ABOUT THE CITY
If there is one word that best captures Singapore, it is “unique”. A dynamic city rich in contrast and color, you’ll find a harmonious blend of culture, cuisine, arts and architecture here. Brimming with unbridled energy, this little dynamo in Southeast Asia embodies the finest of both East and West.
Because of Singapore’s geographical vantage location, it attracts global businesses and is seamlessly connected to almost every part of the world. Singapore is highly cosmopolitan and diverse with Chinese people forming an ethnic majority with large populations of Malay, Indian and other people. English, Malay, Tamil, and Chinese are the official languages.
Love to eat? Locals are passionate about food and eating. Almost in every corner of the island, you will find an endless variety of food, served hot or cold, at any hour of the day (or night)! In this cosmopolitan and multicultural city, you can expect nothing less than a mélange of flavors from around the globe. It is a tasty tale about a country’s unique cultural tapestry woven in with its distinct influences to capture the essence of Singapore’s multicultural heritage
Singapore City, known as the Lion City, is by far the largest and most significant island alongside 63 others that make up Singapore state. Here, especially at the mouth of the Singapore River, Asian tradition meets modern technology – gleaming skyscrapers tower over traditional architecture, while squat Chinese and Hindu temples stud the city. A curious blend of ancient and modern, the city is home to an ethnic mix of Chinese, Malaysians and Indians, as well as expatriates from all over the world, in a predominantly English-speaking society. These different races live harmoniously thanks to religious tolerance, increased prosperity, stringent no-nonsense laws and a constant balmy equatorial heat.
Singapore’s climate is mostly hot and humid with average temperatures ranging between 79°F (26°C) and 86°F (30°C) during the day with cooler temperatures at night. The wettest months are between November and January (the monsoon period); however rainfall occurs throughout the year. Rainstorms are usually short but heavy.
SingPost has a wide network of over 60 post offices located throughout Singapore. In addition, there are about 80 authorized agencies and over 800 stamp vendors providing essential postal services to customers. For service round the clock, there are more than 200 Self-service Automated Machines (SAMs) and vPOST.
The going rate for international airmail letters to North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand is S$1.10 for 20g plus S35¢ for each additional 10g. Postcards and aerograms to all destinations are S50¢.
Singapore, a highly-developed and successful free-market economy, enjoys a remarkably open and corruption-free environment, stable prices, and a per capita GDP equal to that of the four largest West European countries. The economy depends heavily on exports, particularly in consumer electronics and information technology products. It was hard hit in 2001-03 by the global recession, by the slump in the technology sector, and by an outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2003, which curbed tourism and consumer spending. Fiscal stimulus, low interest rates, a surge in exports, and internal flexibility led to vigorous growth in 2004-06, with real GDP growth averaging 7% annually. The government hopes to establish a new growth path that will be less vulnerable to the global demand cycle for information technology products – it has attracted major investments in pharmaceuticals and medical technology production – and will continue efforts to establish Singapore as Southeast Asia’s financial and high-tech hub.
Taxes & Work Permits
If you are a U.S. citizen or resident alien living or traveling outside the United States, you generally are required to file income tax returns, estate tax returns, and gift tax returns and pay estimated tax in the same way as those residing in the United States. Your income, filing status, and age generally determine whether you must file a return. Generally, you must file a return if your gross income from worldwide sources is at least the amount shown for your filing status in the Filing Requirements table in Chapter 1 of Publication 54, Tax Guide for U.S. Citizens and Resident Aliens Abroad (available at www.irs.gov). The IRS web site has a wealth of information available for the overseas taxpayer. Follow the ‘Individuals’ and ‘International Taxpayers’ links, or search for IRS Publication 54.
Important Phone Numbers
Dialing from New York to Singapore:
Dial: 011 65 XXXX-XXXX
How the number is composed:
011 is the international prefix used to dial somewhere outside of U.S.A.
86 is the international code used to dial Singapore.
XXXX-XXXX is the local number. Exchange X with your number.
Dialing from Singapore to New York:
Dial: 00 1 212 XXX-XXXX
How the number is composed:
00 is the international prefix used to dial somewhere outside of Singapore.
