Singapore Expats Forum

Moving from San Francisco to Singapore- advice please!

Moving to Singapore? Ask our regular expats in Singapore questions on relocation and their experience here. Ask about banking, employment pass, insurance, visa, work permit, citizenship or immigration issues.

Sponsored by:
Image
The Club Residences

californiagal
Newbie
Newbie
Posts: 12
Joined: Wed, 24 Apr 2013

Moving from San Francisco to Singapore- advice please!

Postby californiagal » Wed, 24 Apr 2013 8:25 am

Hi all,

My company wants to relocate me from San Francisco to Singapore, and I'd love some advice. I'm a 25-year old American and I've never lived abroad but have heard that Singapore is a great place to start!

Few questions:
- Has anyone moved to Singapore from San Francisco (or know SF well) and can compare some factors that you think are better/worse about Singapore?
- Is it easy to meet other young single expats in SG? Seems like most of the people posting here are married with children. My company only has a handful of people in Singapore so I won't be able to really meet people through work.
- Would $8300 SGD/month be enough to live comfortably on in SG?
- What neighborhoods would you recommend I look into that have many expats, are centrally located, convenient to CBD, but feel "neighborhoody" with good cafes/bars and not too loud? I visited last weekend and fell in love with Roberston Quay but worry it might be too pricey

Thanks in advance! This is my first post :)

AngMoG
Reporter
Reporter
Posts: 609
Joined: Wed, 17 Apr 2013

Re: Moving from San Francisco to Singapore- advice please!

Postby AngMoG » Wed, 24 Apr 2013 12:27 pm

Hi California Gal,

First of all, I think you will enjoy it here. I have never been to SF, so cannot speak for that part, but I think you will find Singapore a lot less liberal ;) That said, there is a lively party scene, lots of bars and a couple of clubs; for example, check internations for their twice-monthly 400+ people "get togethers". There are a lot of expat singles here (white or otherwise), so I think no problems on that front.

$8300 per month should be enough to live here comfortably, provided you do not overspend on rent. On that budget, you may be best off with a one- (around 500 sqft) or two-bedroom apartment; it would be around $3,000 (one-BR) within half an hour to Orchard/CBD with public transport. Expect to pay at least $400 more for two bedrooms. I personally like the area around Katong/Joo Chiat Road, because it has a lot of eating places, and a few bars; but that is a matter of preference, expect others to tell you something completely different ;)

Do not overlook that taxis are relatively easy to get, and relatively cheap ($15-$20 at night for above area from Clarke Quay), so there is no real necessity to live in Robertson Quay or similar very central, overpriced areas unless you get a housing allowance.

My go-to place for searching properties is . (google it).

californiagal wrote:Hi all,

My company wants to relocate me from San Francisco to Singapore, and I'd love some advice. I'm a 25-year old American and I've never lived abroad but have heard that Singapore is a great place to start!

Few questions:
- Has anyone moved to Singapore from San Francisco (or know SF well) and can compare some factors that you think are better/worse about Singapore?
- Is it easy to meet other young single expats in SG? Seems like most of the people posting here are married with children. My company only has a handful of people in Singapore so I won't be able to really meet people through work.
- Would $8300 SGD/month be enough to live comfortably on in SG?
- What neighborhoods would you recommend I look into that have many expats, are centrally located, convenient to CBD, but feel "neighborhoody" with good cafes/bars and not too loud? I visited last weekend and fell in love with Roberston Quay but worry it might be too pricey

Thanks in advance! This is my first post :)

User avatar
zzm9980
Governor
Governor
Posts: 6842
Joined: Wed, 06 Jul 2011
Location: Once more unto the breach

Re: Moving from San Francisco to Singapore- advice please!

Postby zzm9980 » Wed, 24 Apr 2013 1:48 pm

californiagal wrote:Hi all,

- Has anyone moved to Singapore from San Francisco (or know SF well) and can compare some factors that you think are better/worse about Singapore?

Yes, from the south bay, but lived there for ~7 years (most of my 20s) so I know SF quite well.

californiagal wrote:- Is it easy to meet other young single expats in SG? Seems like most of the people posting here are married with children. My company only has a handful of people in Singapore so I won't be able to really meet people through work.

Other expats, yes. I'll be quite blunt (and I know this wouldn't fly in California), but are you white? Since you're looking for 'Single Expats', I assume dating. You might have a hard time finding dating partners with all of the local girls more interested in foreigners (even if they won't admit it to their friends) than local guys.


californiagal wrote:- Would $8300 SGD/month be enough to live comfortably on in SG?

