A podcast interview with Surinder Arora (@DrSurinderArora)
Why should you move to Singapore if you are a Dentist?
This should really be a personal choice – only you can determine and discover your WHY.
It is important to consider how this affects your children/spouse/partner/family and business commitments.
Singapore is Asia Lite. It is a Metropolis. Dental standards are high, and the weather is 30C every day! I cover lots more of this in my article about returning from Singapore and my experiences.
What was it like finding a job then, and is it any different now?
It is much more difficult now compared to 2-3 years ago. This is because the Corporates are less likely to hire foreign graduates because you first need to be on Conditional Registration with the Singapore Dental Council (SDC). This is not really a big deal, except you need to be assigned 2 supervisors, and it is due to a lack of supervisors that can be troublesome.
Only once you have had 2-3 successful years, under the eyes of a ‘Supervisor’, can you then work ‘solo’ with Full Registration.
First, you need to find a corporate or a Dental practice that is willing to take you on and they will help you with your application to the SDC.
Where can I look for an associate position?
The Singapore Dental Association classifieds is your best bet!
What can Overseas Dentists expect in terms of salary
Expect anywhere between 35 – 55% remuneration.
Average GDP can make $6 – 20 K SGD per month, net.
A lot of practices/corporates will put a safety net for you in your first 6 months so you can get a ‘base’ minimum salary e.g. $7K per month.
Bare in mind, however, that Tax is pretty damn low!
What is Dentistry like in SG?
High standard – but varies massively depending on where you are practicing. Even in this tiny island-country, the demographics of just a few miles are massive and will influence if you are busy or not.
When I was there, I was doing very run-of-the-mill family Dentistry, perio, extractions and Dentures!
Words of caution to UK/US Grads looking to work in Singapore?
Although you do not need to sit any exams to work in Singapore, it has become very difficult to find a Job as a foreign graduate.
Should you continue to pay GDC subscription?
Short term answer: Yes, to avoid the hassle
Long term answer: eventually, after working for few years in Singapore, you may wish to stop paying GDC subscription.
Surinder emailed the GDC and as long as you keep all your documentation and evidence of CPD, theoretically it should take 10-15 days to get back on the register.
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Click below for full episode transcript:Opening Snippet: Welcome to the Protrusive Dental podcast the forward thinking podcast for dental Professionals. Join us as we discuss hot topics in dentistry, clinical tips, continuing education and adding value to your life and career with your host, Jaz Gulati...
Jaz’s Introduction: Hello everyone and welcome to the protrusive Dental podcast. I’m your host Jaz Gulati. Thank you so much for joining me, I hope this podcast adds value to your life. And I hope it gives you an insight into lots of things I’ll be discussing throughout the year, starting off with today’s show about moving abroad, specifically to Singapore because that’s where me and my wife used to live in work 15 months before we came back to UK and I want to share that journey with you all. Give you guys insight into what that was like, what’s involved in actually working abroad. The main reason for covering this topic as my first podcast is because on a weekly basis, I get asked questions from people all over the internet who, who find me on Facebook or Dentinal Tubules or wherever. And they noticed that I’ve lived and worked in Singapore. And they want to know how that happened, what that was like, because they are also considering to move. And I think to make this podcast available to them and share my thoughts out loud for as a reference to them will really help people when making that sort of career decision. And I’ve also got something lined up for Australia and the USA as well. So watch your space on the over the next few episodes. So today is all about Singapore. I’ve got joining me today Surinder Arora, who is very good friend of mine, she really is an amazing soul. I see her as if she’s a big sister figure to me. She’s the one who really helped me when I was moving to Singapore, we went to same dental school together, she was a few years above me. And she really has been a beacon of hope. And that’s just sort of the sort of person that she is she’s such a positive, lovely, bubbly person. And you’ll get to get you’ll get a flavor of that when you listen to her speak today. So I’m really excited to have her on the show today, she’ll give you lots of great tips about moving to Singapore, what’s it like to live in Asia? And what to expect when you’re working there. The sorts of questions that we’ll be covering today is what it takes to start working in