1 is the international code used to dial to U.S.A.
212 is one of multiple city/area codes in use for New York.
XXX-XXXX is the local number. Exchange X with your number.
Quarantine in Singapore
Unless you are coming from England/Ireland or Australia/New Zealand, your pet will be quarantined for 30 days. Animals less than four months old will be quarantined until they reach four months old and then up to an additional 30 days. The license must be completed and delivered at least two weeks prior to import. A fee of S$50 is imposed for every animal. You should ensure that you book the quarantine dates early to coincide with your moves. The pet owner must bear all the import and quarantine costs.
Public Transportation is so efficient in Singapore, you probably won’t have any need for a car. If you do choose to drive, most drivers are very courteous and cognizant of traffic laws.
Singapore’s highways are all designated by acronyms – AYE, ECP, CTE, AMK, PIE, ORR and CBD. Various tolls are levied in morning and evening peak hours to relieve congestion on expressways and busy roads, using the Electronic Road Pricing Scheme (ERP), which automatically deducts tolls from the In-Vehicle Unit or IU. This is fitted in all Singaporean vehicles and drivers purchase a rechargeable Cashcard and insert it in the IU. Vehicles that are not fitted with the IU must rent one. This can be done from petrol stations and other outlets, at a cost of S$5 daily, minimum of two days (plus a S$120 deposit).
If you’re going to be in Singapore for a while, you’ll want to invest in an EZ-link farecard. You load it up with a certain amount of money, and then can use it to pay for public transportation throughout the city, including the metro and bus services. Fares are lower for those with the cards.
SMRT runs the very efficient light rail services in the city, as well as a large part of the bus system. Single trip tickets are between 80 cents and 2 dollars, plus a 1 dollar deposit that is refunded at the end of the trip when you return your ticket to the machine.
The Changi Airport, like the rest of Singapore, is very clean, efficient, and organized. If you’ve got a little time to kill, it has a movie theater, swimming pool, and free internet access. It’s about 10 miles northeast of downtown Singapore.
To/From the Airport
Airport Shuttle Service
A 6-seater MaxiCab is used for this 2-way service which goes to any hotel in Singapore and anywhere within the Central Business District, with the exception of Changi Village hotel and hotels on Sentosa Island. Shuttle service must be booked at the counters in the Arrival Hall and the fare paid in cash at the counter.
There are two local television stations: the Television Corporation of Singapore (TCS) and Television Twelve (TV12). TCS runs channels 5 and 8, both 24-hour channels, reaching out to more than 90 per cent of the population. A third 24-hour news channel, Channel News Asia, caters specifically to current affairs.
Channel 5 features English news and entertainment programs. You’ll find familiar favorites like the X-Files, ER and Friends, although these are sometimes a season or two behind. TCS has also had some luck with popular local productions such as Extraordinary People (a current affairs program), Growing Up (a nostalgia drama set in 1960s’ Singapore) and Under One Roof (a sitcom).
Channel 8 is dedicated to Chinese programs. You might want to catch these to pick up some Mandarin phrases (most programs do come with English subtitles).
TV12 has two channels, Prime and Premiere 12, and positions itself as a station for arts and culture programs. Prime 12 is the language channel offering programs in Malay, Tamil, Japanese, French, German, Italian and Spanish, as well as Chinese opera. Premiere 12 carries sports, documentaries and art house movies.
Private satellite dishes are not allowed in Singapore. The international satellite broadcasters based in Singapore (including ABN, Discovery Asia, ESPN, HBO, MTV and Walt Disney) are only using Singapore as an uplink station to beam to other markets and to local households via cable.
Cable TV is managed by StarHub, offering a full suite of international channels of news, movies, entertainment, sports, music and education, and seven local free-to-air channels. For more information, visit www.starhub.com.
Western newspapers are not freely available in Shanghai. Only at a few major hotels will you find the International Herald Tribune and Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post.
