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moving to singapore from Toronto

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cdnxpatq
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moving to singapore from Toronto

Postby cdnxpatq » Mon, 15 Mar 2010 10:01 am

Hi all - i've probably read every post out there...but still need some real help.

I'm in my early 30s and thinking of coming to Singapore with my wife and 2 young kids (3,1). Its not a 2yr deal like all other posts i've read..this is a one way trip. - does any westerner do this ??? (other than SMS) :D

Xpat packages i've been told are almost not offered anymore so the company is offering 160K + bonus with nothing extra. My preference would be to live in a 3 bed condo somewhere in the east coast (budget 3.5K ), have a nanny, lease a small car, and put the kids to either int'l or local school - i've heard good sides about both but not sure if i make enough to send them to int'l.

I make about the same here converted and not saving much given the high taxes and cold, if I take the job in SG I dont think I can save much there either but its warmer. So it comes down to better environment for kids education and quality of life. Canadian public school system isnt what it used to be but in the end i think it comes down to the individual and the parents.

Are there any xpats out there that can shed any light on whether i should follow through with this or better off in the snow?

Dazed and confused.

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Postby cdnxpatq » Mon, 15 Mar 2010 10:07 am

to add - my big concern is whether my kids will be better or worse off. I keep hearing the system there is rigorous which doesnt sound that bad to me. The reason i think its one way is because if i stay there till i'm almost 40, it might be difficult to move back once the kids are stabilized and also i may not be able to find a suitable job back home.

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Postby sinlocan » Wed, 24 Mar 2010 1:51 am

Hi

I am not an expat in sg but a singaporean living in the GTA. It is interesting that you and I are taking/took diametrically opposite routes while citing exactly the same reasons. Maybe my views can answer your questions.

Assuming your bonus is the typical 13th month + a variable component of 2 months during good times, your salary over 15 months translates to $16,666 per month which is considered very good by the average singaporean earner's standard.

Your housing budget of $3.5K in the east coast area is do-able, you may expect either an older 3 bedroom or a newer 2 bedroom apartment. That budget cannot get you a terrace house (like a townhouse) on a 30' x 100' plot anywhere in Singapore. Your domestic helper (they call it maid there) will cost you around $700/mth plus expenses and medicals. I have little experience with maids so you might want to check this info.

I'm not sure what it costs to lease a small car, but if you buy, a 'bread and butter' model like the Toyota Corolla 1.6 litre is under $75,000, of which $20,802 is for the Certificate of Entitlement that expires in 10 years. At the end of 10 years, your car has a residual value called the PARF of about $8000 - $10000 that is the gov's incentive for you to scrap your car. The PARF is calculated based on a formula (www.onemotoring.com.sg) that takes into account the actual new-car market value of your car at the time of import (which is close to the price of a new Corolla in Toronto). Factor in the annual road tax of $744 for a 1600cc car. Seeing that it is not cheap to buy the car, you can then factor the profit margin of a leasing arrangement. Most singaporeans buy rather than lease for obvious reasons.

You said it is a one-way trip, so I presume you are taking up PR or citizenship. I'm not sure if a work permit or S-Pass allows you to stay so long as to actually raise children. Either PR or citizenship will require you to contribute to CPF (www.cpf.gov.sg) so your take-home pay is a little less. CPF is not the same as RRSP, but both involves withdrawals upon retirement, 55yo in this case. It is not a full withdrawal for citizens as they have to leave behind a minimum sum, something like $120,000 at your income bracket to be slowly drawn down as you age. It is full withdrawal for PRs who surrenders their PR.

For PRs and citizens and if your kids are boys, they will be liable for national service of 2 years in the military at the age of 18. Those university-bound will start their university after they complete their NS. 13 is the age where they will need permits to leave Singapore for 3 months or more, and if staying away for longer, they have to report in person to Central Manpower Base once within every 2 years, and 16.5 is when they enlist (online), and they serve at 18 to 20. For boys to continue to stay overseas, a bond of the higher of $75,000 or 50% of the parent's combined income must be posted with the ICA. Under the Enlistment Act (Google it), if the boy does not appear by 18 to serve, both he and the father become fugitives. If they re-enter Singapore, the boy will be given a choice of either doing 2 years of NS if he is still within NS serving age, or choose 3 years in Changi Prison (no brainer). The father has no such option, he will be fined $10,000 and gets to serve 3 years in Changi Prison. If your kids are girls, then there is no NS liability unless this change in the future. There is a tricky grey area of whether the PR son of a PR who leaves Singapore before the age of 13 is obligated for NS. The common interpretation is that if a PR has benefited from the system, such as having attended some form of education provided by Singapore, or traveled under the benefits of a Singapore residency, or enjoyed some form of benefits, then he has an obligation to serve NS.

