By Yvonne Quahe
As we look back at the past year, there is one thing that we can be very proud of. In the context of the global lockdown and travel restrictions due to COVID-19, we managed to take our community across 4 continents! We have traveled together to remote, very often exotic, and exciting places where WBG families generously shared their everyday life with us. A big thank you to all the contributors to the unforgettable Thursday Travels for this unique experience and the mine of information that no travel guide can unveil! In our December column, you will find a summary of two recent CO visits to Senegal and Singapore. Please remember that you can find all recordings from Thursday Travels sessions on our website.
We started the new season of Thursday Travels by visiting Dakar, Senegal with its stunning sea views and balmy sunshine. We were introduced to life in Dakar by our champion, Daniella Goya and also on hand to help was Cecile Kappen and Andrea Pajank who both have relocated in the last two weeks. If you are moving to Dakar, here are the key highlights:
- The Senegalese are warm, friendly and hospitable.
- We have a warm, welcoming WW chapter to help you feel at home.
- Large expatriate community so it isn’t so bad if you don’t speak French yet.
- The demand for expatriate housing is high and the supply is low. Daniella can connect you with realtors who will understand what WBG families want and look for when home searching.
- Andrea offered an excellent tip: they took over the apartment and household staff from her spouse’s predecessor. This has simplified the move greatly.
- Work permits for spouses are easy to get. This fact is a talent magnet. Most spouses who want to work can do so. However, note that local salaries are low, so it is best to be employed as an international hire. Entrepreneurship is another avenue that spouses pursue in Dakar.
Last but not least, it is helpful to know that the Senegalese never say ‘no’ and timelines are elastic. Daniella suggests lowering your expectations and expect things to get done at a slower, more relaxed pace.
If you are considering or relocating to Dakar, Daniella and the WW chapter are waiting to welcome you.
Thursday Travels on 1st October took us to Singapore. Singapore, the insignificant dot at the southern tip of Peninsula Malaysia has a AAA rating as one of the best cities in the world for expatriates by various business and travel surveys. Are the survey results accurate? Nidhi Jain, our champion and Kathy Torres were on hand to give us an overview of what life in Singapore is like for WBG families.
- Housing, main apartments, lots to choose from but not necessarily cheap.
- In terms of the cost of living, Singapore is ranked by Mercer Cost of Living Index as the 5th most expensive city for expatriates in the world. Both Nidhi and Kathy have lived in DC and say that Singapore is more expensive.
- They both don’t own a car as cars because of taxes are prohibitively high, approximately US $80,000 for a sedan. However, public transport is cheap and efficient. Hence living close to the MRT (underground) stations in Singapore is worth considering. Taxis are cheap and safe too.
- There is a variety of international schools to choose from. But you will have to put your name down as soon as you know or may be once you have applied for the position in Singapore, as waiting lists in the top international schools is long.
- Singapore is a very green city with lots of parks and playgrounds for kids. But the weather is hot and humid all year round. The only seasonal change is the rainy season at the end of the year.
- The good news for spouses is that work permits only take about 3 weeks to process. There is a range of employment options from jobs to self-employment. However, Nidhi pointed out that with COVID 19, opportunities for expatriate spouses are shrinking as preference is mandated for Singaporeans.
- It is extremely safe. Even in COVID times, life is nearly back to normal. Schools are back, everything is open but wearing a mask is mandatory except when eating or drinking. Heavy fines are imposed on rule breakers. And contact tracing is robust. Some may argue that this is rather draconian, but this is what makes it safe even in COVID times.
- Home help is readily available. Most of the home help is live-in as they are foreign help. Again, this is strictly regulated to protect the foreign home help.
- Anyone moving to Singapore must realize that the government will enforce its rules and regulations and failure to comply could result in a hefty fine, revoking of your spouse’s work permit or worse still a prison sentence. So buyer beware!
- Singapore is small so at times it can feel a little claustrophobic but Johore, Malaysia is easily accessible by train, car or bus as the outlying islands like Pulau Ubin or hiking in the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and Bali is only an hour away by plane.
- Last but not least, Singapore is well known for its hawker food, the world’s cheapest Michelin-starred restaurants and the world’s best bars!