All You Need To Know About Moving From Singapore To UK: Your First Few Weeks Before And After Arriving

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Singapore is a beautiful island city-state and a melting pot of different cultures and nationalities. Moving from a country like this might give you separation anxiety, especially if you’re in the dark on what to expect from the country you’re moving into.

The UK and Singapore have a lot in common, and their similarities help improve your moving experience. This article helps paint a picture of what to expect in your first few weeks before and after relocating from Singapore to UK.

1. These Differences Will Become Apparent Once You Reach The UK

Right off the bat, let’s talk about what you’ll notice when you arrive in the UK. Each country has their similarities and differences, and some differences are expected and even obvious. These differences are breaths of fresh air because they are changes you’d like to welcome on unfamiliar grounds.

Singapore Is Densely Populated

A noticeable difference you’ll see when you set foot in the UK is that, by comparison, Singapore is densely populated over the UK. You’ll notice once you leave the UK’s metropolitan areas that you won’t bump into people as much as you have been.

This is mainly because Singapore’s over five million inhabitants are packed into 719 square kilometres of land mass. At the same time, the UK’s over 67 million are spread over 234 thousand square kilometres. The UK has a population density of 276 people per square kilometre, while Singapore has 7,584 people per square kilometre. It’s hard to imagine this difference if you’re in Singapore, especially if you have grown accustomed to Singapore’s density.

UK Is More Affordable Than Singapore

When ordering food from a cafe or restaurant, you’d start converting pounds to Singaporean dollars and try to assess if what you’re buying is considered luxurious or affordable. Average food expenses in the UK are 10% cheaper than in Singapore. In comparison, one person’s overall average cost of living is 25% cheaper. The average one-person rent is 32% cheaper in the UK than in Singapore, and expenses for public transport are 24% cheaper too.

2. It’s Easy To Look For Schools

Most Singaporeans studying in the United Kingdom will find it almost identical to their home country, except for one major difference, their school year starts in September and ends in June. According to the Ministry of Education, students will lose nine months during the transition. If you have students or are a student yourself, make sure you plan your move accordingly, or you could consider the transition as a time to adjust to the UK, especially in your first week.

The education system in the UK is similar to that of Singapore, except that the British system lasts longer. In Singapore, students study for 12 years and graduate at 21. However, the UK education system spans 15 years and graduates at 19. If you’re a fresh graduate from Singapore working in the UK, you’ll notice co-workers as old as you with a year’s worth of work experience.

Like Singapore, students go on to university after A levels, which typically happens around age 18. University commences in August or September, and bachelor’s degrees take three years to complete, with honours being given out based on grades.

time lapse photography of woman walking on street while holding umbrella near London telephone booth beside wall

Image credit: Unsplash

3. There Are Different Activities For Different Seasons

Unlike Singapore, with its predictable year-round weather, the weather will depend on the month you’re in when you travel. The UK’s summers are usually warm, and winters are mild and wet. Now that you can travel anywhere around the UK with your UK visa, take advantage of the season you’re in with the appropriate activities.

Indoor Activities When It Rains In Spring

Spring in the UK is from March to May, while May has one of the rainiest months. If you arrive during these months, visit indoor attractions like The British Museum, the National Gallery, the Natural History Museum, The Roman Baths, and Westminster Abbey. The UK is just full of culture and history for exploring.

Outdoor Activities During Winter

The average temperature in winter drops to around -5C (-13F), making it perfect for winter activities. These winter activities include surfing in Cornwall. Yes you read it right, surfing in the winter, sleeping in a snow hole in Cairngorms, or even skating on natural ice rinks.

These activities might shock you, especially if you’re used to outdoor activities only when the weather is warm. The UK has adapted to colder temperatures and enjoys stress-free outdoor activities with other citizens.

Trekking And Hiking During The Summer And Autumn

Summer lasts from June to August, and trekking and hiking are among the best activities to explore what the UK offers. Trek through the Yorkshire Dales, where you can trek through six miles of stunning pastures and panoramic views. Go paragliding 500 feet above the ground in Surrey’s countryside. You can also go coasteering, exploring the shoreline around Giant’s Causeway, one of nature’s bizarrely-formed stepping stones.