Yes. That's a good salary, but enough to live alone in a pretty nice area.
californiagal wrote:- What neighborhoods would you recommend I look into that have many expats, are centrally located, convenient to CBD, but feel "neighborhoody" with good cafes/bars and not too loud? I visited last weekend and fell in love with Roberston Quay but worry it might be too pricey


If you like Robertson Quay, look there. Also check out River Valley, which is right there. The areas around Club St and Tanjong Pagar will have more of a coffee-shop and bar vibe you may used to in San Francisco. The best analogy I can think of to SF would be that River Valley / Robertson Quay / Boat quay is the Marina (SF's Marina, not Singapore's Marina). Tanjong Pagar/Club St would be the very trendy parts of the Mission without the crime, the soul, or any good Mexican food.

If you're more of an outdoorsy Peninsula type person, look at the East Coast (B'game or Palo Alto say). Same kind of food and bar options, in a much quieter atmosphere, near the beach. Just like Peninsula, you'll find yourself going to the bars in the city most weekends. But the cabs are much more affordable here.

Your salary will be enough to rent in those places, but you may find yourself paying an uncomfortable percentage of your salary towards rent. Don't forget you'll owe about 6-7% taxes next year on that amount. Assuming that is all you make (no bonuses, no investments) you should slide under the Earned Income Exclusion for US taxes and not owe anything (but you'll still need to file). Groceries here will be about twice as much, especially if you like organics. Heck, half of the organic fruit I eat here is the exact same stuff I had in California, it all comes form Monteray, Salinas, etc.

I recommend you open a Citibank account in the US before you leave, and a Citibank account as soon as you get here. Search for posts by me with the word Citibank in them for a list of reasons why it's ideal for Americans. (Note if you plan to hide money from the IRS in Singapore, Citibank may not be ideal.)

If you get here and are looking for an excursion, Johor Bahru (JB) is our Oakland/East Bay, and Batam is Tijuana.

Feel free to ask anything else, I'll try my best to answer.

User avatar
zzm9980
Governor
Governor
Posts: 6842
Joined: Wed, 06 Jul 2011
Location: Once more unto the breach

Re: Moving from San Francisco to Singapore- advice please!

Postby zzm9980 » Wed, 24 Apr 2013 1:58 pm

AngMoG wrote:Hi California Gal,

First of all, I think you will enjoy it here. I have never been to SF, so cannot speak for that part, but I think you will find Singapore a lot less liberal ;) That said, there is a lively party scene, lots of bars and a couple of clubs; for example, check internations for their twice-monthly 400+ people "get togethers". There are a lot of expat singles here (white or otherwise), so I think no problems on that front.

$8300 per month should be enough to live here comfortably, provided you do not overspend on rent. On that budget, you may be best off with a one- (around 500 sqft) or two-bedroom apartment; it would be around $3,000 (one-BR) within half an hour to Orchard/CBD with public transport. Expect to pay at least $400 more for two bedrooms. I personally like the area around Katong/Joo Chiat Road, because it has a lot of eating places, and a few bars; but that is a matter of preference, expect others to tell you something completely different ;)

Do not overlook that taxis are relatively easy to get, and relatively cheap ($15-$20 at night for above area from Clarke Quay), so there is no real necessity to live in Robertson Quay or similar very central, overpriced areas unless you get a housing allowance.

My go-to place for searching properties is . (google it).



Good advice. I will clump Katong/Joo Chiat into my 'East Coast' area I mentioned; this is your Peninsula living. Although Joo Chiat can be seedy at night, but in a way that's not really comparable to the US.

californiagal
Newbie
Newbie
Posts: 12
Joined: Wed, 24 Apr 2013

Postby californiagal » Fri, 03 May 2013 4:23 am

Thanks both of of you for your advice! I really appreciate it. I've received my package now and I have a few more questions:

1) When signing a lease, what is typically required? First/last month's rent + security deposit/stamping fee?
2) What is the salary amount above which Americans have to pay both US and SG taxes? I heard $92K USD somewhere...
3) If my salary is below that amount, what level of SG taxes will I pay? 15%?

I'll also consult a tax advisor about the second two but any quick feedback would be helpful in my calculations.

californiagal
Newbie
Newbie
Posts: 12
Joined: Wed, 24 Apr 2013

Postby californiagal » Fri, 03 May 2013 6:35 am

Sorry- few more questions!

What do you guys think I'll pay for high-speed internet in my apartment/month?

What type of moving expenses should I budget for? Right now I'm thinking they'll be pretty minimal since I'm only bringing suitcases (not shipping anything), so it seems my main costs will be:
- Moving Company in SF to move my things into storage
- Three weeks temporary housing in SG while I look for an apartment
- Anything else major I'm missing?

