Obsessive planner seeks Singapore information, delicious street food
June 5, 2010 8:45 PM   Subscribe

The 6 month Singapore working holiday visa looks pretty awesome, but I can't find much info online about people who've actually done it. I'm curious if any of you have heard anything about what it's like to live in Singapore as a short-term working traveler.

Some context - I'm not new to working holidays (I'm on my 4th country) but have never been to SE Asia. There is, of course, a ton of information online about living in Singapore as an expat - but most of it is geared towards professionals and families. The government's website is delightfully vague, and in addition to the visa nuts & bolts I'm curious about the job and housing markets for short-timers.

I tend to be reasonably employable - my field is digital advertising - and I'm sure with some resourcefulness I'll be able to find decently paying work there. But it's odd that I've not been able to find much first-hand information about the working holiday experience online, and it's got me wondering if it's just not on the radar of the under-30 drifter set. (Perhaps it's the price of beer!) So I turn to the hive mind - have any of you done this visa? Do you know anyone who has? Any information/links/urban legends/etc. is more than welcome...
posted by clipperton to Travel & Transportation around Singapore (7 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I don't have any advice regarding the job/housing markets as I stayed with relatives, but I'm just finishing a 3-month internship in an ad agency in Singapore and it seems about half of the interns here are Europeans on a working holiday/work experience sort of thing. If you don't mind intern pay, you could look into working for ad agencies. (I'm not sure if the one I'm in is hiring any new interns given that we just got two new ones, but memail me if you want me to ask, or their contact details, or whatever. Might find it a bit difficult to live on intern pay in Singapore, though.)

Other than that ... Singapore is not cheap, which is probably why it's not big in the under-30 drifter set. When I was browsing Craigslist for places to stay (in case my living-with-relatives plan fell through) there were a decent range of places I could sublet, but I didn't see anything below S$500/month and most were upwards of S$650. It's a nice place to be otherwise - it's very cosmopolitan, very safe, very orderly, and very much a first-world country unlike the rest of SE Asia. Getting around is a piece of cake as the MRT goes nearly everywhere, buses fill in the gaps, and taxis are reasonably affordable. Plenty of places to party and have fun, too - but, again, not on a shoestring.
posted by Xany at 9:43 PM on June 5, 2010

Oh, and delicious street food is both plentiful and delicious. Go to the hawker centres for a wide, wide selection.
posted by Xany at 9:44 PM on June 5, 2010

I haven't lived there. But, for an obsessive planner type, I think that Singapore would be less of a culture shock to spend 6 months in and get some work done than some other SE Asian countries. Worst case scenario, it's 6 months.

And delicious street food is delicious.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 10:27 PM on June 5, 2010

Response by poster: I suppose my biggest concern is monetary; currently I'm earning in NZ dollars, which don't exactly travel well. Not going broke looking for work would be a plus, and I'll need to earn enough money there to do some serious travel once my visa's up. I worry that the reason nobody's talking about the visa online is that the job market is not geared towards short-term/contract workers.
posted by clipperton at 11:31 PM on June 5, 2010

I worry that the reason nobody's talking about the visa online is that the job market is not geared towards short-term/contract workers.

I live in Singapore and had a colleague who was on the work-holiday visa. In general, most HR departments probably haven't heard about this scheme, and would be confused as to how to which pigeon-hole you'd fall into. They have these quotas of locals, ie citizens and permanent residents, and "foreign workers", ie those who are employed on an Employment Pass. For a nation of its size, Singapore is remarkably friendly to (what they call here as) foreign talent; an estimated one-fourth of the resident population is non-citizenry on long-term passes such as student and employment passes. My HR department resolved its dilemma in the following manner:- they got this colleague to be hired under a recruiting agency, who then sub-contracted him to the firm on a year-long contract. I believe he converted his visa into an Employment Pass.

We're a mid-sized technology consulting firm who's name you've probably heard of. I shouldn't be divulging numbers, but a huge percentage of the people on our rolls are on year-long contracts. It is often unlikely that people will be given anything else though; as I said, the general route seems to be for people to convert their work-holiday visas to something long-term.

If the spending power of the NZD is what's driving you, you should know that there's near parity between NZD and SGD. Travelling within Asia is usually very very cheap.

The housing market here has become significantly costly over the years, and especially will be so if you're a singleton dude/ette (ie, without SO's and kids) who's looking for anything less than a year's worth of a tenancy agreement. Housing in Singapore is subsidized, but only if you're a citizen or a PR and are buying from the local subsidizing-housing agency. One room apartments are next to impossible to find -the government has this policy of promoting marriage by restricting the supply of one-room apartments- and even those few studios that are available, are extremely expensive, mostly geared towards rich banker expats.

The alternative is to find a master-bedroom (with attached toilets) that you share with other folks, a family or other single folk; ezroommates.com and mocca (looking this up) will be helpful in finding such housing options. Depending on the location and the amenities, such a bedroom can be anything between S$600 to S$1100 per month; a studio in the East will easily cost you S$1400 and upwards.

You'll have next to no cultural shock in Singapore for mundane stuff. The beer isn't as cheap as it is Down South, but it's remarkably easy to find a sports bar or some live music and have a good time.

It's the deeper stuff that gets to you; for instance, judging by your profile picture, I have to warn you that Malcolm Tucker's awesomeness isn't immediately obvious to Singaporeans; showed In The Loop to a friend yesterday, and she walked away feeling depressed. "Surely, the world isn't be run by blabbering idiots", was her very Singaporean comment. Singaporeans are a simple lot; they still believe you'll get ahead in the world merely if you're brainy and are seen to be putting in some hard work. As long as the government keeps convincing them that this is still the case, they're usually happy.

And oh, I have been trying to convince my bosses that I need a few creative-types on my team; can't promise anything, and frankly, we still don't know exactly what we're looking for, but if you have a portfolio or anything, feel free to MeMail me.
posted by the cydonian at 7:29 AM on June 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: This is incredibly useful, thanks. It all squares up with what I'd been hearing about longer-term contracts, but if folks do regularly manage to convert onto longer visas, that's actually a bonus.

Are there any times of year where the housing or job market takes a dip? I've been guilty of rather poor timing in the past (moving to Wellington in summer was a genius move) and should probably pay attention to that more!
posted by clipperton at 3:02 PM on June 6, 2010

> Are there any times of year where the housing or job market takes a dip?

Anecdata, but most folks I know move houses in and around June, roughly coinciding with both university and school holidays. The general wisdom on the street is that people tend to move jobs just after they get their bonuses, which would be December for MNC's, and right after Chinese New Year for local firms. Singapore may be a first-world economy, but it's still quite small; fluctuations in the market can be immediate and really short-term, between two consecutive quarters, for example.

We're one degree north of the Equator; we have no seasons, either real or metaphorical. Every day is a sunny day. :)
posted by the cydonian at 8:02 AM on June 7, 2010

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