Home » Living in US » Series: Living in US vs Singapore – Move back to Asia from America?

Series: Living in US vs Singapore – Move back to Asia from America?

If you are from Southeast Asia or Indian subcontinent and have lived in America for quite a few years and plan to move back from US someday for one of the reasons like kids education, their upbringing in your cultural values, take care of parents, settle down in home country, etc., it could be quite difficult to make the complete switch from West to East. Often, it may be a good idea to transition into a place like Singapore, which is often called as the place where “East meets West”.   We will share our thoughts on living in Singapore in comparison with USA based on our experience.   As part of the series we will cover the topics like below. ( Topics are linked to articles  )

To start of the series, lets have a quick look at Singapore as a country and what makes it one of the places to compare with USA. This is definitely not going to be a history lesson, will have relevant facts for employment and living J

Background of Singapore – Some quick facts about Singapore

  • Singapore just completed its 50th birthday this year on August 9th, 2015, it was part of Malaysia before that. It is also called “the Lion City”, “Garden City” and also “The Red Dot“
  • According to Forbes, Singapore is the third richest country in the world.
  • Singapore land size was about 581 km2 in 1960’s and now about 710 km2, it has grown the land size by land filling. They plan to increase more by 2030… quite interesting!
  • According to BBC, Singapore is one of the top five safest cities to live in the world.
  • People in Singapore often speak in “Singlish” ( Singaporean English). It is very common for people to say “Lah” at the end of many common sentences…Check out short Singlish Video
  • Singapore has an unemployment rate of just 2%. Its unemployment never went past 3% in the last 10 years. Check history of unemployment rate Singapore.
  • Prior to 1965, Singapore was a British naval base in East Asia and its GDP Per capita (GDP / Population) of Singapore was around $500 USD in 1965 and in 2013, it is about 56,000 USD. That’s tremendous growth, ahead of US. Check the graph below. Singapore vs USA Comparision of GDP Per Capita Income
  • Singapore culture is quite diverse, there are about 74% of Chinese, 13% of Malay, 9 % of Indian and about 3 to 4 % of others. There are quite a few temples, mosques, churches, etc. to each of these ethnic groups all across Singapore.
  • It is quite humid in Singapore for most part of the year with plenty of rain all around the year. If you like warm weather, it is the place to be. No Snow folks ! Not even cold weather, it is warm and humid…

There are many websites dedicated to share the history and background of Singapore, above are just few snippets…I recommend you to check out the website Know Your Singapore or you may read Wikipedia on Singapore

Did I miss any fun fact about Singapore?  Share your thoughts or fun facts?

Also, if you would like to have specific topic addressed, leave a comment, we will try to write an article on the same.

Image Credit : https://www.crossed-flag-pins.com/Friendship-Pins/USA/Flag-Pins-USA-Singapore.jpg 


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  1. Kumar,

    first of all this is really nice article and good information. I have few quick questions and can you provide me some details on
    1. Kids Education in Singapore – Cost of School Tuition. He are the schools primarily Middle and High school in Singapore in comparison to USA schools.
    2. Any experience or information with respect to challenge for the school going kids have when coming from USA?
    2. Are you still living in Singapore?


  2. Hi!

    We are looking to move to Singapore after staying in US for around 5 years. My husband and I are engineers and work in the semiconductor Industry. Comparing the salary in Singapore on glass door, it seems like salaries in Singapore are much lower than what we are paid here for a similar job. In your experience, is that a true statement? Are managers in Singapore paid more than engineers? We are thinking about applying for managerial jobs to at least get what we make here in US. Any insight will be much appreciated. Thanks

    • AA,
      The average salaries you see on Glassdoor maynot be true reflection of what is possible. Expats usually bargain a better salary, if you have the right skill and they need you. I would say Customer Facing roles are paid well in Singapore…Good Engineers are paid well too, but it all varies by company…it is your task to find the right company. Managerial jobs are paid well too..again, it is all matter of the company you choose. Taxes are quite low in singapore around 12 to 15 % or less, thats one positive thing to consider.

