Monday 28 March 2016

Singapore most expensive city for expatriates

Expats go local to get the most out of Singapore
Earlier this month, this country was for the third year in a row ranked the most expensive city in the world for expats. While many say that with budgeting, living here is quite affordable, some have found that trying to emulate their life back home can get costly.
By Ng Huiwen and Dominic Teo, The Sunday Times, 27 Mar 2016

The cost of high-end housing, private schools and cars may be sky high in Singapore, but for many expatriates, going "local" makes living here quite affordable.

And that means eating at hawker centres, buying groceries from wet markets and eschewing private transport for trains and buses.

This is what many of them told The Sunday Times when asked about Singapore's thrice-awarded title of being the most expensive city in the world for expatriates.

The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), the research and analysis division of British media firm The Economist Group, produces the worldwide cost of living survey to help firms come up with compensation packages and allowances for expatriates and business travellers.

It takes into account more than 400 individual prices across 160 products and services in calculating its cost of living index.

Singapore has placed top since 2014, and was ranked first again in the latest report earlier this month, ahead of Zurich and Hong Kong, which shared second place, with Geneva coming in third.

The Singapore Government responded to this with a detailed post on its website to explain why the country was top of the chart.

A key reason was the Singapore dollar's strong appreciation against the United States dollar in the last decade, and the type of upmarket goods that the survey takes into account, such as filet mignon and international newspapers.

It also reported that the prices quoted by the EIU for many products and services were far more than what Singaporeans typically pay.

Expats whom The Sunday Times spoke to said the cost of living depends on the lifestyle they choose.

Italian Joe Galeotti, a 48-year-old hairstylist, added: "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."

Many said they have fallen in love with Singapore's public transport.

Said Mr Paul Burton, a 41-year-old director at IHS, a firm that provides defence analytics: "We now spend less in a month on train tickets in Singapore than in a week back in London."

For psychology lecturer Aoife McLouglin, 30, getting around by taxis is also relatively affordable. She said: "It is easily a third of the price compared to my country, Ireland."

Dutch expatriate Emile Leus, 43, simply takes advantage of the weather here. The owner of TVworkshop Asia, an events company, said: "I cycle everywhere I go and it's great."

Eating hawker food, shopping at wet markets and taking public transport instead of owning a car. Expatriates share how they juggle their finances in Singapore compared to home.
Posted by The Straits Times on Saturday, March 26, 2016

The EIU has named Singapore the most expensive place in the world to get a car because of its certificate of entitlement system and, for some expats used to driving, this takes some getting used to.

Said Dutchman Charlie van Eeden: "I used to drive a BMW but it's just too expensive here. Now, I'm paying $1,400 for a rental Hyundai. For the same price, I could probably rent a BMW 5 Series in Amsterdam."

If not for his two young children, aged three and five, the 39-year-old head of Asia at a creative agency added that he would rely on public transport or cabs to get around instead.

Rental rates here also require adjusting expectations.

Instead of paying $6,000 a month to rent a new condominium unit in Novena, Mr Galeotti chose to live in a nearby 10-year-old condominium instead, paying almost half the price in rent. He said: "I don't mind that it is an old condominium. It still has great facilities."

Experts caution against reading too much into the EIU survey.

Dr Yvonne McNulty, who specialises in expatriation and global mobility research, said it is aimed at a niche group of highly paid foreigners on "expatriate" contracts, which tend to offer housing and car allowances, and that these expats hope to replicate how they live back home here.

The associate lecturer at RMIT University Singapore and founder of Expat Research added: "The survey does not consider 'localised' expats, who are here on local terms, even though we're seeing more of them now."

Private school fees remain a bugbear. Frenchman Eric Balanca, 50, is here on a local contract with his wife, 18-year-old son and toddler.

His son studies at the French School of Singapore, costing him about $25,000 annually. "It's definitely a high price because in France, education is free.

"There are local schools, but it's difficult to get in and I would prefer my son to attend the French school," he said.

Expatriates also find ways to get around the high costs of certain goods in Singapore.

"Baby items are much cheaper in the UK because they are discounted, so we used to ship prams, baby chairs and other baby items from there," said Mr David Brotherton, a 39-year-old lawyer from Britain.

Despite earning the title of costliest city for the third year running, all the expatriates whom The Sunday Times spoke to said that they would definitely recommend Singapore as a place to live and work.

