Getting Started

You will need an employment pass to open a bank account in Singapore. If you’re on a dependant’s pass, you can only have a joint account with your partner.

Most ATMs will permit withdrawals from any card affiliated with the worldwide Plus or Cirrus systems.

NETS is a debit system arranged through your bank, which is accepted at all supermarkets and most stores. Some retailers accept only NETS and cash, so it may be a good idea to opt for a local bank that offers NETS cards (HSBC, for example, does not provide NETS).

International banks provide financial management tailored to expats, which is why many newcomers opt to stay with larger banks from their home country. Generally, banks are open Monday to Friday from 9.30am to 3pm, and Saturday from 9.30am to 12.30pm. All major banks offer 24-hour internet banking.
Kids and Cash

Banks have different age eligibility for accounts with ATM withdrawal cards. If your children are above the age of 12, you can start with POSBank. Parental consent will be needed to open a POSBank account with an ATM withdrawal card. Citibank’s minimum age is 16. HSBC apparently only offers child accounts to existing customers who have a PowerVantage Account (minimum balance $5K) and HSBC Platinum. The Kids Savers Account is offered to children from 118 days old to 18 years old, though no ATM card will be issued.

You don’t necessarily need to open your child’s account at the same bank you currently use. See what other banks are giving as incentives for opening an account. Many banks know that children today are the customers of tomorrow, so shop around for the best offer.

To subscribe for phone (landline), internet, cable TV, gas and air-conditioning services, you will need an employment pass. Electricity, piped gas and water are all provided by SP Services:
www.spservices.com.sg

  • Phone
    The three mobile phone service providers in Singapore are SingTel, M1 and StarHub. Cheap pre-paid SIM cards are available from dealers and convenience stores island-wide. A passport must be presented to purchase a SIM card. Landline phone services are provided by StarHub and SingTel.
  • Internet
    Internet service providers include StarHub Max Online, SingNet, M1 and Pacific Internet. A program called Wireless@SG enables users to connect to free wireless broadband in many public places. In order to use it, you need to sign up with SingTel, iCELL network, or QMax Communications.
  • Television
    SingTel mioTV is a 24-hours pay-TV service available via broadband connection. StarHub provides cable TV. MediaCorp offers eight free-to-air TV channels.
  • Air-conditioning
    Most homes in Singapore come with air-conditioning units, which require monthly or bi-monthly servicing.
  • Gas
    Most stoves run off a gas tank that is stored in a kitchen cupboard. The tanks last between two and six months and cost about $30 to replace. Gas providers will bring a new tank to your home and take the empty one away.
  • Pest control
    You are likely to encounter a variety of pests in your home and garden – from cockroaches and ants to lizards and mosquitoes. If you live in a house, you may need a subscription with a pest control agency to keep the critters at bay.

Trains and buses run on time, and taxis are plentiful and relatively inexpensive. The transport system is carefully integrated, so train stations usually have a taxi stand or bus stop nearby. To travel on the bus or MRT, an EZ-Link fare card will save you countless hassles, and can be easily purchased and topped up at MRT passenger service desks.

  • Taxis
    Most busy areas have a taxi stand, or you can walk out to a main road and flag one down – except in the CBD (Central Business District), where legislation forbids this. At commuter hours, or when it’s pouring with rain, it’s best to call a taxi on the phone – it’s worth the call-out fee.
  • Base fare for travelling in a standard taxi (e.g., Comfort or CityCab) ranges from $2.80 to $3.20.
  • During peak hours (Monday to Friday, 7-9.30am, and Monday to Saturday, 5-8pm), passengers pay an additional 35 percent of the metered fare; and between midnight and 6am, they pay an additional 50 percent.
  • CBD surcharge is $3.
  • Call-out charges are $2.50 during non-peak hours and $3.50 during peak hours.
  • Expect to pay around $10 for a 10-kilometre off-peak trip.

