Sick of working with bosses who insist on face-time above all else and throw hissy fits whenever they try to apply for more than two days of leave in a row, more and more young Singaporeans are turning to freelancing.
For many, this means working from home, in cafes or buying subscriptions for coworking spaces. It also means an unprecedented degree of flexibility, not just in terms of time but also in terms of location.
If you think the only ways to live abroad are to have parents who can afford to send you overseas to study or to find one of those coveted jobs abroad in countries with poor economies and where locals have a distinct hiring advantage, you’re wrong.
Some countries abroad offer freelancers the chance to apply for long-stay visas of up to a year, where they can work remotely for their Singaporean clients. For many Singaporeans, this is a cost-effective way of moving out of their parents’ homes without having to pay ridiculous rent prices or live in a tent at East Coast Park, or simply an opportunity to enjoy a slower pace of life abroad. Here are four countries you can do this:
In recent years, Berlin has become a hotbed of young freelancers from all over the world who take advantage of the relatively affordable prices—it’s one of the cheaper Western European capitals.
There’s also a huge network (in Berlin at least) of coworking spaces and communities of creative and tech freelancers from all over the world, so if you’re outgoing enough you might find yourself feeling like less of an oddball than you do in Singapore.
The cities are just about as clean and efficient as Singapore’s, but the beer is way, way cheaper, the pace of life is slower and living on your own is going to cost less than it would in Singapore. You can get a studio smack in the city centre for about 600 euro (926 SGD), less if you’re willing to share with roommates. If you don’t mind living a little way out of the centre and share with roommates, you can find rooms for as little as 1250 euro (386 SGD) to 300 euro (463 SGD).
A residence permit for freelancers or self-employed persons (more info here) enables you to live and work in Berlin. You will need to show that you have an economic interest or regional need in the state of Berlin, find a place to stay and then submit details pertaining to your freelance work and your estimated revenue.
While finding a job in France is difficult without the requisite language skills, so long as you promise not to work in the country or solicit business there, you can apply for a long stay visitor visa of up to a year (more info here) and renewable every year that lets you stay in the country and drink wine every day if you wish (you can get a decent bottle at the supermarket for 3 euro (4.60 SGD) to 5 euro (7.70 SGD)).
You just need to show you have enough money either in savings or in earnings from your work to support you each month, to the tune of 2,168.63 SGD for each month you wish to stay.
Restaurants are more expensive than they are in Singapore (no hawker centres!), but if you have local friends you won’t have a problem, since people prefer to invite their friends home and frequently head out only for drinks. Many grocery items are surprisingly cheaper than they are in Singapore, since they rely less heavily on importation.
Paris is notoriously expensive and pretty much unanimously hated by all non Parisians in the country. In order to live in small studio in the city centre without having to share with housemates, you’re looking at paying at least 900 euro (1,390 SGD), although this can fall to about 650 euro (1,004 SGD) just outside the city centre.
This is uncomfortably close to what people are forced to pay in Singapore—if you want to save money head to a smaller city like Lyon or Nantes, where rent prices can be 1/3 to 1/4 the price of Paris.
So every Tom, Dick and Harry has studied in Australia, but you missed the boat during your university days and now it seems like you’ll never know what your friends are talking about when they reminisce about pancakes at The Rocks in Sydney or the Lygon Street cafes in Melbourne.
Australia offers a long-stay tourist visa of up to a year that allows you to experience a life with lots of UV-filled sunlight, perennial blue skies and cities where locals rub shoulders with throngs of Asian students. You will need to show proof of enough funds to support yourself
Sydney and Melbourne are a comfortable mix of East and West that even the most sheltered Singaporeans will find ridiculously easy to adapt to. In fact, there’s a good chance you already have numerous friends or friends-of-friends living in Australia.
While life in Sydney and Melbourne can get expensive, the weak Australian dollar means your SGD earnings will go that much further. And while a studio in the inner city suburbs will likely cost you over 1,000 SGD, when you put things into perspective you realise you’d be paying the same price for a single room in an HDB flat in the Queenstown or Eunos area.
Thailand doesn’t technically have a visa for freelancers, but there’s a reason cities like Chiang Mai and Bangkok are flooded with remote workers anyway—it’s quite easy to get a visa, renewable for up to a year, as a student so long as you enrol in a Thai language course with at least 15 contact hours a week (more info here).
Let’s try to overlook the fact that many foreigners who enrol just for the visa don’t even turn up for the classes. If you’re going to be living in Thailand for a year, the least you could do is to make an effort to at least pick up the basics of the language.
Bangkok, while stressful and polluted, is a favourite shopping and holiday destination for Singaporeans, but I personally find it too intense for a long-term stay.
Chiang Mai is currently a hub for foreign freelancers, and the fact that it’s incredibly inexpensive helps—you can get a studio in a condo together with all the bells and whistles like swimming pools for about 300 to 400 SGD a month, and if you’re willing to live in a Thai-style apartment or share with roommates, your costs decrease dramatically. Heck, there are Singaporeans who pay more per month for their gym memberships.
Even taking into account rent and dining out, you might end up spending less per month in Chiang Mai than you would living rent-free in your parents’ home in Singapore, with the added benefit of having your own space. It’s not for everyone, but can be a rewarding option for those with the guts to try it. It’s also close enough for you to fly back in a matter of hours if you have clients to meet or something urgent attend to at home.
Are you a freelancer who’s thinking of living abroad? Tell us why in the comments!