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Tuesday January 23rd 2018

American with local wife dismayed at low salaries of test engineer while relocating

by breakfastforthebestfood

I’ve worked for a defense contractor in the greater Boston area as a test engineer (electronic assemblies, digital/RF) for a little over 5 years. My wife is a Singapore citizen and recently returned to Singapore to find employment since her field has a higher demand and value there. The plan was for her to establish herself there and for me to follow, but I haven’t had even a hint of interest in my resume. I think that my current salary may be twice what a Singapore employer would normally pay for an engineer, and that could be impacting my chances to secure employment.

I have a BSEE and a graduate certificate in systems engineering, with work experience ranging from automated functional test development and support (hardware and software) to writing procedures. It looks like this type of position normally pays $3-5k in Singapore. Is this really all I can expect? It’s a bit hard for me to swallow that I would have to take a 50% pay cut in order for my wife and I to live near her family. My frustration is compounded by the fact that the cost of living for a similar lifestyle would easily cost us double what it does here on the US east coast.

Maybe I’m just looking in all the wrong places, so any advice would be appreciated. Also, would it aid my job search if I were to travel to Singapore first and file all of the appropriate forms for PR status? I was hoping to line up a trip with some solid leads and maybe an interview or two.

Another thought was to find a job here in the US which would post me to Singapore, but I haven’t had success in identifying any. Anyone have the contact for a recruiter here in the US that deals wit this type of placement?

This is my first post here, so I hope it didn’t seem to ramble on too much. On a side note, SE Asia has the best food in the world… but I’ll miss American breakfast.


by zzm9980

I can agree with most of your points. Expect to earn 30-50% less here. I took a large paycut, and this is with an American MNC’s operations in Singapore.

Also consider that for everyone except Americans, your tax burden is significantly lower in Singapore. For Americans, the first US $95k you EARN (not investment income, etc) in Singapore you don’t pay taxes on.

Now, the only reason why Singapore is so expensive for you is because you’re trying to live your western lifestyle in Singapore. That’s expensive. If you live like a local, prices will be much cheaper. Locals don’t live in $6k/month rented condos, they buy subsidized HDB units. They don’t send their kids to $20-40k/year International Schools.

They use local schools. Most shop in the wet markets and NTUC, not Cold Storage and other expat super markets. Etc. It’s still pricey, but I live a hybrid western/local lifestyle (helps that the wife is Vietnamese) and my cost of living is less than it was in California. We eat out a lot (my western pallet requires it), but she also cooks at home and we use the hawker centers too. We rent an HDB unit, but right next to the beach (~$2600/month). We’re not paying ridiculous condo rent, but still have easy access to all kinds of recreational amenities.

As for advice to find a job? I just targeted MNC’s job postings and searched for “Singapore”. Make it clear you’re not seeking an expat allowance package in the cover letter (unless you are, then good luck), and you should find that the larger the company the less they care where you’re located. Other than that, it’s just like applying for any MNC. If they’re willing to relocate, they generally don’t care if you’re across the state or the ocean.

Editor’s note: This article is retrieved by a thread posted in singaporeexpats.

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2 Responses to “American with local wife dismayed at low salaries of test engineer while relocating”

  1. Thistoo Shallpass says:

    Yes, living an American life style in Singapore is not just expensive but can get you into big trouble. You cannot walk around with a gun, having a small amount of drugs can get you executed, and your kids will miss the excitement of dodging bullets when some crazy guy comes into the school and start shooting. The police here do not shoot people for no reason – even when they are of a different skin color.

    If you move to Singapore, be prepared to live like the locals. When I lived in America I almost went broke living a Singapore live style – taking taxi everywhere, buying all the ingredients to make laksa, going to Whole Food to buy Asian fruits, moving several times before I can find a place with a decent broadband, etc.

    If I were you, I would look for US companies with manufacturing operations in Singapore and try to apply to them. Of course, being in the country helps since phone interviews can only get you so far.

  2. xyz says:

    Engineering in S’pore??? You’re competing with the Ah Nehs & Peenois — these are the engineers that Western MNCs in S’pore like to employ. In fact many US MNCs (e.g. Honeywell, United Tech, Boeing, Emerson, etc) actively hire engineers in India & Philippines via their local offices there and then ship them over to the S’pore office.

    For S’porean & other Asian companies in S’pore, they like to hire PRC, Burmese, Peenoi engineers.

    So don’t expect companies in S’pore to pay you much more than what Ah Neh, Cheena, Burmese & Peenoi are earning.

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