Fares can be paid in cash – smaller denominations are preferred – or by credit card. Some taxis also accept NETS. Although taxi drivers speak English, differences in accents can occasionally cause confusion.

  • Buses
    Singapore’s bus system is better than in many major cities around the world. Some two million bus rides are taken each day on the island, across 300 different services. The easiest way to navigate Singapore by bus is to use an EZ-Link card (the same card can be used for the MRT) and to buy a Mighty Minds Bus Guide from a newsagent ($3.90).
  • MRT
    Much of the ongoing construction work in Singapore’s suburbs relates directly to the development of the MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) system. New lines and stations continue to open (most recently, the Circle Line). The ultimate aim for the MRT is to be more extensive than the London Underground. Adult fares start at $0.68 using an EZ-Link card, up to $2 for the longest journey without EZ-Link.
  • Leasing a Car
    If you are on a fixed-term contract, then leasing can be an attractive option, as lease arrangements can be set up to match your contract. All of the big rental companies offer leasing packages and include 24-hour roadside assistance, even in Malaysia.
  • Renting
    If you are only in Singapore intermittently, renting is a useful option. Just check that the vehicle is insured and remember that a surcharge is applicable if you drive into Malaysia.
  • Sharing
    Car-sharing options such as Whizzcar and the NTUC Income Car Co-Op are also available. Cars are available across the island and you can collect and drop them off at different locations. In addition to the membership fee, you pay for the time that you use the car and the distance driven.
    NTUC Income car Co-Op: www.carcoop.com.sg
    Whizzcar: www.whizzcar.com
  • Off-Peak Car Scheme
    A red number plate in Singapore means the driver is part of the Off Peak Car Scheme (OPCS), an initiative by the government to encourage car owners to drive outside of peak times. In return, they save on car registration and road taxes. (Off-peak drivers can drive all day on Sundays and public holidays, on Mondays to Fridays 7pm to 7am, and on Saturdays and on the eves of public holidays, from 3pm onwards). A $20 day-license is required for driving an off-peak car at any other time.
  • Buying a Car
    Buying a car in Singapore could be one of the most confusing and frustrating things you ever do. The first thing you need to get to grips with is OMV – Open Market Value, which is roughly the base value of the car at the time of import. Singapore Customs places an OMV on each vehicle, and this determines many of the additional taxes.

On top of the $140 basic Registration Fee (RF), you also have to pay an Additional Registration Fee (ARF), which is 100-percent of the OMV, plus a 20-percent excise duty.

On top of that, you need to pay a 7-percent Goods and Services Tax (GST), and road tax. Road tax is reduced if you purchase a hybrid or electric car, or a car that runs on natural gas.

To own a car, you need a document known as a Certificate of Entitlement, or COE, which is valid for ten years. The government in Singapore uses the COE system to control the number of cars on the road, and only releases a limited number each year. COEs can be renewed for a further five years without the option to renew, or ten years with the option to renew. You can bid for your own COE – tenders are called for twice each month – or you can leave it up to your dealer. The cost of a COE rises or falls according to demand.

Although the cost of buying a car in Singapore will initially seem much higher than at home, bear in mind that when you sell, export, or scrap your car, you will recoup the unused portion of the COE. If you sell your car after two years, for example, your COE will still be valid for eight years, and you will recoup 80 percent of its cost. You will also recoup between 50 and 75 percent of the ARF. Financing options can be surprisingly affordable, with typical interest rates between 2.25 percent and 2.75 percent per annum. Loans can be repaid over ten years with a low deposit, if any, required up front. All vehicles in Singapore must carry at least third-party insurance.
For more information about COEs, registration fees, road tax and insurance, visit www.onemotoring.com.sg. For a list of registered insurance brokers, visit www.mas.gov.sg.

  • Getting your Licence
    If you have a valid overseas driving licence, then you can drive in Singapore for up to twelve months before you need to convert your licence. If you become a PR, you need to convert your licence immediately. If your licence is not in English, you are required to have an International Driving Permit in addition to your licence.

