If you move from America to Singapore, your paycheck will have a larger number. However, that doesn’t mean that you’re making more money. The typical exchange rate between Singapore (S$) and US($) currencies is between 1.4 and 1.6. That means that one Singapore dollar will get you approximately seventy cents. Even if you account for the exchange rate, there are some products that are still more expensive in Singapore.
If you’re American, don’t buy the following products in Singapore:
1) High End Laptops
Last week I was at a blogger event sponsored by Claudia Lim’s 24Seven social networking company. On display was a fabulous Lenovo w700. I drooled over its gargantuan seventeen-inch monitor, Intel Core 2 Duo Processor, integrated color calibration tools, and in-built stylus. Dreaming, I wanted to check the price of this laptop. My jaw dropped when I saw that Lenovo Singapore’s list price is S$8,000! I checked the U.S. website. The same laptop can be purchased in the US for $3,369. The exchange rate is not 2.4; someone is gouging laptop prices.
But I don’t want to single out Lenovo, most of the brands do the same thing. I was considering getting a Gateway P7805 FX series laptop here in Singapore until I realized I could save $500 if I waited until I returned to the US. Some of my friends use Macs, and, unless they received the Ministry of Education discount, they face similar price problems.
The conclusion: don’t buy high performance laptops in Singapore. The mark-up on some laptops is high enough that you could buy a plane ticket to the U.S. and purchase your computer for roughly the same price. In Singapore you can, however, buy mid-tier laptops like Acer with confidence that you’re getting a good deal.
2) Cake Mixes
Singaporeans don’t bake very often. Even the most dutiful housewives that I’ve met at church don’t bake like Americans. They steam, stir-fry, and boil; but Singapore’s climate doesn’t lend itself to baking. Consequently, baking supplies are difficult to find. If you want cake mixes, you’ll need to visit specialty shops or the Cold Storage in Great World City. Expect to pay twice as much for Betty Crocker as you would in the States, and the selection will be varied and seasonal.
The solution: Buy a few of your family’s favorite mixes before coming to Singapore. Throwing a few boxes into your suitcase or shipping container will save you money and get you exactly what you want.
3) Video Games
Video games sold all over the world are region encoded. Because electronics companies want greater control of their devices and they want to reduce competition, a game purchased in Singapore probably won’t work on a gaming machine purchased in the US, Japan, or Europe.
Video games tend to be more expensive in Singapore. Of course prices vary, but at one time a Nintendo Wii cost S$700 in Singapore but cost only $250 in the United States.
The U.S. also has a flourishing used market that is hard to find in Singapore. Most titles over a year or two old can be purchased at GameStop for less than $20. You’re incredibly lucky if you find something like that in Singapore.
There is one exception, most Playstation 3 titles aren’t region encoded. This might give your family some leeway if you’re frequently moving around.
4) Mid- Range Brands
Several brands, notably Coach, Nine West, and Timberland, have miraculously convinced the Singaporean people that they are upscale and designer. Expect to pay upscale and designer prices at shops with these brands. In the States no one sees these mid-tier brands as top-of-the-line, and you will pay half of what Singaporeans pay if you check the J.C. Penny sales rack or a Midwest outlet mall.
5) American Beef
The mad cow scare of a few years ago got all of the Asians worked up and put the Korean and Australian beef lobbies into overdrive. Today in Singapore the vast majority of beef is Australian. Botak Jones is one of the few outlets bold enough to serve USDA beef, but if you want it elsewhere you’ll have to go places like the hundred-dollar-a-plate Morton’s of Chicago.
The solution: Go to Malaysia where they’re a little more laid back. Right across from Woodland’s checkpoint is a TGI Friday’s that serves all of the American beef that you can fit in your belly.