  3. Hi Kumar,
    I heard the job opportunities post graduations for indians are not that good in singapore. Also the market has slowed down thus international students in singapore are facing difficulty in finding tha jobs

    • Yogesh,
      Yes, you are right, the market is slow lately, especially for banking sector. There have been labor law changes to hire foreigners in the last year or so…The job has to be posted in Govt Job portal and local citizens have to be interviewed and given preference first before they plan to hire internationals…so, it is a tough rule for businesses.

  4. Hello Kumar,
    Thank you for the series. I agree with the stats and I’m actually in crossroads right as I just received an offer in Singapore. I’m currently working in the US on OPT Stem extension and the timing has been interesting. Considering the majority of these stats I must say honestly I am inclined to move to Singapore right now. The confusion surrounding the OPT STEM extension also helps my case. Is it possible you email me some information you have right regarding the salaries and housing? I understand that this is a series of articles but I can use any additional info from research before deciding on my offer.

    • Eshwar, While I would certainly cover most of the topics you asked soon, in the mean time, I suggest you check out Glassdoor for salaries. You can check out PropertyGuru.sg for housing rentals. For housing, Rent for condo is higher as condo is like Gated Community with security and everything. On the other hand, HDB flat is community housing that exists as apartments constructed where most of the people live, it is not gated. Hopefully I cover these soon 🙂

    • Hi Eshwar,

      I saw your post and was tempted to reply because I lived in Singapore for 2.5 years. I thought I can guide you a little with life there.
      Salaries are decent in Singapore in the IT industry. But the main factor you need to consider if you want to move there is the cost of living. Housing is the major factor that eats half of your salary.
      However, if you are going to share an apartment or condominium, it is really good. But if you are moving with family/kids, I would seriously suggest to think twice.
      Renting a 2 bedroom flat can cost you anywhere between 2000 to 2600 singapore dollars. 3 bedroom flat would definitely be more than 2500 SGD.

      You will definitely see a rise in your expenses but having said that, it’s an amazing place to live in.

      All the best!

  5. Good One Kumar. Showing better opportunities!
    Thanks MKG for keeping this discussion lively.

    But, is it true that in Singapore and Malaysia people need to work for longer hours especially people in IT due to tough competition from Chinese or its their work culture.
    I was in Indonesia for couple of months on a project and noticed they work longer and hard.
    How is that in Singapore?


    • Yes, it is the work culture in Asia. I have noticed that people tend to work longer hours in Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand too. It is not about competition from any country, it is the general work culture. I would say, this is more noticed in IT field and banking industries…Other industries may not be that bad…Years ago, it was a 6 days week in Singapore…with MNCs, the 5 days work week was adopted…so, it could be the mindset change too…

      • Yes I agree with you Kumar. I think jobs in IT industry are hectic compared to others. Otherwise, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam work culture is quite relaxed compared to other countries.

  6. Very Nice Article. I worked in USA and currently working in Singapore. I worked in Thailand and Malaysia as well. Kumar points are very valid. Everyone has their own priorities. If Security is your one of your concern then definitely Singapore is a nice place when compared with U.S.A where you cannot walk on the roads in the night times. If you don’t prefer to travel longer distances during weekday to work or on weekends then Singapore is the right place, where commuting is very easy (MRT trains and buses for every 2 minutes during peak hours). The major advantage when compared with USA is travelling distance & fare to India. During long weekends it will cost around INR 20,000 – 30,000 (2 way fare) from Singapore to Chennai or Hyderabad. Whereas in the case of USA, it will cost you 3-4 times more than this fare. If you are working in Singapore you will get one year multiple entry visa to Malaysia (It will cost SGD 50) and then you can travel by Airasia from Johor Baru (A Malaysia city nearer to Singapore) -> Kulalumpur->Indian cities for below INR 10,000 (2 way ticket) even during Singapore long weekends. So you never feel home sick ( I usually travel 6 times per year to India). The list goes on..Nevertheless to say it depends on individual preferences. I make savings same as a consultant in USA and good thing is I am happy that I haven’t sacrificed my career goals to get a Green card by working under a consultancy like in usa for 8 years.