To convert to a Singapore driving licence, you are required to pass the Basic Theory Test (BTT), which involves learning the Singapore Highway Code and local traffic rules. Your application must be made in person at one of the following driving test centres:

  • Singapore Driving Test Centre: 3 Ang Mio Kio Street 62
  • Bukit Batok Driving Centre: 815 Bukit Batok West Ave 5
  • Comfort Driving Centre: 215 Ubi Ave 4

The processing fee for converting your licence is $50 and the test fee is $6 (payable with cash, CashCard or NETS only). You can buy the basic theory book at driving centres, bookshops and petrol stations. It’s a good idea to read it even if you don’t intend to take the test right away.

  • CashCards, the ERP and Parking Coupons
    The grey box mounted above your dashboard is the CashCard-reading In-vehicle Unit, or IU. You need to buy a CashCard from a petrol station or convenience store. CashCards are stored-value cards that are used to pay for carparks (the fee is usually debited automatically at the exit barrier) and Electronic Road Pricing, or ERP. ERP is charged on expressways and in the central zones, and rates vary according to the location and time of day. CashCards can be topped up at convenience stores or at ATM machines, if you have a NETS-enabled bank account. Parking coupons are used for street parking and HDB (Housing Development Board) carparks and can be purchased at petrol stations and convenience stores. Most residential parking is free.
  • Dangerous Driving
    If you are found with more than the legal limit of 35mg of alcohol per 100ml of breath, or 80 milligrams per 100 millilitres of blood (.08 as it’s commonly known), you will be fined between $1,000 and $5,000 and may also receive a six-month jail sentence. Second offenders receive a fine of between $3,000 and $10,000 and a mandatory jail sentence of up to one year. All offenders are disqualified from driving for at least one year.

Property

1. Compile a checklist of your requirements

Like anywhere else, money goes farther when you’re outside the prime districts. If you plan to live in a central location, you may have to settle for less space or fewer onsite facilities.

Rental prices dropped 30 percent drop in 2009, but have been slowly rising again. However, it is unlikely (as at June 2010) that they will reach the peak they saw in 2008.

2. Choose your agent carefully 

Word of mouth is usually best. Avoid registering with a number of agents as this is time-wasting and confusing for everyone concerned. If you do decide to view properties with more than one agent, tell them upfront which properties you have already viewed. The rule of thumb is that for properties costing $2,500 per month and more, the agent’s commission is paid by the landlord. Otherwise, it is paid by the tenant. The commission is half of a month’s rent for each year of the lease. No rental means no fee.

3. Aim to view no more than ?ve or six properties a day 

Tell your agent what you’re looking for in terms of style, price, location and size. Take a digital camera with you to the viewings and arrange for a second viewing if possible. When you go back, make a note of anything you might need to request in the Letter of Intent (LOI) such as the replacement of damaged ?xtures such as sinks and taps. Changes not requested in the LOI will be almost impossible to implement after the lease has been signed. Do be reasonable with your requests, as you don’t want to risk your offer being rejected because you appear to be a “dif? cult tenant”.

The sales market, which stalled in 2009  boomed thereafter and as of 2015 June has come to a standstill with prices still on the high side.

Whether buying your own home here is a good option for you depends on your circumstances. The volatile nature of the Singapore market makes property ownership a tricky prospect in the short term. As an expatriate, how long you reside here usually depends on your employment contract. If you do buy property and have to sell it at short notice, you run the risk of having to of?oad it at an unfavourable price when the market is in a downturn. If you have the financial holding power to keep the property and sell it at a later time when prices are high, this is of less concern.

Eligibility

There are no restrictions against expats purchasing condominiums. However, to buy a landed property (a house with a garden or yard), you will need to hold Permanent Residence status and receive special approval from the Land Development Authority. Landed properties include bungalows, semi-detached houses and terrace houses. For more information see www.sla.gov.sg.

