Is Singapore a country worth living (part 2)

In part 1, I already talked about some major aspects of life in Singapore. Now, let’s continue to look into other important areas.

  1. Tax
    • Tax in Singapore is extremely low. If your monthly salary is somewhere between SGD 5000 and SGD 15000, then you only have to pay tax of about 3.25% - 9.75% per year.
    • You don’t need to pay tax for the first year. Only on your second year will you pay for your first year’s tax. Then third year pays for second year, so on and so forth. You can pay in a lump-sum or in multiple instalments.
    • Because of the low tax, you get to save a big portion of your salary.
    • All tax declaration and payment are performed totally online via the government website. You don’t need to go anywhere.
  2. Medical
    • Being a foreigner in Singapore, you have zero benefits when it comes to medical insurance. Normally, your company will provide you some basic insurance, but it depends on each company’s policy. Here, I’m only talking about my company’s insurance for employees.
    • Whenever I get a headache, sore throat, fever, etc, I can visit a GP (General Practitioner) near any train station for a checkup.
      • Upon arriving at the GP, I need to present my insurance card to the reception, get a queue number and wait for my turn.
      • The doctor will do some checkup, ask me a few health questions, ask me whether I need an MC (medical certificate) to apply for leaves.
      • Then I wait for the receptionist to fetch my medicine, along with my MC.
      • I go home. Take a rest. Take the medicine. Apply for leave online.
      • Everything is completely free.
    • We can still go directly to pharmacies (in Guardian or Watson) to buy medicines ourselves but they only sell very basic medication. Other medicines with side effects still need a doctor’s prescription.
    • If the sickness is severe, the doctor at GP will refer us to other specialists where they can perform more specialised treatment, including surgery. And again, everything is free under the company’s insurance.
    • If we start looking at the bill, we’ll realise that the medical cost is ridiculously expensive. Each visit to a GP is about SGD 50-100, one day at a private hospital might set you back SGD 1000-2000. So if the company does not cover any insurance for you, it’s better to buy it yourself.
  3. Safety
    • I feel safe in Singapore. There are cameras everywhere I go, on the streets, buses, trains, malls, basically everywhere in the public space. Sometimes, I wonder how anyone can commit a crime and get away if he/she can be seen from almost anywhere. There’s no where to hide.
    • I put my laptop bag on a chair to reserve for a table in a food court. When I come back with the food, the bag is still there.
    • I can play with my phone freely on the street without worrying about someone trying to steal it.
    • I can walk around at late night with confidence.
    • There are security gates and security officers at my apartment so I don’t think anyone can sneak into.
  4. Weather
    • It’s sunny almost everyday. Sometimes, it rains. There are only 2 seasons: sunny and raining.
    • Even on the most sunny day in Singapore, I don’t feel much of the heat because:
      • I mostly move from buildings to bus/train to another building, and there are air conditioners everywhere.
      • Even if I walk around, there’s usually an overhead shelter along the walking path.
      • There are trees everywhere.
      • All of these also help during a rain, you will only get wet when trying to cross a street.
    • I like the weather here.
  5. Entertainment
    • Shops & malls close at 10 pm. There are bars and night clubs but I’m not into those.
    • During the weekends, we can explore around Singapore, such as: visit museums, go hiking, go for a picnic in a park, visit Sentosa Island, go shopping, go to cinemas, etc.
    • There are about 10 default channels on TV. They’re either in English, Malay, Indian or Chinese.
    • Singapore is close to many other countries in the South East Asia area so you can easily plan your weekend getaway to Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines, etc. and enjoy the strong currency (Singapore dollar).
  6. The People
    • People are discreet and considerate here. They won’t go out of their way to help you (like the Japanese) but they will try their best not to disturb you: not talking too loud on buses/trains, clean up their trays, not pushing around in the train.
    • They are educated and well-adjusted. They stand in queues, they offer their seats, they ask before taking something. Again, they do stand in queues.
  7. The languages
    • There are 3 main languages in Singapore: Mandarin (Chinese), English, and Bahasa (Malay).
    • A lot of shop clerks in food courts can speak English, but only at a very basic level. Most of them speak Mandarin to customers.
    • Young people speak English more fluently, with a Singlish accent. It took some time for me to get used to the accent. So far, I can understand most of what Singaporean say.
    • All kids can speak Chinese and English since elementary school.
    • All legal documents are in English.
    • Although spoken English in Singapore is not as smooth as the UK/US/Australia/Canada, it’s still a conducive environment to force yourself to practice speaking English every day. You will get better over time.
  8. Permanent Residence
    • You’re eligible to apply for permanent residence (PR) after 6 months living in Singapore.
    • With PR status:
      • You’re allowed to stay in Singapore indefinitely even if you’re not employed.
      • You have to contribute to a fund called CPF (Central Provident Fund) every month, about 15-20% of your salary. You cannot withdraw this fund before you retire. However, you can use it to purchase an apartment, a car or invest in other products.
      • You are allowed to buy a second-hand HDB.
    • Although the application process is clearly documented on the website, the selecting criteria is a complete black box. Even top executives from big companies who live in Singapore for 5-10 years with a handsome salary package still got rejected.
    • 5-7 years ago, the Singapore government even sent letters to graduate students inviting them to apply for PR. Now, most of the applications are rejected for no clear reasons. The chance is pretty slim.
    • Therefore, I don’t think I will ever get a PR in Singapore.

See you in part 3 and also the last part of this series. I will try to address the question in the title there.

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Is Singapore a country worth living (part 3/ last part)

Is Singapore a country worth living (part 1)