For the past three years, Singapore has been ranked the most expensive destination in the world for expats. It is widely argued that with stringent budgeting, living in the island city-state is feasible, but many argue that emulating the life they lived in their home country is a struggle.
Cyril and Jennifer Lerzelter, originally hailing from the USA, earn a combined monthly salary of $29,000 (Singapore dollars) which equates approximately to £15,000. On first glance, this would bring joy to the average UK citizen’s bank account. However, with the high costs associated with living in Singapore, the American couple are often left wincing as the end of the month approaches despite Mr Lerzelter earning 20% more compared to his previous job in the States.
With nearly 40% of the Lerzelter’s monthly income being spent on necessities such as rent, groceries, utilities and educational supplies for their children the financial goals put in place by the family (saving for retirement and their children’s college funds) has been squandered and if the numbers don’t add up a move back to the USA is not out of the question and this is a trend common with other expat families and individuals.
However, many expats argue that going ‘local’ can make living in Singapore a long-term viable option. Italian Joe Galeotti, a 48-year-old hairstylist, suggests that intelligent lifestyle choices have enabled him to continue living in Singapore. “You can either have a meal for less than $10 at the foodcourt or $200 at a restaurant… I choose the former as it makes more sense to me to eat Asian food when I’m in an Asian country,” states Galeotti.
Other expats also praise Singapore’s public transport system. Paul Burton, a 41-year-old director at a defence analytics firm states that, “we now spend less in a month on train tickets in Singapore than in a week back in London.”
However, when it comes to having access to your own wheels, expats and nationals alike struggle to find reason to foot the bill for this bonus. The government in Singapore are wary of the fact that uncontrolled growth in the number of vehicles hitting the road-scarce country will cause issues and the Certificate of Entitlement System (CEO) put in place means that those who were driving a luxury car in their home countries are now paying extortionate rates for a low class rental car – approximately $1,400 per month with fuel charges on top – or relying on public transport alone.
Despite the mix of opinions from expats living in Singapore, the general consensus is that they would definitely recommend Singapore as an excellent place to live and work due to its vibrant and unique culture and to manage the purse strings with budgeting.