Setting a Budget

It is recommended that you put down at least 30 percent of the purchase price to safeguard yourself against market downturns. Also remember to allow for additional expenses including maintenance of the property, insurance and taxes. If you live in your property, the tax rate is four percent of the annual value of the rental. If you rent it out, the rate increases to 10 percent.

Associated Costs

  • Solicitor’s fees
  • Mortgage solicitor’s fees
  • Transfer fee and stamp duty
  • Government department fees
  • Transfer and mortgage registration fee

Once you have found a property that interests you, con?rm its value through a bank or check the Inland Revenue Authority’s website (www.iras.gov.sg) for the last transaction price of a similar property. Once you and the seller have agreed on a price, you will need to pay a one-percent deposit to secure it. You are usually allowed two weeks to pay a further nine percent, then 10 to 12 weeks to pay the balance. You should have a lawyer on hand to advise you during this time.

Financing

A foreigner can usually borrow up to 80 percent of a local bank’s valuation of a property. Like anywhere else, the less you pay in the beginning the more you’ll pay in the end. Interest costs can go up to 30 percent or higher, so aim for at least a 20 percent down payment. Area Advisors can also assist you with buying a home. Their extensive knowledge and database will give you a good idea of what’s on the market. Call them at 61003876.

built-up area -The square-footage of a home (including balcony space).

diplomatic clause – Normally, after 12 months you can give two months’ notice that you are terminating a lease. This applies only if you are retrenched or re-located out of Singapore.

district (9, 10, 11, etc.) – Refers to a classi?cation of property locations based on an old postcode system now used only for reference. See the Straits Times classi?eds for a full listing.

en bloc sale – This happens when 80 percent of the condo’s owners agree to the group sale of a property, usually to a developer. A potential en bloc sale should be posted on the condo notice board; an en bloc sale clause (usually six months) appears in most tenancy agreements.

inventory list – A list of everything in the house, such as electrical appliances and curtains. Can be simple or comprehensive, depending on the landlord.

letter of intent (LOI) -The initial offer you make to a landlord stating your interest in a property. It is usually lodged with one month’s rental deposit, which the landlord may be entitled to keep should you decide not to go ahead.

maintenance fees – Fees usually paid by the landlord of a condominium or apartment, covering gardening, pool maintenance, pest control and such.

partially furnished – This is the standard provision of a stove, fridge/freezer and washing machine. You may request an oven, tumble-dryer and dishwasher. If you want a built-in oven, specify it. Curtains are usually included. You can request blackout curtains.

penthouse – Apartment on the top ? oor of a condo, usually with a roof terrace.

pest control/fogging – Responsibility for pest control is usually de?ned in the tenancy agreement. Fogging refers to chemical spraying to eradicate mosquitoes, and is generally arranged by the management of a condo, but by the tenant if you are in a house.

property database – A list of available properties in Singapore, available to all rental agents. Expat Realtor also maintains its own photo database giving details of properties available.

walk-up – A multi-level property with no lift, fairly common in older buildings.

with facilities -A complex that has at least a pool, but usually also a gym, function room, playground, and possibly tennis or squash courts.

Areas that are popular with expats include Orchard, Tanglin, Holland Village, Novena, Central Bukit Timah and East Coast. Each area has its unique attractions, and your experience of Singapore can vary enormously depending on the type and location of neighbourhood you choose.

Expat Living’s Reader Survey 2009 showed increasing numbers of expats choosing to live in the East Coast and Serangoon areas, where there is more value for money.

The building of the Kallang-Paya Lebar Expressway has also made areas like Pasir Ris and the East Coast more accessible. The survey also showed that Pasir Panjang and West Coast are up-and-coming neighbourhoods.

