I came to Singapore on Singaporean Tech.Pass at the end of July 2022 after 10 years of living in Switzerland and immediately fell in love with the country.
The country is different from all other places on the Earth – I call it the modern-day medieval Venice – a powerful city state trading with everyone else:
- After landing, it took me about 30 minutes from opening the plane’s doors to leaving the airport with the immigration done and with my luggage at the time, when there is major travel chaos in Europe and the US with lost luggage, cancelled flights etc.
- The Singaporeans have a vastly different mindset – they are very pragmatic, results oriented, incredibly respectful, and polite.
- They do not complain about the state of the world, and they do not blame others. Instead, they solve the problem themselves. For example, some countries complain about global warming and blame others for causing it. In Singapore, they upgraded their sewage systems and created barriers for increased sea levels and are building artificial islands.
- The first thing coming to mind about living in Singapore is the number of choices, especially when compared with Switzerland. For example, there are hundreds of mattress types with prices ranging from 100 SGD to 15,000 SGD.
One of the best ways to understand the Singaporean mindset is this song played on the Singaporean National Day – cannot ever imagine anything like that in Europe:
Finding an Apartment
When you arrive, I recommend staying in a serviced apartment for 3 weeks while looking for the ideal apartment in person. After you see ten apartments all look the same, you should focus on these criteria – location, quietness, apartment area and price.
The first step is to decide on the apartment location. The best areas as on the eastern coast. PropertyGuru is the website listing the most available rental properties. I do recommend hiring a real-estate agent, especially if you are moving in from overseas, to help you navigate cultural differences and recognize problem points before you do.
- Older just renovated flats are best since newer flats are usually smaller.
- If you set up your own firm or are a director of a firm, your firm can rent the apartment for you to get 100% tax deductions. If you rent for yourself, you can deduct only the proportion of the flat used for business.
- Most apartments here, even the most $$$, do not have a dishwasher. The likely reasons are that most people here have a domestic helper, and that dishwasher destroys fine porcelain or cups. I prefer hand washing since the cups, plates etc. do not need to be that robust to survive forceful streams of water.
- There are lizards everywhere. One day I discovered one 30-50cm long in my apartment on the 14th floor (!). The best way to deal with them is to buy lizard traps and spread them across your flat to see where they enter the flat and then block all door gaps.
Setting Up a Firm
For a startup company built for future growth, the best company structure is a Limited Liability Company. To incorporate such a company in Singapore, you need a corporate secretary and a director who is permanent resident of Singapore. While this may seem overwhelming, there are agencies which set up company for you and handle accounting and if needed even apply for the Singaporean visa (Employment Pass).
Opening a Business Bank Account
There are two types of business bank accounts in Singapore
|Internet-based Banks||Standard Banks|
|Time Required to Open an Account||less than 24 hours||approx. 30 days|
|Advantages||1. free banking, it’s paid by FX spread commission|
2. free issuance of debit cards
|1. can be used for regular transfers (GIRO)|
2. can issue Letter of Credit
3. can be used for delayed payment of taxes
4. required for some Internet services, such as Stripe
|Leading Firms||1. Wise Business – instantaneous wire transfers|
3. Airwallex – they open for you bank accounts in multiple countries for direct deposits and 50+ of FX wallets; their spread is 0.4% above the spot FX rate which is usually better than Wise’s rates though you can negotiate better FX rate for significant transfers. Slower than Wise, however.
|1. UOB – it offers special packages for startups, with the required minimum deposit of only S$5000|
3. DBS – the most demanding requirements on the balance
Singaporean Government Assistance for Small and Medium Companies
Singapore aims at becoming be the region’s innovation hub and provides generous tax advantages, and governmental grants for companies.
Check these articles:
- Osome’s 3 minute guide to Singapore tax – most importantly, Tax Exemption Programme for Fresh Start-Up Companies, Pioneer Certificate Incentive (PC) and Development and Expansion Incentive (DEI)
- Tax Exemptions
- Productivity Solutions Grants are designed to support upgrading of your systems for greater productivity by purchasing software. They cover 70% of the costs. Example: Productivity Solutions Grant with Xero Accounting Software | Xero SG
- The list of all grants is available at this page
- How to Get Best Startup Grants in Singapore (osome.com)