Radio is quite big in Singapore. There are four stations: the Radio Corporation of Singapore (RCS), NTUC Radio Heart, SAFRA Radio and Rediffusion, offering a spread of 19 channels. Popular English channels are Class 95 FM, Power 98 FM, Perfect 10 98.7 FM, and One FM 90.5. The BBC World Service is available on FM 88.9. You can also tune in to Voice of America, Radio Japan, Radio Moscow and Radio Beijing on shortwave.
Radio and TV Licenses
You will need to get radio and TV licenses from the Singapore Broadcasting Authority (SBA) if you install any broadcasting equipment in your home or vehicle. It is an offence to operate broadcasting equipment without a valid license. You can apply for a license at any post office by cash or check payable to Singapore Post Private Limited. Alternatively, you can apply to the Singapore Broadcasting Authority by sending an application form and check to its Licensing Unit. A separate license is required for a radio, monochrome TV or color TV receiver installed in a motor vehicle, and should be in the name of the registered vehicle owner.
There are eight local newspapers with a combined circulation of 1 million: the Straits Times, the Business Times and the New Paper (English); Lianhe Zaobao, Lianhe Wanbao and Shin Min Daily News (Chinese); Berita Harian (Malay); and Tamil Murasu (Tamil). All dailies publish Sunday editions, except the Business Times and the New Paper. All the local newspapers are owned and printed by the Singapore Press Holdings, and are available from most shops, news stands and roadside vendors.
There are three English papers:
The Straits Times carries reports and analyses of major foreign and local events.
The Business Times covers business news, including items on companies, markets, the shipping line and executive lifestyle.
The New Paper is the local tabloid, with colorful photos and sensationalistic pieces on anything from disasters to crime and vice.
Most bookshops and news stands will carry a good spread of magazines, journals and periodicals, from newsy items like Asiaweek, Forbes, National Geographic, Newsweek, Reader’s Digest and US News & World Reports, to more glossy offerings such as Esquire, GQ, Harper’s Bazaar, Sports Illustrated, Vanity Fair, Vogue and Women’s Weekly.
There aren’t too many places in Singapore that could be considered virgin wilderness but there are some that offer an escape from the hubbub of the central district. Changi Village, on the east coast, no longer has traditional kampong houses but it does have a village atmosphere. Though the beach may not exactly be a tropical paradise it does have the advantage of being almost deserted during the weekdays. On the way to Changi Village it is worth visiting the infamous Changi Prison. The complex is still used as a prison but next to the main gate is the Changi Chapel and Museum, which holds a replica of the chapel used by interned Allied prisoners during WWII. Memorabilia and notes pinned to the walls of the chapel are a poignant reminder of that particular part of Asian history.
Jurong Bird Park
Jurong BirdPark, with a collection of 8,000 birds from more than 600 species, showcases Southeast Asian breeds plus other colorful tropical beauties, some of which are endangered. The more than 20 hectares (50 acres) can be easily walked or, for a couple dollars extra, you can ride the panorail for a bird’s-eye view (so to speak) of the grounds. Be sure to visit the Waterfall Aviary, the world’s largest walk-in aviary. It’s an up-close-and-personal experience with African and South American birds, and a pretty stroll through landscaped tropical forest. This is where you’ll also see the world’s tallest man-made waterfall, but the true feat of engineering here is the panorail station, built inside the aviary. Another smaller walk-in aviary is for Southeast Asian endangered bird species; at noon every day this aviary experiences a man-made thunderstorm. The daily guided tours and regularly scheduled feeding times are enlightening. Other bird exhibits are the flamingo pools, the World of Darkness (featuring nocturnal birds), and the penguin parade, a favorite for Singaporeans, who adore all things Arctic.
This large field has witnessed its share of historical events. Bordered on one end by the Singapore Recreation Club and on the other end by the Singapore Cricket Club, and flanked by City Hall, the area was once known as Raffles Plain. Upon Raffles’ return to the island in 1822, he was angry that resident Farquhar had allowed merchants to move private residences into the prime area he had originally intended for government buildings. All building permits were rescinded, and the Padang became the official center point for the government quarters, around which the Esplanade and City Hall were built. Today, the Padang is mainly used for public and sporting events — pleasant activities — but in the 1940s it felt more forlorn footsteps when the invading Japanese forced the entire European community onto the field. There they waited while the occupation officers dickered over a suitable location for the “conquered.” They ordered all British, Australian, and Allied troops as well as European prisoners on the 14-mile march to Changi.
