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The expat life: 5 tips and tricks for a hassle-free life abroad

Global citizens can live a seamless life in Singapore with these tried-and-tested tips.

The expat life: 5 tips and tricks for a hassle-free life abroad

The pain points of balancing between two countries are much simpler to solve these days. Photos: Shutterstock

Expats have made Singapore their second home for as long as the Singapore Sling has existed.

It’s easy to see why. The cosmopolitan city-state offers an uncomplicated introduction to life in Asia, with English as the primary business language, a plethora of international food options, an efficient public transport system and a stable government, among many other advantages.

Living in Singapore may be as hassle-free as it comes, but expat life comes with its unique set of challenges, especially for those with a family to support or those who have obligations in their home countries.

Having to manage dual lives means having to navigate two different sets of cultures, norms, systems and processes. Whether it’s maintaining relationships in old and new communities or overseeing finances in different currencies, expats must master the delicate balancing act to minimise the pain of being away from home.

The good news? A global financial and tech hub like Singapore makes it convenient for expats to have a seamless life and embrace all that the sunny island has to offer.

Here are five tips for a hassle-free transition to life in your second home.

1. CONVERT YOUR DRIVING LICENCE

Singapore’s reliable public transport network and high automobile prices often place driving low on the list of expat priorities. That said, a car is always missed when exploring the island, taking the kids out or transporting furniture.

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If you have a foreign driving licence, easily convert it to a Singapore Qualified Driving Licence by passing the Singapore Basic Theory Test at a driving centre and applying for a conversion on the premises. It is recommended that you call the driving centre to check for up-to-date requirements.

With your new licence, take advantage of car-sharing options that offer convenient short-term rentals at reasonable prices. Weekends will never be the same again.

2. MAKE BANKING ARRANGEMENTS THAT HELP YOU ON BOTH SIDES

Having the right banking arrangements is a key part of expat life and choosing a reputable global bank is often the easiest step. Things start to get tricky when it comes to transacting in different currencies. What should be a painless process is often complicated by murky exchange rates and hidden fees.

Allay your concerns by choosing a bank account that reflects and supports your multi-national lifestyle. The HSBC Everyday Global Account is a multi-currency account that allows you to transact in 11 different currencies and send money seamlessly with HSBC Global Money Transfers. Everyday Global Debit Card holders also enjoy zero fees for retail purchases and cash withdrawals in 10 currencies.

3. DOWNLOAD APPS THAT DO DOUBLE-DUTY

Juggling two lives often means smartphones bloated with apps that can only be exclusively used in one country. Instead, streamline your phone with digital services that go the distance. Need to order groceries and send a gift home at the same time? Many shopping apps now offer stress-free access to local and international sellers and worldwide shipping in multiple locations. Likewise, keeping abreast of local news and culture can easily be done through apps.

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For sending funds abroad, the HSBC Singapore app is a lifesaver. Everyday Global Account holders get access to real-time and competitive foreign exchange rates using HSBC Global Money Transfers, which allows faster and fee-free* international fund transfers. Exchange rates are locked in at the time of transfer, so you won’t get any nasty surprises.

4. LEARN THE LOCAL LINGO

English may be Singapore’s primary business language, but Singlish is arguably the nation’s lingua franca that connects all cultures and races. To the untrained ear, Singlish may sound like an odd hodgepodge of English mixed with random phrases. An amalgamation of English, Malay, Tamil and Chinese dialects, it is a true reflection of the country’s multi-ethnic population.

Singaporeans do not expect expats to get the hang of Singlish immediately, but taking a genuine interest and learning the subtle differences between “lah” and “leh” will earn you kudos and goodwill among your local colleagues and friends. Here’s a quick guide to help you get started.

5. MIND YOUR BUDGET

Singapore is a wonderland for new experiences that cater to every age group and interest. However, it can be easy to lose sight of your spending when there are Michelin-star restaurants, exciting attractions and international performances to check out every month.

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Maintain a budget so you don’t lose sight of your financial goals and mix affordable experiences with expensive ones. The beauty of living in Singapore is that you can have a wonderful meal for S$5 or S$500.

To make your money go even further, sign up for the HSBC Advance Credit Card and earn up to 3.5 per cent cashback on purchases with no minimum spend. With the new HSBC Everyday+ rewards programme, HSBC Everyday Global Account holders can also enjoy rewards, including up to 3.5 per cent cashback on Advance Credit Card spends, 1 per cent on GIRO bill payments and 1 per cent per annum bonus interest on incremental account balance.

Make your life in Singapore easier with the HSBC Everyday Global Account. Don't have the account? Apply now easily with MyInfo via Singpass and top up your account to receive S$50 worth of Lazada vouchers and S$108 cash credit as a Personal Banking customer. Terms and conditions apply. SGD deposits are insured up to S$75,000 by the Singapore Deposit Insurance Corporation.

*Most transfers are fee-free but some intermediary banks may charge fees.

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