group' social activities where people like you might be along. SCUBA, horse-riding, sailing, wind-surfing, football.... etc. IMO it's via shared interests you meet people with their 'social barriers' down, and get to make some genuine friends. You only need a few, then from meeting their friends in due course, that might provide all the social circle you ever need.


-- Most people on this forum are waaay closer to knowing and living in the 'real Singapore' than the milieu I was amongst on my first posting. And the best bit is it doesn't cost a penny to hook-up with them here (ok, maybe a few beers ;)).

-- I was a SAHH the 2nd and 3rd time we posted too. My suggestion is be chilled about that the first couple of months, see how it goes, but be aware he might struggle to make his own friends. [It's waaay harder when you don't go to an office each day.] To feel he's achieving something with the day [that masculine sense of drive/achievement :)]. Give some thought to him getting stuck into some more social activities, pref together with you, and help him do so [after a few months, you'll be half-native, he might still feel fully alien - Mind the gap]. Also upon arrival you can expect to be working and called on all hours of night and day. Meanwhile him being 'home alone' too long, with you as his single er... channel to the outside world might become pressured... try and find time to help him connect into a social side that works for him...
'Do it or do not do it: You will regret both' - Kierkegaard

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Re: Expats not living the typical expat life?

Postby x9200 » Wed, 08 Jun 2016 7:09 am

mrst3030, for you to play a bit with the "issue", go to any property renting site, including this very one:

http://property.singaporeexpats.com/adv ... rty-search

and try searching different budget groups, for example >SGD12k, any property (the most luxurious expats) and 3-8k, condos only (probably most common range for more ordinary expats). Granted, these are going to be rough estimates, the magnitudes will be pretty indicative.

Lastly, don't fall into the trap of renting something unnecessarily expensive just because of more central location.

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Re: Expats not living the typical expat life?

Postby Hidy Ho » Wed, 08 Jun 2016 3:14 pm

I wonder if old "expat package" is a NORM around here. My guess is not.

I'm mid-level mgmt at a large MNC and when I came out here, it was under local hire scenario. I was paid one time allowance for the move and the company take care of my work permit but my everything else is based on prevailing local market for my position which was and is a lot less than northern California wages. I know others came out here (for same company) under similar "local package" situation and only top level people (hand full) are here under compensated "expat package" with housing and other allowances.

I also know a guy with a family (came out after me) who went back to USA ... I think it was primarily due to kids' education cost that he didn't consider when moving out here. I'm a family of "me, myself and I" so I have way more flexibility.

Is it true that people on work permits can't send the kids to gov school and have to rely on private school ($$$$)? I thought I read this here in this forum. If so I guess that's like 10K per kid per year to budget for?


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