Singapore takes advantage of its unchanging tropical climate and static ratio of daylight to night to bring you the world’s first open-concept zoo for nocturnal animals. Here, as in the zoological gardens, animals live in landscaped areas, their barriers virtually unseen by visitors. These areas are dimly lit to create a moonlit effect, and a guided tram leads you through “regions” designed to resemble the Himalayan foothills, the jungles of Africa, and, naturally, Southeast Asia. Some of the free-range prairie animals come very close to the tram. The 45-minute ride covers almost 3.5km (2 miles) and has regular stops to get off and have a rest or stroll along trails for closer views of smaller creatures.
Sri Mariamman Temple
As the oldest Hindu temple in Singapore, Sri Mariamman has been the central point of Hindu tradition and culture. In its early years, the temple housed new immigrants while they established themselves and also served as social center for the community. Today, the main celebration here is the Thimithi Festival in October or November. The shrine is dedicated to the goddess Sri Mariamman, who is known for curing disease (a very important goddess to have around in those days), but as is the case at all other Hindu temples, the entire pantheon of Hindu gods are present to be worshipped as well. On either side of the gopuram are statues of Shiva and Vishnu, while inside are two smaller shrines to Vinayagar and Sri Ararvan. Also note the sacred cows that lounge along the top of the temple walls. The temple originated as a small wood-and-thatch shrine founded by Naraina Pillai, an Indian merchant who came to Singapore with Raffles’s first expedition and found his fortune in trade. In the main hall of the temple is the small god that Pillai originally placed here.
Underwater World is without a doubt one of the most visited attractions on Sentosa Island. The oceanarium is home to more than 2,500 fishes from 250 different species. Start your tour with the Touch Pool for some hands-on experience with starfish, stingrays and if you dare, baby sharks. Then venture into the ocean depths via a moving travellator that ferries you through an 83-metre-long acrylic tunnel. All around you, sharks, stingrays, eels and schools of fish glide past, engrossed in their own world. At 11:30am, 2:30pm, and 4:30pm daily, a scuba diver hops in and feeds them by hand. In smaller tanks you can view other unusual sea life like the puffer fish and the mysteriously weedy and leafy sea dragons
Arab Street/Kampong Gelam
Kampong Gelam is the traditional heart of Singaporean Muslim life. Since early colonial days the area has attracted Muslims from diverse ethnic backgrounds, fusing them into one community by their common faith and lifestyle. The name Kampong Gelam comes from the Malay words kampong, meaning village, and gelam, a particular kind of tree that at one time grew abundantly in the area. Although the ethnic Arab population in Singapore has never reached large proportions, their influence is immediately obvious through such street names as Bussorah, Muscat, Baghdad, and of course, Arab Street, the center of modern Kampong Gelam — a neat little shopping enclave for textiles and regional handicrafts.
The mosques in Singapore are a wonderful blend of Muslim influences from around the world. The grand Sultan Mosque has the familiar onion dome and Moorish stylings of the Arabic Muslim influence. The smaller but fascinating Hajjah Fatimah Mosque is a real blend of cultures, from Muslim to Chinese to even Christian — testimony to Islam’s tolerance of other cultural symbols. On the other hand, the mosques in Chinatown, such as Jamae Mosque and the Nagore Durgha Shrine, are Saracenic in flavor, a style that originated in India in the late 19th century, mixing traditional styles of Indian and Muslim architecture with British conventionality.
When the first Chinese junk landed in Singapore sometime around 1821, the sailors aboard rushed to the shore and prayed to Ma Po Cho, the Goddess of Heavenly Sages, for bringing them safely to their destination. Small shrines were built on the shore, which became the first stops for all Chinese sailors as they landed — many of these shrines still exist today. The Chinese and other merchants set up warehouses along the western bank of the Singapore River, and business offices, residences, clan associations, and coolie houses filled the area behind Boat Quay. In 1822, when Raffles developed his Town Plan, he reserved this area for the Chinese to live.