Budget $500/mth per child for daycare. Local schools start at the age of 7 and monthly fees are about $10 plus books plus uniforms. International Schools are much much more. I hear there is a long wait list for the French School so don't count on getting a place quickly. In the local schools, at the age of 9 in Primary 3 (Grade 3), your kids will be screened for the Gifted Education Programme. The top 2% will be channeled to GEP schools and follow an accelerated learning programme. At Primary 6 (Gr 6), all kids sit for a Primary School-Leaving Exam (PSLE) where they are awarded scores up to 300. Those that scored 265 and aove vie for the top schools such as Raffles Institution and Raffles Girls School. Those scoring below 188 will do an extended secondary school program of 5 years instead of the express secondary school of 4 years. There is the Direct School Admission where autonomous secondary schools such as Raffles can admit students before they take their PSLE exam for their sporting or arts talents. You will find that you will need to send your kids for all sorts of weekend and weekday enrichment classes just to keep up in school or to prepare for GEP, PSLE.

About the higher tax in Canada, I feel that as a family with school-going children, I do get something in return for it. The lower tax in Singapore is offset by 'indirect tax' if you own a car, employ a maid, send your kids for enrichment courses, and the medicals for the various frequent kiddie illnesses (there is no OHIP), not to mention the long hours of work with little time for family activities. Its a different picture if there are no children and you live car-less and maid-less in a downtown condo.

You mentioned about the canadian education system. Having experienced both, I can only say that it is different. My daughter was from the abovementioned top school, and she now attends a regular school in my Peel Region zoned district. Her verdict is that the pace here establishes the foundations much better, and she actually likes math now. The english and literature in her zoned school (the equivalent of a singapore neighbourhood school) covers greater depth than what she experienced at RGS. The difference is that the canadian school teaches thinking, expression and creative skills whereas the singapore school stresses on the academic aspects. On top of that, she now finds time for music which she had to give up due to the heavy workload in Singapore. Late nights every night completing tons of assignments are now a thing of the past. You might also want to consider the odds of making it to university in Singapore. 1 in 4 of the qualifying cohort gains places in the main local universities (NUS, NTU, SMU). The other 3 in 4 of qualifying cohort find their own education through secondary means or else go overseas to universities in the UK, Canada, Australia, NZ, US. By the time your kids are 18 (girl) or 20 (boy) and if they decide to attend Ontario universities, I'm not sure if they will be considered for resident or international tuition.

On the issue of hot vs cold, its a matter of personal preference. Both has its merits. Coming from a hot climate, I am of the view that it is easier and cheaper to deal with heating in the cold months than trying to stay cool in a year-round humid climate. Though Singapore is surrounded by sea, any part of the shores of Lake Ontario gives a better effect of being by the water and offer more activities and it is possible to stay outdoors for longer periods if properly clothed. You can't beat the sunny days during the recent March school break and the countless trails and falls along the Bruce Trail. Driving on the 403 in snow at 6pm in January at 100kph is certainly less enraging than driving 5 minutes on the CTE any time of the day.

As to whether your kids will be better off or worse, that also depends. Kids might enjoy the different activities of 4 seasons and the outdoors. Some may prefer the non-grading non-ranking system of the elementary schools. But if they are the scholarly type and can rise to the elite top, Singapore with its high earnings, tax-free capital gains and low income taxes will give them an edge over the rest of the other regular kids. High income also helps when it comes to being able to take regular vacation breaks overseas.

Some of my info may be out of touch with the latest events in Singapore so you may want to read the links for updates and corrections. My views are my own and different families under different circumstances may have different needs. Hope this helps.