 

ORCHARD


Orchard Road

The main reason for living in the Orchard area is its unrivalled access to amenities. Despite the activity of Orchard Road, many of the surrounding neighbourhoods are quiet and leafy. Naturally, rents here are higher. The advantages of living in such a central location include:

    • Living at the heart of retail hustle and bustle with Orchard Road’s plethora of shopping malls on your doorstep
    • A huge variety of restaurants, hotels, cinemas, and health and beauty services
    • Nearness to the American Club and Tanglin Club

  • Excellent public transport links and proximity to the CTE (Central Island Expressway) and CBD (Central Business District)

Tanglin

Tanglin, which includes Jervois Road, is home to many embassies and is considered a prestigious area. Properties vary from large houses with leafy gardens to established, lowrise condominiums. River Valley Road offers highrise condominiums and some charming conservation houses. Advantages include:

  • Quick access to the AYE and CTE
  • Tanglin Village, near the Botanic Gardens, offers a mix of indoor and outdoor furniture shops, art galleries, cafés and restaurants.

Holland Village

Another expat favourite is Holland Village, which has a rather bohemian atmosphere and a good selection of restaurants and amenities. The Holland Village Shopping Centre is a treasure trove of wonderful knick-knacks, jewellery and fashion. Holland Village bene? ts include:

  • A large hawker centre, a multitude of cafés, health and beauty outlets, bars, and numerous local and Western restaurants
  • Nearby Jalan Merah Saga offers more restaurants, shops and little art galleries
  • Easy access to the Botanic Gardens and Orchard Road
  • The new MRT Circle Line is due for completion in 2011, which will ease access to and from the area

Novena

Not far from Orchard are Novena and Newton Circus. The main reasons for living in this area are:

  • Good access to the PIE (Pan-Island Expressway)
  • Proximity to the MRT and the city
  • A good mix of houses and highrise condominiums
  • Novena Square and United Square, with their multitude of shops and restaurants, and the Newton Circus Hawker Centre, which is famous for its seafood

Central Bukit Timah

Central Bukit Timah is an established residential area stretching from just beyond Newton Circus to the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. Bene?ts of this area include: • Proximity to Orchard Road, the Botanic Gardens, several international schools, the Hollandse Club, the British Club and the Bukit Timah Saddle Club • Attractive, leafy neighbourhoods and several European restaurants and delis • Sixth Avenue’s wonderful family houses with gardens, cluster houses and attractive condominiums • A number of restaurants and two Cold Storage supermarkets

 

CITY


Robertson Quay and Mohammed Sultan Road

Robertson Quay and Mohammed Sultan Road are popular with singles and young couples who want to be close to the CBD and enjoy the nightlife, restaurants and bars along the Singapore River. UE Square is a large residential, retail and commercial complex on Mohammed Sultan, while Robertson Quay boasts several swanky new condominiums with river views.

 

WEST


Upper Bukit Timah

Just beyond Central Bukit Timah lies Upper Bukit Timah, which is served by excellent bus routes and is conveniently near the Canadian International School. Because it is located at the edge of the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, some properties have forest views. The main reasons for choosing this area:

  • Large selection of condominiums and semi-detached houses
  • Several good shopping centres and supermarkets
  • Quick access to the Pan Island Expressway (PIE) and Central Expressway (CTE)
  • Upper Bukit Timah is on the way to the popular Jurong Bird Park

Sentosa

Sentosa Island has some of the most exclusive homes in Singapore – some of which are directly on the sea. Residents of Sentosa Cove also have access to a golf course, excellent restaurants and myriad recreational activities. At the gateway to Sentosa is VivoCity, one of Singapore’s largest shopping malls.