Also- in order to afford to live in Robertson Quay, looks like I'll have to live in a building without a pool/gym. How much of a drag would this be? Do people really use the pool very regularly? I imagine I'd join a gym by my office, but think I'd prefer the neighborhood to the facilities.

AngMoG
Reporter
Reporter
Posts: 609
Joined: Wed, 17 Apr 2013

Postby AngMoG » Fri, 03 May 2013 9:44 am

californiagal wrote:1) When signing a lease, what is typically required? First/last month's rent + security deposit/stamping fee?

One month's rent for one-year contract and below, two months' rent for two-year contract as deposit, plus first month's rent in advance. Stamping fee depends on the rent, somewhere below 5% of monthly rental I think.
If you engage] an agent, additionally you will probably pay him agent's fee. If you only respond to an ad, the landlord will pay the fee of his agent.
californiagal wrote:3) If my salary is below that amount, what level of SG taxes will I pay? 15%?

Check iras.gov.sg for details; taxes are very simple here. Below that amount, you will probably pay around 4%. Take note that tax is not deducted from the salary here, but paid around May/June the next year in full, though it can be staggered to monthly payments.

AngMoG
Reporter
Reporter
Posts: 609
Joined: Wed, 17 Apr 2013

Postby AngMoG » Fri, 03 May 2013 9:49 am

californiagal wrote:What do you guys think I'll pay for high-speed internet in my apartment/month?
- Three weeks temporary housing in SG while I look for an apartment

Check singtel and starhub websites, I am not up-to-date with their current pricing; but probably S$50-60 per month. Plans tend to be two-year contract. You can go for one year, but are likely to pay extra (at least that was the situation last time). Starhub has cable internet and fiber, Singtel DSL and fiber. Starhub's cable is slow, but on the fiber side, not much difference.
For cable TV, Starhub is still pretty much the only choice. What you pay depends on what you subscribe to, but I would budget $70 or more per month.
californiagal wrote:Also- in order to afford to live in Robertson Quay, looks like I'll have to live in a building without a pool/gym. How much of a drag would this be? Do people really use the pool very regularly? I imagine I'd join a gym by my office, but think I'd prefer the neighborhood to the facilities.

Nobody can answer that question for you ;) Keep in mind though that gym memberships here are about S$150 per month. Pool usage depends on the condo.

User avatar
zzm9980
Governor
Governor
Posts: 6842
Joined: Wed, 06 Jul 2011
Location: Once more unto the breach

Postby zzm9980 » Sat, 04 May 2013 7:08 pm

My unscientific opinion is most people with a pool in their condo probably never use it; having it is just a status symbol (like most things in Singapore).

All "high speed" Internet here is roughly the same, as it goes through the same backbones to the outside world. Almost any plan you look at will cap 'international bandwidth' at ~30mbs, which is 3-4Megabytes/sec download. If you're heavy internet user, see if the place you're moving to has fiber. All fiber ISPs re-sell the same 'opennet' (google it) network. I would personally choose 'SuperInternet' if I were to buy one now, but that is just based on their good customer service reputation. If you plan to buy pay TV, a more than moderately priced mobile plan, just pick the company that gives you the best bundled deal. And on that note, you'll be looking at Starhub or Singtel. You'll choose Singtel if you like watching sports, and Starhub for everything else.

For the US, the number changes every year. I think it is at about $95k USD this year. Read this, and Form 2555 for definitive details:

http://www.irs.gov/Individuals/Internat ... -Exclusion

The rough summary is: You'll pay your normal Singapore income tax. on $120k SGD (about $95k USD), you'll owe somewhere in the neighborhood of 6-8%. You'll pay full US tax on all investment, rental, and non-wage incomes. You'll pay taxes at the appropriate bracket on everything over that $95k a year (in addition to what you pay Singapore). It's important to note this is an exclusion, not a deduction. So if you make $100k USD, you'll pay the tax rate at $100k on that $5k over the 95k as if you earned the full 100k. It doesn't work like you only made $5k. I'd strongly suggest using an expat familiar tax accountant at least your first year here. I used Artio, they advertise in a sticky post in the 'General' forum. I was more than satisfied with their service, and felt the price was fair. Under $500 USD for everything including California.

For rent, you'll generally pay 1 month deposit per year of the lease, plus first money, plus stamp duty, which I think is something like 10% of one month's rent, but I could be way off on that. If you engage in an agent, you also have to pay them. They will try to ask for half a month's rent per year of the lease, but that is 100% negotiable (and you don't need to even use an agent).