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Postby revhappy » Wed, 24 Mar 2010 3:50 pm

Interesting perspectives! From the above posts it can be noted that every place is different. Not necesarily better or worse.
Its really up to the individual as to what he/she wants from life.If you have spent the last 30 years in cold weather and want to try something different then definitely Singapore is worth it.
After all you have just one life and an opportunity with minimal risk is always better taken than regret 30 years later.
You dont have to commit at this point that its a one way journey. You can come here and see if you really like it for a couple of years and then if this is what you want apply for PR and settle down.
Its easy when its only yourself involved. But when it comes to deciding for the whole family then it becomes a lil tough.
But as long as you have a plan B its always worth trying.

In terms of ease of immigration, Canada is much tougher to immigrate to than Singapore. Canada has huge backlog of immigration applications that will take about 3 years to clear.
Compare that with Singapore. Its so easy to immigrate here. So Canada is definitely more popular as an immigration destination. Probably because you could make more money in Canada than in Singapore.
But if you are getting paid well in Singapore then its negates that advantage.

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Postby sundaymorningstaple » Wed, 24 Mar 2010 5:21 pm

sinlocan,

Excellent 1st post! Welcome to the board. I hope you will stick around to continue to give your well though out perspectives. =D>

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Postby nakatago » Wed, 24 Mar 2010 5:32 pm

may i suggest paraphrasing sinlocan's post and turn it into a sticky for the benefit of those thinking of relocating? it has everything in there to point people in the right direction :D

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Postby boffenl » Mon, 29 Mar 2010 1:33 pm

I agree, welcome Sinlocan!

My 2 cents: My husband, a Canadian, has consistently said the Singapore schools are his choice for our daughter (currently in P3 at a local school), not to say that Canadian schools are bad--just different given exactly the reasons stated by Sinlocan.

We have a home about 2 hours east of Toronto in the 1,000 Islands and find the temperature here a HUGE lifechanger. A "cool" day is 28 degrees here--and you'll still sweat. :) We came to SG on a local package although we did receive some shipping assistance. We do not have a maid, finally bought a car and live in an HDB apartment.

Sinlocan is correct that the low tax is attractive on the surface, but there are a myriad "special" taxes you pay--ERP and parking fees the most egregious. Plus be sure you have a good insurance plan from your company--just like in Canada you'll need additional insurance.

Good luck with the move and I wish you success in finding a perfect match for your kids school needs.

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Postby revhappy » Tue, 30 Mar 2010 6:50 pm

Its more like "When you are in Rome, do as the Romans do"

When you are in Singapore, which has excellent public transport, use it! Using a car here is discouraged and hence it would naturally be expensive to maintain it.

Similarly, living in HDBs/Condos is cheaper than in terraced house.

If you like terraced house and having your own car and like a cold climate then these would be 3 compromises you will have to make while you are here or shell out more money.

But if you are ready to make the above compromises then you will most probably have a better lifestyle than Canada/US/UK using the taxing savings that you make here.

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Postby movingtospore » Wed, 31 Mar 2010 7:26 pm

Hi cdnxpatq. We moved here from Victoria last year, with two young children. I think you can make a go of it with the package you describe. Just be prepared to downsize your accommodation by a fair bit. That will cost you if you don't. We do without a car here. A pain in the a$$ at times but it saves a lot of money every month, which allows us to send the kids to the Canadian school here. We've looked into local schools, but for now International Schools are our choice. When you work out your budgets, also be prepared to pay for private medical insurance if your company doesn't (whole new world for a canadian!), and exhorbiant grocery prices.

If your partner is planning to work, that will help. I haven't had much trouble finding work so far. Dealing with technocrats on working on a dependent's pass is another story, but that, indeed, is a story for another post.

Good luck with your choice. We are happy with our decision to move here. The lack of space and the weather can make a canuck a bit crazy but there is a lot of opportunity here for those who are willing to look for it. And there is even a hockey league I've heard...

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Postby fredkoh » Mon, 05 Apr 2010 5:21 pm

I used to live in Vancouver. I think the difference in climate in Singapore is just huge. You will feel stuffy in the beginning, the moment you step out of the airport, you will feel it. The climate is very humid here, but it can be get used to. a Lot of places are air conditioned, so it makes it bearable if you don't like the heat.

For kid's education, most expats from Canada will place their kids into International Schools initially, as they feel most comfortable that way. For housing needs, it really depends on budget. You see more expats staying in smaller apartments nowadays.

Just my 2 cents.

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CDN moving to Singapore?

