From the Diary of an Assignee—Part One
Singapore is a multi-cultural melting pot attracting millions from all over the world each year —and I’ve been fortunate enough to have been assigned to live and work here for a month. I joined the Synergy marketing team two years ago to support the international growth of the Synergy brand in EMEA, and now it’s time for me to learn the ropes in Asia Pacific. Needless to say, I am BEYOND excited for the next few weeks ahead.
As I encounter all the weird and wonderful things that come with being a British assignee in Singapore, I thought I would use this platform to share my experiences with those of you who might be travelling to Singapore for a short-term assignment, relocation or a business trip in the near future—sharing my experiences, challenges and tips along the way.
So, if you’re looking for an easy read and perhaps something to help build up your excitement for your own assignment and serviced apartment in Singapore, continue reading for insight into what it’s really like to live and work in this beautiful city.
The First 48 Hours
I’m from London where the entire city is set up to be fast, efficient and easy to navigate—there couldn’t possibly be anywhere else in the world that beats it, right? Wrong. Enter Singapore. The easiest place to get around. Ever.
Having passed through passport control at Changi Airport in record time (probably because I had already filled out my Singapore Arrival Card before I landed) I quickly collected my baggage and headed to the MRT station (Singapore’s underground train network) to make my way to my serviced apartment in Singapore.
The MRT network was by far the cleanest I’ve ever seen, it was surprisingly spacious and impressively efficient with air conditioning and WiFi throughout. I was a bit apprehensive about taking the MRT over a taxi on my first day in Singapore, but my journey to was so incredibly easy, stress-free and it couldn’t have taken me longer than 40 minutes door to door.
If you’re heading to Singapore on a business trip, I’d definitely recommend taking the MRT over a taxi when walking isn’t an option. Not just because it’s an incredibly easy and cheap way to move around the city (the entire journey there cost me about SGD $1.75/GBP £1/ USD $1.25), but also because it’s one of those little things you can choose to do to reduce the carbon footprint of your trip.
You can pay for your trip using an EZ-Link card or your own bank card (watch out for currency exchange fees) to tap in and out of the network. Make sure you download the Citymapper app which provides a detailed itinerary of how to get from A to B across the city’s different public transport methods— you’ll be needing this as you plan your journey to the office.
It’s Clean and Oh So Very Green
As I walked from the MRT station to my apartment, it became very apparent that what everyone told me about Singapore was true—the city is super green and very, very well looked after. Throughout my entire journey, I was surrounded by palm trees, flowers and greenery as far as I could see, and everything seemed to be…spotless. This is because Singapore takes its cleanliness and hygiene very seriously (more on this in series two), and there are some strict rules, such as not chewing gum or littering, that you’ll need to follow if you want to avoid a hefty fine…or even jail time!
Home Sweet Home
After a quick walk from the MRT station, I arrived at my short-term rental in Singapore, at Lyf Funan. I chose to stay in a serviced apartment rather than a hotel because I knew how much easier my transition would be if I could just move in and live like I would at home in the UK.
Serviced apartments in Singapore come with many different advantages such as more space to live and work, they come with a fully-equipped kitchen to cook your own meals in (it can get pricey to dine out in Singapore) and the majority of serviced accommodations in Singapore also come with hotel-like services such as gyms, eateries and a 24-hour concierge meaning you can enjoy all your favourite hotel-like services too.
Some apartments in Singapore, like Lyf, also have co-working and living spaces which can be a great way to meet new people if you’re a solo business traveller like me.
Familiarising Myself in an Unfamiliar World
By the time I arrived to my apartment, I was running on about 30 hours of no sleep and to say my bed looked very inviting would be an understatement. I wanted to adjust to Singapore’s time zone as quickly as possible (7 hours ahead of London right now) so I took a strict no-nap policy and made my way into the city before I even had the chance to think about getting some shuteye.
As I set out on my first walk into the city, the reality of what I was doing and where I was hit me a bit. Everything started to feel a little…unfamiliar. I wasn’t at home anymore—and I definitely wasn’t in Europe anymore. I think so many people told me how much of an international city Singapore was, that I had underestimated just how different the city would feel, but very quickly (and I’m talking a matter of minutes) I could see just how safe and laid back the city is. In fact, as I sit here and write this article just two days in, I’m genuinely shocked at how fast I’ve settled in.
If you’re travelling to Singapore on a business trip, I’d recommend you take some time prior to your first day in the office to familiarise yourself with the journey to your office and how the entrance system works. Most of the offices in Singapore are located in high-rise buildings and have multiple entrances so it can get quite confusing if you’re not familiar with how it works— and the last thing we want is to be late on our first day to the office, right?
Humidity with a Chance of…Humidity
As I spent the weekend walking around Singapore’s tourist hotspots, I noticed the city is a lot less fast-paced than London, but that’s most probably down to the humidity. It’s SO humid here, and I’m not even going to beat around the bush— you’re going to sweat. A lot.
While there’s not much you can do about the heat and humidity, you can at least get yourself prepared and make sure you arrive at the office or any business meetings looking and feeling your best.
A must-do is to pack light, cotton clothing and make use of the many underground city links where possible. Singapore has a huge underground world around the MRT stations which link many parts of the city with others and the best part…It’s fully air-conditioned. Also, to all my curly-haired people, make sure you bring a no-frizz hair spray with you. You can thank me later.
One thing I also found out over the weekend is that when it rains, it comes without much notice and my goodness does it pour. Make sure you pack an umbrella, otherwise you might just have to spend an hour hiding under a bridge like I did (it made me feel a bit better that at least the locals were as unprepared as I was).
So, my first couple of days in Singapore have been an absolute whirlwind and way busier than I had originally anticipated. I really didn’t expect to settle in as fast as I have, and if the first few days are anything to go by, I think I’m going to have an experience of a lifetime as a corporate traveller in Singapore.
Tomorrow is Monday which means it’s officially time to meet the team and for the real work to begin — I can’t wait and I’m so ready to grab this opportunity with both hands. I’m not completely over the jet lag yet though, so that’ll be interesting…
Check out the next blog in this series here: Short-Term Assignments in Singapore: What You Need to Know