User avatar
sundaymorningstaple
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 35179
Joined: Thu, 11 Nov 2004
Location: Still Fishing!
Contact:

Postby sundaymorningstaple » Sat, 04 May 2013 7:49 pm

Me? I just use myself as I've done for the past 40+ years. Of course, having been the District Director of H & R Block for Washington DC back in the 70's before deciding I didn't want to fly a desk my entire life, I had a pretty good grounding in personal taxation in the US. While I'm not as clued up today in all areas of the tax laws as they pertain today as I was then, my own taxes have been just an annual upgrading of myself via Pub 54 and a few other publications. But having a solid taxation background definitely helps.

But, no, I don't have a sideline today of doing taxes but I did up till I left the Oilfield Diving Industry back in the early 90's (mostly divers, obviously). :wink:

User avatar
zzm9980
Governor
Governor
Posts: 6842
Joined: Wed, 06 Jul 2011
Location: Once more unto the breach

Postby zzm9980 » Sun, 05 May 2013 10:25 am

Since OP lives in the Bay Area and is in roughly the six digit income range, I was assuming they have some kind of investment income. RSUs, options, something. That along with partial income split between the two places can make it a bit sticky your first year. Subsequent years that are entirely in SG should be pretty easy though. TurboTax can handle it, you just can't efile (Print the PDFs and mail).

User avatar
sundaymorningstaple
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 35179
Joined: Thu, 11 Nov 2004
Location: Still Fishing!
Contact:

Postby sundaymorningstaple » Sun, 05 May 2013 2:10 pm

Yeah, I've always found that a bit of a bummer, the inability to efile from here, but the PDF files are fine by me. When I was in the business, we didn't even have digital calculators, just the old electric adding machines with roll tape. The next to the last year I was in DC one of my consultants came in with the "New" IBM digital calculator with "scientific" calculations, everybody thought he was the cats meow! Boy how times have changed. I used to spend around 4K USD/year in Prentis Hall and CCH subscriptions to the IR Code and tax cases. About 30 linear feed of shelving needed for both and constant replacing of various pages/sections weekly. Now I can do it all on my smartphone!

amarettoSour
Regular
Regular
Posts: 106
Joined: Wed, 21 Oct 2009

Postby amarettoSour » Mon, 06 May 2013 11:43 pm

I was 25 when i moved to Singapore as well. Not from SF, but i lived in LA for ten years prior to moving here.

Meeting people is extremely easy here, especially people your age. Don't worry about that.

With that said, you might still experience random bouts of loneliness, homesickness, and general crappiness. Don't worry, you are not alone. Practically all (female) foreigner friend i've met here eventually confided in me that they feel this way one way or the other, but this will pass.

Given your age, i highly suggest living in the city area. Robertson quay, river valley (where i live), newton, bugis area are all great choices. Rent is a bit steep, but maybe you can consider renting a master bedroom instead of getting a whole place by yourself?

Signing lease - depends how longb your lease is . If you are signing for 1 year then one month deposit is required, 2 years then 2 months deposit. Then you just need to pay first month rent and utility deposit (few hundred bucks)

BedokAmerican
Chatter
Chatter
Posts: 436
Joined: Tue, 15 Jan 2013

Postby BedokAmerican » Mon, 13 May 2013 2:14 pm

You might have to pay into the US Social Security system. If so, that'll be about 12.5 % of your annual income. It's something to check on if you haven't already.

Another thing, there was some discussion on where to live and living costs. You won't be going through a condo/apt leasing office to rent as you would in the US because that's not how things are done here. You'll need a real estate agent. I'm sure there are some smart agents in Singapore, but the ones I've met (male and female) are total airheads. Sorry if that sounds mean, but seriously, they don't know their head from their rear.

Ask a lot of questions. When they say "furnished," what does that mean? If it contains a washer and dryer, are the appliances functional? If it contains an oven, what size? (To some, a toaster oven counts as an oven). Does the kitchen have hot water? (Some here don't, and there are no automatic dishwashers..) When was the last time the AC unit was serviced and is it functional? Will the agent remember to have ALL your utilities turned on when you move in?

californiagal
Newbie
Newbie
Posts: 12
Joined: Wed, 24 Apr 2013

Postby californiagal » Tue, 14 May 2013 11:35 pm

Thanks everyone for all the advice- this is so helpful!

Question on neighborhoods- another one I've heard some good things about is Tiong Bahru. What do you think of that neighborhood for a mid-20's american expat?

For those of you who know SF at all, my favorite neighborhoods are North Beach, Russian Hill, Marina- given this are there are any other neighborhoods in Singapore that you think I should look into?

Also- I'm planning on buying pretty much everything in Singapore and only bringing over clothes for the most part. Is there anything else by way of household supplies/misc items that are particularly expensive or hard to find in Singapore that would be worth buying here?

Thanks!


  • Similar Topics
    Replies
    Views
    Last post

Return to “Relocating, Moving to Singapore”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 0 guests