Postby paterpan74 » Fri, 09 Apr 2010 3:01 am

I am in the exact same situation, moving form Toronto to Singapore. A few question I have -- Are there any insurance companies that can give us a quote ?

cdnxpatq
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Postby cdnxpatq » Thu, 15 Apr 2010 10:57 am

Thanks for the helpful replies...especially sinlocan.

As a follow up to my original post I ended up turning down the offer due to indecision of what the longer term impacts of the move on my family would be. However another opportunity has presented itself and alhtough not finalized I'm leaning to take it if it comes through.

From sinlocan's reply i wasnt sure whether to take that as a reason to stay put. The overriding concern is the part about the school for my kids. I want to send them to International School but the cost of sending them there is really high (about 5k /month for 2?) so I really hope my wife can find work there to help out with the bills so that our standard of living can still be relatively (to our situation in canada) the same. I'm not too put off by the weather in Singapore as I personally think seasons are overrated especially when one of them involves a 5 month winter when the sun goes down by 5pm, although it does make you appreciate a warm sunny day that much more!

Thanks again all for your replies.

PS sinlocan - is the CTE as bad as the DVP at 5pm? :0)
Would really like the chance to speak to you more on the topic while I'm still in the GTA

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Postby revhappy » Thu, 15 Apr 2010 11:24 am

cdnxpatq wrote:..... I want to send them to International School but the cost of sending them there is really high (about 5k /month for 2?) ....


Thats quite expensive! But hey at your pay level you would be considered a rich expat here and only rich expats send their kids to such schools.

And you are quite right about the figure.
Have a look here:
http://www.cis.edu.sg/cis/Page.aspx?id=1000

But considering the age of your children you still have some time before they actually start serious schooling. So can still have a couple of years in Singapore to try it out.

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Postby Koalabear » Sat, 17 Apr 2010 12:44 am

cdnxpatq wrote:Thanks for the helpful replies...especially sinlocan.

As a follow up to my original post I ended up turning down the offer due to indecision of what the longer term impacts of the move on my family would be. However another opportunity has presented itself and alhtough not finalized I'm leaning to take it if it comes through.

From sinlocan's reply i wasnt sure whether to take that as a reason to stay put. The overriding concern is the part about the school for my kids. I want to send them to International School but the cost of sending them there is really high (about 5k /month for 2?) so I really hope my wife can find work there to help out with the bills so that our standard of living can still be relatively (to our situation in canada) the same. I'm not too put off by the weather in Singapore as I personally think seasons are overrated especially when one of them involves a 5 month winter when the sun goes down by 5pm, although it does make you appreciate a warm sunny day that much more!

Thanks again all for your replies.

PS sinlocan - is the CTE as bad as the DVP at 5pm? :0)
Would really like the chance to speak to you more on the topic while I'm still in the GTA


There is no way standard of living can be the same. By moving to Singapore, you have already accepted the trade off of a higher income (tax adjusted) for a lower quality of life. If I were you, I will take advantage of the public schools (quality training of test taking skills at cheap prices), save as much as possible by not buying the tonnes of unnecessary consumer goods that are overpriced by a huge margin compared to prices in north america and stay in Singapore with the sole focus of making money. Remember to convert SGD to CAD along the way to hedge against petrodollar surge in the future.

Having said that , 160k is ALOT OF MONEY. What industry do you work in? Such opportunities will not always present itself as foreigners saturate the labor market in Singapore.

I doubt CTE can be as bad because there is ERP! I think DVP will not be free indefinitely. The stark reality of a deficit will force the city to do what they can. :wink:

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Postby cdnxpatq » Sat, 17 Apr 2010 12:37 pm

Thats one of the things i really wanted to know,if the standard of living is much lower because I also heard the other side where some expats are saying its great given the relatively affordable regional travel and kid friendly environment.

Then again, life is what you make it to be. I'm here in Canada but my daily life is work, come home, play with the kids and watch a bit of tv before bed, repeat. But the weekends are pretty free.

I'm in the banking/finance sector. And no disrespect to anyone but based on the salary on offer, after the rent (4k?) schooling (5k?) food/transport(2k?) insurance/other expenses (say 1K) and then tax deductions, it doesnt leave much for savings or travel....but then again its pretty well the same for me in canada as well but at least i'm ever so slowly paying down a mortgage!


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