As you tour Chinatown, you may be surprised to see a Hindu Temple and even a couple of Indian mosques. Although the area was predominantly Chinese, many Hindus and Muslims settled here, drawn by commerce. For a long time, Chinatown remained basically as it always had, but the past 15 years have seen major changes by the Urban Redevelopment Authority, with schemes to renovate and preserve historical buildings and to clean up the streets. Sadly, after shophouses were lovingly restored, many of the old calligraphers, cobblers, kite makers, fortune tellers, and other craftspeople who had inhabited them could no longer afford the rents.
Little India did not develop as a community planned by the colonial authorities like Kampong Gelam or Chinatown, but came into being because immigrants to India were drawn to business developments here. In the late 1920s, the government established a brick kiln and lime pits here that attracted Indian workers, and the abundance of grass and water made the area attractive to Indian cattle traders. Today, this modest but colorful area of wall-to-wall shops, pungent aromas and Hindi film music is a relief from the prim modernity of many parts of the city. Centered around the southern end of Serangoon Rd, this is the place to visit Hindu temples, eat great food and watch street side cooks fry chapatis. The Zhujiao Centre is the main market, but there are also interesting spice shops nearby. The best temples are Veerama Kali Ammam, Sri Srinivasa Perumal and the glitzy Temple of 1000 Lights.
In the beginning Orchard Road was just that, orchards and plantations. But as Singapore began to attract international settlers, this area transformed into an enclave where wealthy Europeans built their homes. Today, Orchard Road still represents affluence and luxury even though colonial homesteads have been replaced with glitzy malls and high-rise hotels. And true to its roots, the Orchard Road area still has one of the highest concentrations of western expatriate residences on the island.
Primary & Secondary
In Singapore, there are many International Schools to choose from. It is compulsory for foreign students studying here to apply for an annual student pass from the Immigration Department. Most employers pay all or part of the tuition fees for the children of their expatriate employees. The fees paid by the company are taxable under the Singapore law. For more information and a list of schools, contact the Ministry of Education.
Ministry of Education
1 North Buona Vista Drive
65 6872 2220
65 6775 5826 (Fax)
In Singapore, children begin studying at Primary One at the age of six and study for six years. Then they take the Primary School Leaving Examinations (PSLE) before moving on to secondary school for another four or five years. The Primary School Education consists of a 4-year foundation stage from Primary 1 to 4 and a 2-year orientation stage from Primary 5 to 6. The overall aim of primary education is to give students a good grasp of English language, Mother Tongue and Mathematics.
Secondary School Education
Second School Education places students in the Special, Express, Normal (Academic) or Normal (Technical) course according to how they perform at the PSLE. The different curricular emphases are designed to match their learning abilities and interests. In secondary school, children can choose, based on their examination results, to enter in the School Cambridge General Certificate of Education ‘Ordinary’ (GCE ‘O’s) level examinations.
4-5 years of education
National examination: GCE ‘O’ Levels (for Special / Express courses) or GCE ‘N’ Levels (for Normal course)
All students take part in at least one CCA; CCA performance is considered for admission to Junior Colleges, CI, polytechnics and ITE
After the secondary level, it’s a selection whether to go:
-Technical (ITE) or commercial institutes (MDIS, MIS, TMC, SIM)
-Polytechnics (Nanyang, Temasek, Ngee Ann, Singapore Polytechnic) to pursue diploma courses
-Pre-university centers or junior colleges to prepare for the Senior Cambridge General Certificate of Education ‘Advanced’ (GCE ‘A’) level examinations and later on tertiary education Centralized institutions
Monday through Saturday from 10:00am-9:00pm
10:00am-10:00pm on some public holidays
9:30am-3:00pm Monday through Friday
11:00am-2:30pm for lunch; reopen around 6:00pm for dinner and take the last order around 10:00pm
Currency & Banking
1 Singapore Dollar (S$) = 100 cents. Notes are in denominations of S$10,000, 1000, 500, 100, 50, 20, 10, 5 and 2. Coins are in denominations of S$1, and 50, 20, 10, 5 and 1 cents. The currency of Brunei is also legal tender; 1 Brunei Dollar = 1 Singapore Dollar.
