Nick Burns moved to Singapore in early 2020 and plans to stay.

Nick Burns made a horizontal move at his company and transferred from San Francisco to Singapore.The COVID-19 guidelines were strict when he first moved, but he loves his new home.Despite missing Mexican food and his car, he plans to stay in Singapore during his earning years.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Nick Burns, a 32-year-old tech worker in Singapore. The following has been edited for length and clarity.

I grew up in Connecticut and studied nuclear-energy engineering technology before joining the Navy in 2011. I worked on a submarine, so I moved around a lot. I was stationed in South Carolina, New York, and Hawaii and visited places like Singapore.

I fell in love with Singapore the first time I visited. I loved the food and the culture, and it became a dream to move there one day.

Right after my contract with the Navy ended in 2017, I moved to San Francisco to work at Tesla, and then I took a job at my current company, KLA. I took the job knowing it was based in San Francisco, but I kept telling my boss that I would be interested in moving to Singapore if the opportunity arose.

In early 2020, KLA opened a branch in Singapore, and I accepted a horizontal transfer. Singapore had very strict COVID-19 policies, so I didn’t do much socializing for my first couple of years.

Once Singapore opened up, I met new people at parties, dinners, and barbeques. In December, I married a Singaporean woman. I can’t see us leaving anytime soon.

Singapore is so safe that it’s difficult to explain to Americans

I lived in the Tenderloin in San Francisco. Nearly every time I got off the Bay Area Rapid Transit trains in the city at night, I would see people using and selling drugs. My car was also broken into frequently.

In Singapore, if you’re at a Starbucks and need to go to the bathroom, you can leave your laptop, wallet, and phone on the table, and you can be almost certain it will be there when you return.

If you’re a woman, you can walk around the city at any time of day or night; there’s really no area that’s considered unsafe.

If a person is convicted of drug trafficking in Singapore, they could face the death penalty, so you don’t see people using drugs. There’s also very little homelessness and almost no gun crime.

I love the food, the weather, and the location

I prefer being hot over being cold, so the weather here suits me.

The food is really good because the surrounding countries — including Malaysia, India, and China — heavily influence Singaporean culture. I love very spicy food, so mala and hotpot are my favorites. I like to order 大辣 (big spicy) occasionally, but I limit that to once a month since it takes a toll on my body.

Singapore has big street markets with various food stalls that sell what’s known as “hawker” food. I eat that at the office most days. For $3.71, I usually get noodles and dumpling soup. When working from home, I like to go to my local hawker 菜饭 (economic rice) stall and get a portion of pork, chicken, and rice for $2.08.

If I’m ever bored, I can travel to other countries quickly and easily. Because the airport is so big and there are so many flights, you can easily go to Vietnam, Thailand, or Bali for a weekend trip.

Taxes and healthcare are both cheaper

Income tax in Singapore tops out at 22%. Even though I have to file my taxes in both Singapore and the US, I still end up paying less.

Healthcare isn’t free, but it’s much cheaper than in the US. I recently jammed my toe so hard, I was convinced it was broken. I went to the emergency room, got X-rays, and saw a doctor, and it cost under $200. I imagine that would’ve cost thousands of dollars in the US.

Culturally, there are some differences

In Asia, sharing food is very common and expected. For me, if I go to a restaurant and see a dish I think I would like, my instinct is to just order it for myself and eat it.

Like many other Singaporeans, my wife prefers to order a bunch of dishes for the table. I still prefer to just eat my dish myself.

Singapore is quite diverse, and people live comfortably with each other. I occasionally get stares in certain areas, but overall, people are friendly. Many Europeans and Americans work here, so I don’t stand out too much.

One cultural difference I can’t get past is taxi driving. Many drivers pump the accelerator, so it’s never a smooth ride and you feel nauseous the whole time as the passenger.

The things I miss the most about America are Mexican food and my car

Coming from California, Mexican food is important to me. It’s just not very good here in my opinion.

As an American, living without a car feels like not having freedom, but I think buying a car in Singapore is financially irresponsible unless you have many kids and need to move around. Here, you could order a taxi or private hire car to drive you around daily for about the same price as owning a car.

Public transportation here is extremely clean, ubiquitous, and reliable, so we mainly use that.

I’ll happily return to America to visit but not to live

Singapore is one of the most expensive cities in the world, but when I lived in San Francisco, the rent was even more expensive. The salaries in the Bay Area are much higher than in Singapore, but taxes are much lower here, so it balances out.

My brother’s getting married this year, and I plan to get into a rhythm of taking an annual trip home, but I want to stay in Singapore permanently during my earning years.

My dream is to one day renounce my US citizenship in favor of a Singaporean one. Then I could see myself retiring in Thailand, Bali, or somewhere more affordable.

Read the original article on Business Insider


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