4. Microchipping Your Pet Is Mandatory

You might want to secure all required documents and steps if you want to bring your furry friend to the UK. The longer the process, the lesser the likelihood of your furry friend’s stress-free travel. You might have most of these documents, but you’ll soon notice that most pets underwent microchipping.

First, you should ensure your pet is up to date on their vaccinations and rabies shots. Though if you had your pet in Singapore, you most likely don’t need to worry about this step. However, it would help if you had your pet take a blood test. Next, you should find out whether your pet needs a passport or a health certificate. The health certificate and pet passport are where the vet would put the microchip number, which is the next talking point.

Lastly, you’ll want to get your pet a microchip, a small implantable chip containing information about your pet. This is mandatory for dogs; some places require cats to have this. Make sure you get this procedure done by a vet, a vet nurse, or someone trained in microchipping.

St. Paul's Cathedral

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5. It Is A Left-Hand Driving Country

Maybe you did the maths and will save more by paying for a car’s utility bills over travelling alone. Moving to the UK might entice you to get your car as you won’t need a Certificate of Entitlement like in Singapore. But the good news doesn’t stop there. If you’re worried you won’t know which hand side to drive on, you’ll notice that the UK is a left-hand driving country.

You won’t need to adjust to their road rules as it’s similar to Singapore. Vehicles are designed with left-hand driving in mind. So, get your international driving permit ready and start going to different locations in the UK.

6. Transportation Alternatives Are Common

While on the topic of transportation, you can also find the UK populace using transportation alternatives. Singapore encourages cycling, and you might have picked up the habit of cycling from your home to your workplace and vice versa. You won’t have problems transitioning as cycling is also big in the UK. Most towns and cities have cycle lanes so you can keep yourself safe from incoming traffic.

Just like Singapore, most inhabitants of the UK are conscious about their carbon footprint, and aside from biking, they also love walking from one place to another. You can also take the train if you choose public transportation, but make sure you buy yourself an Oyster Card. An Oyster Card is a means of payment for public transportation, and it works just like Singapore’s EZ-Link card.

red double-decker bus passing Palace of Westminster, London during daytime

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7. Even Healthcare Plans Are Similar To Singapore

The UK government offers a range of health insurance plans to cover medical expenses. Many companies offer dental, vision, life, disability, and travel benefits. There are three main types of health insurance policies offered. These three are similar to Singapore’s MediFund, MediShield Life, and MediSave.

  • Public Health Care, where the NHS (National Health Service) helps cover most medical needs, including hospitalisation, outpatient visits, prescription drugs, lab tests, X-rays, etc.
  • Private Health Insurance is a policy that provides coverage for some medical needs, like prescriptions, dental work, eye exams, and maternity/paternity leave.
  • Self-Funded plans allow employees to pay out of their pockets for certain medical expenses, like deductibles, co-payments, and even surgeries.

If you are now considering moving to the UK, it is important to understand how each option works. First, note if your employer provides these benefits. If you’re still looking for a job and you have no healthcare plan, weigh the advantages with the costs.

8. Take English Proficiency Tests Even If It Is Not Required

You probably are among 48% of Singapore’s residents who speak English. Your work or employer might not require you to take an English proficiency test, or maybe it isn’t one of the requirements. However, an English proficiency test is necessary if you wish to learn and improve your skills, proceed with a degree, or transition into a UK visa category that can grant permanent residence.

Different establishments will require one of these tests: IELTS, TOEFL, PTE Academic or Cambridge English Advanced. These are the most common tests for UK visas and even world-class universities. You can also use this if you want to migrate to other English-speaking countries.

International English Language Testing System (IELTS)

You might have heard about IELTS as this is one of the most recognised English language tests. It comprises four parts: reading, writing, listening, and speaking.

There are two tests which are the academic test and general training test. The academic test is required if you want to study for an undergraduate or postgraduate course in a British university or college. On the other hand, the general training test is for studies below degree level, skilled-worker visa, like a nurse, or simply for migration.

Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)

Like IELTS, TOEFL has four parts: reading, writing, listening and speaking. It has two test types, namely, the TOEFL iBT and PBT. TOEFL iBT is an internet-based exam which takes about three hours. The TOEFL PBT is a paper-based exam which takes about one and a half hours, with no break. Scoring is on a scale of 0-120.

