The Achieving Woman's guide in your dream city

Singapore may be the world's most expensive city. But, is living in another city that much more affordable? These women share their experiences with us

Photo: 123RF

Nothing beats a $4 bowl of laksa, and maybe you've considered things like jobs and the weather, but not the cost of public transport and movie tickets. Well, these women tell us if living in their dream cities make much of a difference and then, maybe you can decide on what's the real cost of making that move.

Where: Oslo, Norway

Who: Lan Le Phuong, 31, Adviser at a book council




"In Norway, you’re expected to start working part-time at 16, move out at 18, and start paying rent from 19. Because of this, Norwegians tend to have a higher sense of financial literacy. Banks also do a good job of keeping us in the know – the position of financial advisers doesn’t even exist in Norway. We take care of our finances on our own, and you would have an accountant only if you’re rich or have a business.

As someone who went to university in Singapore and worked there for a couple of years, I do think that rent in Oslo is comparable to Singapore. Oslo, however, offers higher pay – if you have a tertiary education, you can expect to earn a starting salary of $33,000 before tax.

I work as an adviser to the Norwegian equivalent of a book council, and earn $75,000 before taxes. Typically, I save 20-30 per cent, with the rest going to food, entertainment (like concerts) and rent.

Because salaries are high, it’s fairly easy to save in Norway – one of the most common money saving options is a housing savings plan for young people, which lets you put aside a certain amount of money every year (and claim tax deductions) when you’re between 18 and 34 years old. There’s also a pension fund that requires your employer to pay a minimum of 2 per cent of your monthly salary to the fund (12 per cent for civil servants).

Plus, there’s a strong culture of having meals at home, because a mid-range restaurant would probably set you back $40. If my workplace doesn’t offer me free lunch, I would pack a lunch box. Eating out is considered a special treat."

Cost of a Heineken: $13.80 for a pint of domestic beer in a pub (we don’t tend to drink imported beer).

Cost of public transport: $123 for a 30-day bus, tram and metro ticket. (Companies like Uber and Grab are not legally permitted here.)

Cost of a movie ticket: $19-$27 on weekdays, $30 on weekends.

Average cost of weekday lunch from a sandwich shop: Most people eat at their workplace cafeterias, usually for between $11 and $20.

Average rent for a one bedroom apartment in the city: $1,945

Cost of petrol: From $2.70 a litre.


Where: Amsterdam

Who: Siti Jaffar-Kloof, 35, Stay-at-home mum

I’m a Singaporean who has lived in Holland for 10 years; I studied for my masters in international law here, then married my Dutch boyfriend and stayed on.

I have to say that Singapore is crazy expensive compared with here. My husband, our two children and I live just 30 minutes outside Amsterdam, in a three-storey terrace house that cost us $390,000.

That said, income tax is steep at 40 per per cent. However, the government channels the money to welfare safety nets. For example, if you lose your job, the government will look at your work history and build up a fund (possibly up to 60 or 70 per cent of your previous income) to tide you over until you get another job.

The spending culture is different. People may say the Dutch are stingy, but they’re just practical.

In general, people don’t care about branded goods – they just buy what they need, and you don’t get gifts if it’s not a special occasion.

Shopping at second-hand stores is the norm, and there isn’t even a credit card culture. People pay with debit cards and focus on saving, but they spend on experiences. Many take short trips, and for two months in summer, everyone takes long vacations – the whole country grinds to a halt.

Cost of a Heineken: $1.50 from a supermarket. Heineken is a Dutch beer, so it’s really cheap. It’s around $4.50 at a cafe.

Cost of public transport: The bus and metro start at $3, even for just one stop. Cabs are super expensive.

Cost of a movie ticket: $17.20 for weekdays and weekends.

Average cost of weekday lunch at a sandwich store: A sandwich to go would be around $9, but a sandwich and a drink at a cafe would be between $12.50 and $15.70.

Average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the city: Living in the city itself would cost $4,000-$6,000. But if you live outside the city centre, you can own a villa with a huge lawn for a million Singapore dollars.

Cost of petrol: From $2.40 a litre. (A small Japanese car costs $80,000.)