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts, on the spot ! It is about priorities and convenience…
      On a side note, as the articles get published, would love to hear your thoughts and views on them as well in the comments section 🙂

    • Hello Sgpr_USA,
      Very nicely written and thank you. As Kumar has suggested, I urge you to write more. Please find time to write more.

      I do have fond memories of my short trip to Singapore, its unbelievably nice Changi airport and super beautiful skyline, and also Santosa. Never got a chance to see the Little India part. But, when I was at the airport there was an Indian restaurant there. I have never seen that at any other airport in the world.

      Yes, safety is a great factor and public transportation is an amazing thing. I live in USA and I know how valuable they are.

      One important question is what type of jobs one can find in Singapore. I mean software, manufacturing, research; which ones are more available than other. Any inputs will be highly appreciated.

    • Also, if you can summarize, or Kumar, anyone really, the process of becoming a permanent resident and then Citizen of Singapore. Also, can we bring parents there permanently. Also, what is the time taken in these things.

  7. I live in USA and I have been to Singapore for a short trip. I can add two more points:
    1) It is too small! You are talking about expansion, that is great. But, you can go from one end of the island to another in less than 1 hour. I do not like small spaces. I prefer huge-huge area. Drive for long hours, etc. In a very short amount of time, you will be done with viewing almost everything and then if you like roaming around you might be bored. In USA, you can live here for years and still may have never seen even 2% of the country, there is always something to look forward to.

    2) The government you should remember is essentially Chinese. Or it will be soon. So, if conservative thoughts kick in, you have to see if you like an Indian kind of place or a Chinese kind of.

    I think these two points are really serious, and cannot be ignored.

    • MKG,
      1. You are right on the size…it is small, but there are quite a few places around Singapore in Southeast Asia that are an hour flights or even drive or ferry that would be good places to visit. It may not beat US in terms of size and options, but there are places to see and visit around Singapore.
      2. From demographics standpoint, you can see as written in article are about 74% are from Chinese origin…but, the Government works very different from China…..different values I would say…cannot compare…It is like US was formed by immigrants from Europe and other parts of the world, we cannot say US is European culture, it has its own culture right ?

      • Hi Kumar,

        USA culture is different but the fundamental principles of democracy and western life is very similar to that in Europe. There is a very very strong correlation. Not sure why you think otherwise. Elitism, even racism or other bad stuff has also passed over here smoothly. So, by your logic Singapore should be highly correlated with China. Anyways, when 75% population of a country is from a particular region, a lot of government rules, and behavior will be similar to that region. I do not have to tell you that the 9% Indians that you talk about are actually perhaps in the lowest strata of society.

        Nonetheless, I am ready to believe that Singapore might be a preferable option for many, it is up to them. Also, I do not believe there is anything wrong with Chinese way of governing things. I am just saying things are very different in India.

      • Just a quick followup. Kumar, based on my reading of Newspapers and magazines and youtube etc, what I understand is that Indians are not very well treated in Malaysia. Also do a google search on Bumiputera. So, given that more than 10% people of Singapore are Malay, there should a strong correlation between life in Singapore and Malaysia, at least from the point of view of Malay. I am just basing on opinion on these readings of mine, and my logic as a common man.

        • MKG, You are right in terms of the freedom of speech and to be the way you want to be in US, etc are the best in US. Singapore culture resonates around Asian values and culture…coming to your point, there are quite a few Indian origin Malaysians in Malaysia and good amount of them are blue collar workers, so you may notice that here and there…cannot be generalized… Life in Malaysia is pretty different from Singapore…the rules, the people’s attitude, cleanliness, everything is different….Singapore transformed itself in the past 50 years.

        • Malays are the worst treated in Singapore. Singapore DOES NOT have the bumipetera policy so not sure why you raised it about Malaysia and then extrapolate it to Singapore. It’s like your brain is not working. Singapore and Malaysia are not alike at all and race was the reason why they split. Moreover 10% is a minority population, Indians are not that far off. Malaysia has over 50% Malays. Anyway Singapore is built by the Chinese. So it isn’t just the government. Everything and especially the business/commercial sector is owned and run by Chinese.


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