Pearson Test of English Academic (PTE Academic)

The PTE Academic is for students who want to study undergraduate, postgraduate, or masters in the UK. The test is a computer-based exam with 20 tasks that revolve around testing your reading, speaking, writing, and listening skills. You are given three hours for the exam, and each task involves real-life settings.

9. Not Everybody Sounds Like The Queen

The media has perpetuated the stereotype that people in the UK speak like princes and princesses. The British Isles are made up of different sets of accents and dialects. What’s portrayed in movies is just a few of these dialects.

Just as Singapore is a melting pot of different cultures, the UK is full of different cultures that borrow from each other. The following are one of the most common dialects in the UK.

The Queen’s English

Received Pronunciation or RP is usually referred to as Queen’s English. This is the one usually perpetuated by the media as how everybody in the UK would sound like. This is more typical on BBC News and drama shows.

Do note that RP is perceived as sophisticated even among UK citizens. Don’t worry too much if your accent is not exactly like this.

London’s Cockney Accent

Cockney, on the other hand, is one of the most famous dialects you will hear in London. If Singapore’s Singlish reduces phrases like “don’t want to” to “dowan”, cockney reduces tongue movement to shorten words like “better” to “be’er”.

You might easily relate to this if you’re used to Singlish, as cockney aims to simplify the articulation of words. Who knows, maybe you’ll speak with this accent after a few months in the UK.

Estuary English Is Growing In Popularity

The RP and the cockney accent might sound like complete opposites, and the middle ground is Estuary English. You might hear “walk” as “wook” Estuary English speakers sound formal but not posh, giving it a completely casual ring.

People usually speak this dialect along the Thames Estuary. It is now becoming one of the most widely spoken accents south of the UK.

10. Make A Checklist To Help Remember These Things

Now that you have most of the necessary information, a checklist might come in handy. You might be excited or worried about your trip, but to keep you on track, list everything you need. Your checklist should contain the following:

  • What to pack, and what’s on your luggage
  • All the important documents you need to present, like your valid visa and passport
  • Travel tickets
  • Itemised budget
  • List of emergency contacts
  • A list of fragile items you need to hand carry or pack
  • Travel Journal
  • Entertainment and food for the flight

The last two are optional. A travel journal might come in handy if you’d want to document every experience you have as a means for reflection or maybe to learn from. Thinking about what type of entertainment and bringing some snacks are important as the average flight time is around 13 hours and 7 minutes.

11. Professional Movers Will Take Weight Off Your Shoulders

Another solution to help with your travel experience is organising a professional mover. You’d notice that all your items might be too much for you to handle and you need help to take off some travelling burden.

A professional moving company like Sanelo, with years of experience, guarantees hassle-free travel as they will take care of your personal belongings. They provide moving services to local and international travellers and shipment protection for your fragile items.

Conclusion On Moving From Singapore To UK

The UK shares a lot in common with Singapore making it easy to transition. Both are left-hand drive countries, and some school curricula are similar. Major differences are the UK’s lower cost of living, and it is less crowded. Transitioning into the UK’s landscape would feel natural as both countries resonate with culture and hospitality.

We hope this article helps you visualise what you could expect when you move to the UK. Check out other articles about European countries, such as Hamburg, Rotterdam, or Amsterdam.

Frequently Asked Questions About Moving From Singapore To UK

Is It Hard To Move To The UK?

The most common visas are work and family visas. If you qualify, it is relatively easy to move to the UK.

Can I Move To The UK Without A Job?

You can move without a job, but you must account for your expenses while job hunting. Though the cost of living in the UK is lower than that of Singapore, you still need to cover your bills.

How Long Can A Singaporean Stay In the UK?

You can stay for up to six months in the UK, but if you have a skilled worker visa, you can stay for up to five years. Different visa categories have their duration, and you can also apply to stay for longer periods depending on circumstances.

When Should I Contact Sanelo Before Moving To the UK From Singapore?

It is best to contact us three months before you move to the UK. This will give us time to prepare for the relocation and make specific adjustments.


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