Faber Park

Faber Park, close to Sentosa on the mainland, has a spacious, suburban feel and a large, friendly expat community. The area’s bene?ts include:

  • Access to the AYE and PIE motorways
  • Proximity to Mount Faber, one of the oldest parks in Singapore, where you can enjoy spectacular views and jump on the cable car to Sentosa
  • VivoCity, HarbourFront mall, and the scenic Labrador Park

Pasir Panjang

Further up the coast, Pasir Panjang boasts the attractive, recently renovated West Coast Park. Advantages of living in this ?ourishing neighbourhood include:

  • West Coast Highway, which leads directly to the city
  • Sea views from some condominiums
  • Good access to the AYE and ECP motorways
  • Proximity to schools such as UWC, the Tanglin Trust School, Dover Court and ISS

 

NORTH


Woodlands

Expats choose Woodlands for its big, reasonably priced family houses and for the Singapore American School. Not surprisingly, there is a large American expat community here. The area has:

  • A leafy, suburban feel
  • Large malls with restaurants and cinemas
  • A causeway link to Johor Bahru in Malaysia

Thomson

Thomson Road starts centrally and runs past the picturesque park at MacRitchie Reservoir, the Singapore Polo Club and some of the best garden centres in Singapore, right up to Yishun and Sembawang. The further north you go, the less you pay for a spacious home, and the area is served well by the Central Expressway.

Braddell

Not far from Thomson is Braddell, another established residential area with some excellent family houses with gardens.

 

NORTHEAST


Serangoon

This tranquil residential area offers:

  • Spacious condominiums and family houses
  • Good links to the public transport network, including the Serangoon MRT station and the Serangoon Bus Interchange
  • Easy access via the CTE to other parts of the island
  • Renowned local eating establishments

Seletar

Here is where expats can still get a lot of house and garden for their money. The area comprises part of Upper Thomson and includes the Lower Seletar Reservoir. Seletar is convenient for children attending the American School. Another attraction is Seletar Airport, previously a British military base, which now offers chartered flights and flying lessons.

 

EAST


East Coast

The East Coast area runs from Kallang Basin up to Changi Airport, and has long been popular with expats for its spacious and reasonably priced condominiums. The main advantages of living in this area include:

  • East Coast Park, which has miles of sandy, palmfringed recreational facilities, a myriad seafood restaurants and a refreshing sea breeze
  • Proximity to Changi Airport
  • ECP and PIE motorways, which provide easy access to the city and the airport Katong Katong and Joo Chiat are favoured by expats who are keen to experience a more local way of life. These colourful neighbourhoods are lined with shophouses, karaoke bars, intriguing shops and excellent local hawker stalls. Further amenities can be found at the Parkway Parade shopping centre and Eastpoint Mall.

Siglap

This popular East Coast neighbourhood has a village feel. There is a huge choice of local and Western restaurants, cafés and bars. Housing options vary from apartments and townhouses to spacious, detached bungalows.

Life and Family

Finding the right school is a priority for many families when moving to Singapore. If possible, place your child or children on a waiting list before you arrive. Many schools have recently extended their campuses to cater to growing needs.

Most children of expats attend an international school that follows the same curriculum as their home country – or one that offers the International Baccalaureate. Other students attend local public schools, which are considerably cheaper.

Whichever you choose, you will need the following documents for your child’s admission: birth certificate, passport, dependant’s pass, immunisation certi?cates and previous report cards.

International Schools

All of the international schools in Singapore are fee-paying schools, and registration fees are also required. Some employers pay all or part of the tuition fee. This is taxable. Selecting the right school for your child is often an instinctive decision. Visiting the schools and chatting with other families about their experiences can be invaluable.

If you are likely to be in Singapore for only a couple of years, the most convenient option is probably a school that follows the same curriculum as your home country. If you are long-term expats, you may prefer to select a school that offers the IB. Many of them have students from dozens of nationalities and provide a multi¬cultural environment.

English is the language of instruction for most of the international schools here, and programmes such as ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) are offered to non-native English speakers.

Consult the following pages for listings and information on the various international schools.

Local Schools

Some expats in Singapore send their children to a government or government-aided local school. School fees are currently just $3 a month for primary pupils and $5 a month for secondary pupils. The Singapore government has recently made it easier for foreign students to attend local schools, and foreign students with a DP (Dependant’s Pass) do not need to apply for a Student’s Pass. Admission is subject to vacancies.

