Many Expats On Localised, Perk-Free Packages

Some people assume that Western expats get luxurious perks and lead a glamorous lifestyle here but two of them say the reality can be different.

Ms Elaine Young, 43, left Scotland 12 years ago to be a writer here.

She buys her groceries at NTUC FairPrice and her clothes from Uniqlo, and eats at hawker centres near her Tiong Bahru rental apartment.

Ms Young says: “I wish I could walk into Burberry and buy anything I want but the reality is I wear basic clothes like an average person here.”

She did not imagine the cost of living here to be so high.



And she did not know she had the option of renting an HDB flat since property agents serving expats here often recommend private properties.

“Had I known about renting HDB flats then, my husband and I would have done so to save more money,” she says.

She and her husband, who is an Asia Pacific sales director with IHS Energy, pay about $6,500 a month for their three-room apartment.


Apart from the haze and high cost of living, Ms Young says: “I’ve never felt safer and the people here are lovely.”

She has made many local and expat friends, and they organise outings and dinners for the weekends.

Ms Young intends to move back to the UK to look after her mother in a few years.

She says: “We love living here but are well aware that we are guests in the country. It’s home now but not forever.”

Thirty-year-old Dane Jesper Rasmussen, an operations manager in a shipping company, says he usually eats at hawker centres.

He jumped on the opportunity to work in Singapore the moment he saw his company post the opening and has been here for more than two years now.

Mr Rasmussen had another motivation to move here: His girlfriend, whom he met in Denmark, is a Singaporean.

She was stationed in Denmark for three years in the same shipping company.He had never been to Singapore although he travelled around South-east Asia over a few years before his move here.

So, the high cost of living here came as a surprise to him, especially since his experience with South-east Asia mainly involved Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar.


Singapore is the world’s most expensive city, according to research by the Economist Intelligence Unit this year.

During the first three months alone in Singapore, Mr Rasmussen overspent because he did not know about hawker centres and cheaper supermarkets.

His girlfriend returned from Denmark and took him to hawker centres and food courts, showing him ways to save money.

He says: “It’s great to have someone local to show me around. Had it not been for her guidance, I would still be spending a lot of money on the wrong things.”

He rents a two-room condominium unit in Farrer Road and pays about $3,400 a month.

Mr Rasmussen says that sometimes it is hard to adjust and make new friends as an expat because people know that he won’t be here for long.

“Many have their own groups of friends and sometimes it’s hard for them to invest time in a person who will leave.”

Both Ms Young and Mr Rasmussen have noticed expats switching to localised packages to secure a job here. They also say that many expats here do not live a life of luxury.

“Like Singaporeans, each individual earns a different amount of money and leads different lifestyles,” says Mr Rasmussen who spends his weekends visiting his girlfriend and her family in Woodlands.

I’ve never felt safer and the people here are lovely.

– Ms Elaine Young from Scotland has been working here for 12 years

Like Singaporeans, each individual earns a different amount of money and leads different lifestyles.

– Mr Jesper Rasmussen, who is working as an operations manager in a shipping company



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