Said Mr Balanca: "The people are great and I like the vibrant economic environment... My advice is to take care of your income by budgeting."

Is Singapore the most expensive city to live in?The Economist Intelligence Unit’s (EIU) Worldwide Cost of Living...
Posted by Ministry of Trade & Industry on Thursday, March 17, 2016

US couple learn to find ways to adjust to life here
By Dominic Teo, The Sunday Times, 27 Mar 2016

When corporate pilot Cyril Letzelter gets the chance to fly to the United States every three months, he stocks up on clothes for himself, his wife and his two children.

"Children's clothing at a Walmart in the US can cost US$3 (S$4.10) a piece but in Singapore, it's at least US$15," said the 48-year-old American, who is not surprised that Singapore has been found the most expensive city in the world for expatriates. He moved here in November 2013 with his wife Jennifer, a 35-year-old engineer.

They have two young daughters who are three months and 23 months old. Their maid is paid $1,000 a month.

Said Mr Letzelter: "We're adventurous people and we were looking for a place to raise kids that could provide them with a unique culture.

"The pay was good and the math worked out well."

The couple earn about $29,000 together, but even then, it meant making adjustments to their lifestyle.

"Housing is crazy expensive here. We're paying $4,400 in rent.For that amount, we can get two cars and a very big house in the US."
Posted by Stomp Straits Times on Monday, March 28, 2016

Mr Letzelter's previous house near Denver, Colorado was 610 sq m, while his wife had a house near Boston that was about half of that size. Now, their apartment in Thomson is about 150 sq m.

Mr Letzelter said: "Housing is crazy expensive here. We're paying $4,400 in rent.

"For that amount, we can get two cars and a very big house in the US."

They have also chosen not to buy a car despite owning two in the US.

Having bought their cars at about US$20,000 each there, they baulk at having to pay at least $80,000 here. But they like the relatively cheap public transport here.

Mrs Letzelter said: "Taxis are very cheap and public transportation is amazing. In other countries, we would have to have a car, but here, we have no problems."

While they can adjust to a smaller home and public transport, getting used to local food has been a lot harder, so they pay extra for imported foodstuffs.

At $2,400 a month, their grocery bill here is triple what they usually spend in the US.

Mrs Letzelter said: "Grocery shopping is shockingly expensive. We try to shop at FairPrice because it's cheaper, but oftentimes we pay a lot of extra money to get products that make us comfortable."

While the family had initially planned to live here for a decade, they have recently started to contemplate a move back to the US.

Mr Letzelter has noticed a significant attempt by the Singapore Government and firms to hire more locals rather than expats since 2014.

"Far fewer expats are getting expat contracts, with many getting only local contracts, and the salaries are not as high," he said.

His wife was only able to find work as an engineer on a local contract. She said she felt compelled to work as the high cost of living here meant that the couple could not meet their financial goals - saving for retirement and their children's college funds - just on Mr Letzelter's salary alone.

The couple said other American expats are thinking of moving out or have already done so.

Mrs Letzelter, a member of the American Women's Association of Singapore, said the association used to have significantly more members. The improving US economy and a strengthening US dollar also make it tougher to stay here.

When Mr Letzelter first joined his company here in 2013, he was getting paid about 40 per cent more than he was in the US. But this has since narrowed to 20 per cent.

He said: "We really do like it here, but if the math doesn't work out, we'll go back earlier," he said.

The challenges of living in the most expensive city for expats?
Posted by on Monday, March 28, 2016


RENT: $4,400





HELPER: $1,000



TOTAL: $10,650 (all in Singapore dollars)

*Also spends $15,000 a year for travel back to the US

Singapore remains the world's most expensive city but Zurich replaces Paris for second place. London and New York also make an unwelcome return to the top ten according to the EIU's latest cost of living index
Posted by The Economist on Friday, March 11, 2016

Where is the most expensive city in the world?The Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU) has released its annual report...
Posted by BBC Business News on Thursday, March 10, 2016

Here are the top 10 most expensive cities in the world for expats.1. Singapore 2. Zurich 3. Hong Kong 4. Geneva 5. Paris 6. London 7. New York 8. Copenhagen 9. Seoul 10. Los Angeles
Posted by The Straits Times on Thursday, March 10, 2016

Is Singapore the most expensive city to live in?
Singapore world's most expensive city for expats

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