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Singapore, Gateway to the East

Why do expatriates consistently rank Singapore as one of the best places to have a home away from home?

1. Well, for starters, even though it's an Asian city, Singapore has been coined "Asia for Beginners", "The Gateway to Asia" and my favorite "Asia Lite". It goes without saying that these sobriquets are meant tongue-in-cheek; nevertheless, they do bespeak Singapore's relatively mild Asian character when compared to its surrounding neighbors and the rest of the Asian continent

2. English is widely spoken here. And even though it might not always be the Queen's brand of English, you won't be left gesticulating or leafing through your pocket dictionary when asking for directions, for example.

3. Our cosmopolitan city state is very safe. Sure, low crime doesn't mean no crime, but by and large Singapore's crime rates, certainly serious crimes, are some of the lowest in the world.

4. Singapore is efficient, clean, tidy and stable, both politically and economically. In fact, with India and China as its hinterland, Singapore looks poised for quite a prosperous future, now more than ever, since Swiss business school IMD has ranked Singapore top spot in the global ranking of economic competitiveness. .

5. Singapore's education system is top notch. There are numerous schools and colleges, both national and international ones, offering courses that are ackowledged worldwide, such as O-Levels, A-Levels, International Baccalaureate etc.

What's more, due to the many top corporate and Fortune 500 companies that are located here, the student population has a solid pedigree, which manifests itself through their high academic achievement and their ambition.

6. Last, but certainly not least, Singapore has made quite a name for itself when it comes to the finer things in life: entertainment, the arts, sports & recreation and of course shopping and food. The Lion City has it all, including two spanking new casinos, the world's one and only F1 night race, a Universal Studios theme park and this year The Inaugural World Youth Olympics. And as if all that is not enough, Singapore's sunny climate, its ideal stepping stone location to idyllic beaches in Malayasia, Thailand and Indonesia, not to mention its rich historical past and heritage, help make it a perpetually buzzing tourism hub as well.

To those of you losing sleep over whether you should or shouldn't undertake this expat adventure; perhaps you worry about your kids ending up being unhappy? Let me share this with you. My parents decided to move to Singapore when I was a 15-year-old. My dad's initial contract was for two years, but we ended up staying four years.

These four years were pretty much the best years of my life. I had an absolutely fantastic time, it was an awesome experience. I realized there's another way of life that the one I was used to and I made countless friends, some of whom are close buddies to this day. Being immersed in a different culture and a peaceful multicultural one at that, in my view, is irreplaceable.

Yes, all good things must come to an end, and the goodbyes were a bit of a tearful affair. But I'd love to do it all over again.

Sure, I'm aware that the experience of one does not a consensus make. But whenever my Singapore friends meet up, every single one of them reminesces fondly about our time as expat kids. The experience is priceless.

Aren't there any negatives about Singapore at all? Well, perhaps the heat is one. Some people find it hard to get used to the heat and humidity. On hot days you'd do well to pace yourself, to always stay hydrated and if you want to periodically seek relief in an airconditioned enclosure, a shopping mall, a cafe, a library, even a taxi, a bus or the MRT.

Note also that having lived in Singapore's interior, as well as in The City and on the East Coast, I now know that where you stay in Singapore can have quite an impact on how well you cope with the heat. Bukit Timah, for instance, I found to be quite stifling throughout the year. The high humidity and lack of a cooling draught in or around the house can take quite a toll on you, and you'll find yourself relying on your trusted aircon units even during the day.

Along a similar vein, if you live in a spacious wooded estate and you don't have access to a car, you'll have to either call a cab, which can at times take a long time to get out front, or walk to the main road to hail one. When you are legging it, keep in mind that walking any length of time, especially during the early afternoon hours can be quite uncomfortable in Singapore's interior.

The East Coast on the other hand is a breeze, literally. Hardly a day goes by without a seabreeze that you can feel the minute you open a few windows, in particular if you live a few stories off the ground floor. I am currently staying in Bayshore Park

and I have to say that compared to Singapore's more landlogged neighborhoods, the East Coast is an oasis. On a yearly basis I can count the days on one hand when it's hot enough for me to require aircon.

As a rule of thumb then, if you prefer living indoors and you tend to be more aircon-dependent, then it's safe to say that you won't be that out of place in the city, in Bukit Timah or, for that matter, in any other district in the interior. If, on the other hand, you are an outdoorsy person that prefers your house breezy rather than airconditioned, and you enjoy getting more bang for your rental buck, then you won't go wrong choosing a place at or near the East Coast.

Tip: Bookmark this site, because I'm sure the information you find here will come in very handy during your initial explorations here in Singapore and even long after you have settled down in your new life.

BTW, since chances are that you'll be moving here, it's never too soon to get to know what the emergency number is in Singapore - 995.

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