Students at the secondary level are placed in the Special, Express, Normal (Academic) or Normal (Technical) course, according to how they perform in the PSLE (Primary School Leaving Examinations). The different curricular emphases are designed to match their learning abilities and interests. In secondary school, students take the Cambridge General Certificate of Education “Ordinary” (GCE “O”) level examinations.

The areas of literacy, numeracy and bilingualism are emphasised, along with physical and moral education, and creative and independent thinking. Each child is required to learn English. Information Technology is widely used as a teaching and learning resource in order to develop skills in communication and encourage independent learning.

Government schools aim to instil a strong sense of responsibility towards family, community and country, and encourage students to form strong bonds among themselves.

Further details are available through the Ministry of Education (MOE) website at www.moe.gov.sg. For full listings of local schools and locations, go to www3. moe.edu.sg/schdiv/sis.

Note that local and international schools operate on different timetables.

Special Schools

In Singapore, special education (SPED) schools offer specialised teaching for children with intellectual, sensory, physical or multiple disabilities, including autism. SPED schools are operated by voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs), with the support of the Ministry of Education and the National Council of Social Service. Go to the following webpage for a full listing: www.moe.go v.sg/ education/special-education/schoollist

Special education is also available at privately run schools such as the Genesis School for Special Education, Kits4Kids Special School, Divinity Especial Needs Intervention Centre, and international schools such as Dover Court Preparatory School.

www.genesisschool.com.sg

www.kits4kids.org

www.divinity.edu.sg

www.dovercourt.edu.sg

One advantage that living in Singapore offers is affordable domestic help. Some expats – especially singles or couples without children – ?nd that a maid service once or twice per week is enough. But for others, especially those with families, a full-time maid to help with cooking, cleaning, shopping, ironing and childcare can be a blessing. Most helpers in Singapore are from the Philippines or Indonesia and are diligent, conscientious women who are working to support their families back home.

The Cost

Part-time maids are available for between $10 and $20 an hour, and can be hired independently or through a company. Full-time, live-in maids can be hired for as little as $350 per month, although expats often pay them up to $500 or more, depending on their level of experience. Employers must also pay a monthly levy (currently $265) to the Singaporean government, plus a security bond of $5,000. Employers are responsible for providing accommodation, insurance, food and medical care for their maids, in addition to hiring costs, airfares for bi-annual home leave, transfer costs and an annual bonus.

Responsibility

First-time employers must complete an Employers’ Orientation Programme, which involves attending in person ($20), or taking a three-hour online course ($30). Visit www.mom. gov.sg for more details.

Holidays

The Association of Employment Agencies (AEA) requires that maids are given at least one day off a month, but most expats give them every Sunday off.

Hiring

For a $450 fee, a maid agency will ?nd you a maid, and will usually give you the chance to interview several. Alternatively, you can source a maid yourself (log on to the Ministry of Manpower website), but the process can be confusing. Some expats who are leaving Singapore help their maid to ?nd work by advertising on notice boards or by word of mouth.

After your helper starts to work for you

  • If you have children, pay attention to whether or not they are happy with her. They are a great barometer of how she interacts with them when you are not around. They should also treat her with respect.
  • An annual bonus is a good way to show your appreciation and will encourage loyalty.
  • Communication can be a challenge. You may need to repeat what you say to your helper because, even though she speaks English, we often sprinkle our speech with idioms she may not understand. If she looks puzzled, you may need to rephrase what you have just said.
  • Tell your helper to come to you if she needs money, even though you may not be able to give it to her. This avoids the risk of her approaching a loan shark, and she may respond with gratitude and a renewed commitment to work hard for you.
  • Tell your helper that dishonesty is grounds for dismissal.
  • Give your helper a schedule, and let her know the hours you want her to work and the rules of the house. It’s easier to relax the rules later than institute new rules after something has gone wrong.
  • Expect to show your helper the way you like things done the ?rst time by.