Relocating to Singapore with teenagers

Tanglin Trust School is one of Singapore’s oldest international schools. In this article, parents of pupils at the school share some of their experiences of relocating with older children in Singapore.

Tanglin Trust School pupils
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Getting connected

For students, this tends to be one of the top priorities when they arrive in Singapore. There are two main options where mobile phones are concerned:
  1. Pay as you go
  • You only need to present your passport
  • You can do it from a 7/11 shop
  • It can be done instantly
  1. Contract/package
This requires a letter from an employer, or a Dependant’s Pass (that is, you need to be a passholder to own the account).
  • It can take up to five to seven days
  • The minimum contract is two years
  • Possible options include Starhub/Singtel/MI
  • There is the option to do it as a package with your TV/internet
  • There is the option to do a family package
  • Most people have a Smartphone

Social life

  • Singapore offers students freedom, independence and safety. But be aware that ‘low crime’ doesn’t mean ‘no crime’. Apply the same family rules and values, and don’t be persuaded by pressure that ‘everyone else is doing it, or has it’ – invariably they aren’t, or don’t
  • Be aware that fake IDs are available in Singapore. Not everyone has one (whatever you are told!), and the majority of students do not go to places that require fake IDs
  • There is a vast array of activities on offer for teenagers – eating out (restaurants and cheap hawker style), cinema, theatre, music, and so on. There’s a lot to do that doesn’t require an 18+ ID!
  • F1 weekend, very popular with older students, takes place in September. You may want to look into getting tickets, as they can sell out quickly
  • Sleepovers and parties are common. It is worth checking if these are supervised by a parent (not just an adult whom you may discover is the helper)
  • There is a very good Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) and bus system in Singapore, with great taxi-booking apps.
    There are surcharges on taxis after midnight, which means that it is often difficult to get a taxi between 11.30 pm and midnight. You may want to consider this when setting a curfew, as it may genuinely be difficult to be home by midnight
  • Membership of country clubs is common. These can be very social and offer great facilities. Popular clubs include the British Club, Dutch Club, US Club, Swiss Club, Golf Club, Singapore Cricket Club, and Polo Club
  • There are many opportunities for volunteers in Singapore, particularly through country clubs and schools

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Crime and safety

Singapore has a no-nonsense approach to crime, with severe penalties for anyone found breaking the law. In serious cases, this can result in the whole family’s being expelled from the country. The result is that Singapore is a particularly safe and easy place in which to bring up a family. It is worth being clear on what is and isn’t allowed.
  • Consumption, or even purchase, of alcohol is not permitted to anyone below 18
  • Singapore is extremely strict on drugs, with severe penalties. Tanglin School performs random drugs testing to support this
  • A noisy group of more than five people can be accused of rioting and/or antisocial behaviour
  • Teenagers are advised to be particularly wary of touching anyone they do not know or touching without permission. An unintentional brush across another person might be perceived as an ‘outrage of modesty’, with severe consequences
  • From 16 years of age, if there is any suspicion of wrongdoing, teenagers can be taken to the police station and held for 24 hours, with no right to a phone call
  • Be culturally sensitive (in behaviour, dress, and so on). There are many different religions, cultures and beliefs in Singapore. Revealing clothing can cause offence
  • Be sensitive about public displays of affection (PDAs). Generally, these can be particularly offensive to some cultures, and, in particular, Singapore has strong views against PDAs relating to homosexuality
  • Singapore has been known to take a very strong stance on graffiti
However, be assured that, on the whole, Singapore is a very welcoming, safe and friendly place!


  • Medical treatment in Singapore is excellent, but it is also expensive. Parents are advised to check carefully what is covered by their company and medical insurance.
    The same applies for dentists
  • Useful emergency numbers are 999 for police and 995 for the fire brigade or the ambulance service.
    The ambulance will take the patient to the closest state hospital. There are private ambulances for private hospitals; you may wish to research the details
  • The most common hospitals for families are National University Hospital (NUH), Gleneagles, and Mount Elizabeth
  • It is common for doctors to request that an adult accompany patients under the age of 21. You may want to check this first, to manage expectations
  • There is no family planning in Singapore. In the case of pregnancy in a person under the age of 21, parental consent is needed for the consultation
  • Doctors or dentists may recommend expensive treatment.
    It is very common to seek second opinions. Other parents will be helpful in recommending doctors and dentists

Clothes and fashion

  • Although you can find pretty well anything in Singapore, clothes are expensive
  • We recommend you bring leather school shoes from the UK, as these are difficult to come by in Singapore. It can also be difficult to find shoes for larger feet
  • Singapore is not as formal as you might imagine.
    It is acceptable to dress casually, but be aware of cultural sensitivities
  • Be aware of the effect of humidity on clothes and shoes, particularly leather ones. A dehumidifier can help
  • Ask the advice of hairdressers, particularly where curly hair or highlights are concerned. It is worth finding
    a hairdresser who has been Western trained, to avoid those mishaps!

Condo or house

  • Singapore rentals are expensive, so gone are the days of all expats living in huge ‘black and whites’ (mansions with timber beams and white walls, built during Singapore’s colonial past), though some still do
  • Both condos and houses are popular and offer pros and cons, along with different options – for example, black and whites, bungalows, cluster houses, large and small condos
  • It is worth finding out about the condo’s rules – with regard to teenage parties (cut-off times, alcohol), for example
  • Bear in mind that different houses and condos have different rules on pets
  • Condos can offer amazing facilities, which can save on the cost of a country club or gym membership
  • Houses often have hidden costs, such as a gardener, a pool man, and/or fogging (to prevent mosquitoes). It is worth calculating all of these before making a decision
  • Condos are often situated closer to MRT stations than houses, although, as mentioned earlier, the bus system
    in Singapore is also excellent


  • As well as different brands, you will want to consider whether you go with a local or an international bank. Both offer pros and cons
  • One thing to note is that, with international banks, you can only take money out of their own branded cash machines
  • Consider the age limit the bank sets on debit and credit cards and who is able to open an account
  • Allowances can vary. You may like to discuss this with other families before setting yours
  • MRT cards can also be used to pay for certain things, which can be helpful 

The APAC Guide to Education & Schools is designed to help relocating parents make informed education choices.
  • Employers: Access the free digital guide here.
  • Relocation professionals: Access the free digital guide here. 
  • Parents: Access the free digital guide here.
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APAC Education Guide 2017

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