There are more than 140 commercial banks and 80 merchant banks in Singapore. Most offer full banking services, including checking and savings accounts, ATMs, fixed deposits, safe deposit boxes, loans, overdrafts and transfers. Most banks are open from 9:30 am to 3:00 pm or 4:00 pm on weekdays, and from 9:30 am to 11:00 am or 11:30 am on Saturdays.
The cuisine of Singapore is often viewed by the local population as a prime example of the ethnic diversity of the culture of Singapore. The food is heavily influenced by Malaysian, Chinese, Indian (specifically Tamil and other southern styles), Indonesian, and even Western traditions since its founding by the British in the 1800s. In Singaporean hawker stores (open-air food centers), for example, chefs of a Chinese ethnic background might experiment with Indian influences such as tamarind, turmeric and ghee, while an Indian chef could serve a greater amount of coconut products and pork dishes (used more by the Malaysian chefs), and so on and so forth. This phenomenon makes the cuisine of Singapore significantly rich and a cultural attraction.
Electricity & Time Zone
Standard electrical current is 220 volts AC (50 cycles). Local electrical outlets are made for plugs with three square prongs.
The definition for time zones can be written in short form as UTC±n (or GMT±n), where n is the offset in hours. Here is an example given the local time in Singapore and New York City at 12:00 UTC when daylight savings time is not in effect:
Singapore Standard Time Zone: GMT/UTC + 8 hours = 8:00pm
NYC Standard Time Zone: GMT/UTC – 5 hours = 7:00am
Singapore is on Singapore Standard Time and does not observe Daylight Savings time.
Embassy & Visa
27 Napier Road
You don’t need a visa if you’re from Western Europe, North America, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Hong Kong, ASEAN countries (Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand, excluding Vietnam and Myanmar). You need a visa if you’re from Afghanistan, Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Cambodia, Georgia, India, Iraq, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Lebanon, Libya, Moldova, People’s Republic of China, Russia, Syria, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, or Yemen.
Singapore is a conglomeration of Chinese (76%), Malay (15%) and Indian (6%) cultures. In the past, this racial mixture has lead to some conflict. However, today most Singaporeans enjoy racial harmony and national unity. Each group works hard to maintain its cultural traditions while building a modern, cohesive society. Singaporeans of the younger generation think of themselves as Singaporean first, and as Chinese, Malay or Indian second.
Meeting and Greeting
Shake hands with everyone present at a business meeting or social occasion. Shake hands again when leaving. Your handshake should be firm.
Singaporeans may bow slightly as they shake your hand. Many Westerners are generally taller than Singaporeans, so it would be polite to give a small bow. A slight bow for Chinese or older people is polite.
Singapore’s well-established healthcare system comprises a total of 13 private hospitals, 10 public (government) hospitals and several specialist clinics, each specializing in and catering to different patient needs, at varying costs. Patients are free to choose the providers within the government or private healthcare delivery system and can walk in for a consultation at any private clinic or any government polyclinic. For emergency services, patients can go at any time to the 24-hour Accident & Emergency Departments located in the government hospitals.
Singapore’s medical facilities are among the finest in the world, with well-qualified doctors and dentists, many trained overseas. Pharmaceuticals are available from numerous outlets including supermarkets, department stores, hotels and shopping centers. Registered pharmacists work from 9am till 6pm, with some shops open until 10pm.
House hunting is never easy anywhere. It is trickier looking for your dream home in a foreign land, because your dreams probably never portrayed the houses you are seeing on street names that can twist the tongue. Experts say you should ask yourself four questions when house-hunting:
What’s your budget?
This will obviously determine the type of housing you can afford. Make sure you fully understand what is included in your company’s housing allowance.
Which is the best location for you?
Take into account the location of your office as well as your children’s schools. Do the kids need to wake up at 6 am to get to school everyday?