Singapore how to start looking for a job. The common questions I get all the time such as, what’s the income like? What is the lifestyle like? Should you still be paying your GDC subscription when you’re there? What are the barriers to getting something called full registration. So we’ll touch upon that as well. And what I’ll do at the end of the show, and on my website, that’s www.jaz.dental on my blog to actually put the show notes, like a written summary in case you have time to listen to podcast. So you got like a cheat sheet of all the things that we discuss as a reference as a PDF download, and that’ll be available as well at the end of the show, we will see that down below somewhere. Another thing I hope to incorporate in the Protrusive Dental podcast is every time I do a show, I’m going to give you a tip, a pearl, let’s call it I’m recording the Protrusive Dental Pearl. And today is a non clinical episode and therefore I’m sharing a non clinical piece of advice with you. The piece of advice I want to share with you for today’s episode is to know and not to do is not to know. Okay, so I’ll say it again to know and not to do is not to know. So for me, the reason I’m saying this piece of advice that got me to kick into gear and actually make this podcast. I’ve known how to make a podcast, I known that I’ve wanted to make this podcast, but due to all any sort of excuse that you can think of “Oh, I don’t have the time or the resources, whatever,” you know, that voice inside my head was eating at me and finally I gave in and as I know I have to do this now, start this. I wanted to share my vision, share my passion for dentistry with people and podcasts are a great thing to listen to nowadays. And people are out and out and about on their commute. This is an output for my creative side. So it’s the same in sort of clinical dentistry or in any aspect of life. If you know something that you know, you should be doing something or you know, you’ve wanted to do something for a while until you take action is as good as not knowing at all so you have to take action. So my tip for you is whatever it is out there for 2019 that you know you should be doing and you’re not doing it the moment, go out and do it for me. I’m creating the protrusive Dental podcast. I’ll be doing lots more episodes and I hope you’ll join me throughout the journey. So that’s my Protrusive Dental pearl for you. Okay, so now it’s time to join Surinder on the interview. I hope you enjoy listening to this as much as I enjoyed recording it.
Main Interview:[Jaz] So firstly, Surinder, thank you so much for joining us from Singapore. I know that you’re super busy lady and you were just in Australia and you sort of just your flight landed yesterday last night. [Surinder]
This morning. Yeah. [Jaz]
So those of you who don’t know Surinder Arora, she qualified from Sheffield in 2011. But the previous, he worked a few hospital jobs and practice jobs. It was in London? [Surinder]
Yeah, London down in London. Yeah. [Jaz]
Then you move to Singapore and that’s the main focus of today’s shows about you know what led to your move to Singapore, the circumstances, your stage in your career, which was quite similar to when I when I moved as well, but a few interesting things about you Surinder is that you’ve got your certified health coach. Which is awesome. It’s very, very unique. And you’re currently studying a Master’s in Public Health. [Surinder]
I am, yeah. It’s a KCL. So it’s King’s College London distance learning. So I did look at doing it in Singapore, but then decided for the flexibility purpose to go to London. So yeah, it’s awesome. I’m really enjoying it. [Jaz]
Brilliant. Brilliant. That’s it. I think that will be a whole new show on its own. But for now. Okay. So Surinder, described the stage of your career that you were at when you decided to move to Singapore. But I think your story is a little bit unique in the sense that it wasn’t initially Singapore was it was at Hong Kong Initially? [Surinder]
It was actually Australia initially. So as an undergrad, like to simulate yourself, you can do like this kind of working abroad experience. But from quite early on time, I thought, you know, I’d really like to work in Australia, you have DB dental, you have other companies around and they’re encouraging, you can work in these places. So it was definitely on the card. So initially, I planned yet Australia one year amazing. And then it kind of shifted a little bit. I went to Australia for a few weeks. And I thought, you know, it’s a little bit far away from home here, actually. Then I started to explore other options. And my partner and I actually, we had a list of countries that we could both work in. [Jaz]
Just tell us about partner, what you know, what he does, and how that worked out in terms of the move being possible. [Surinder]
Yeah, so he’s in banking and finance. So it was kind of like marrying the kind of healthcare profession without kind of element as well. So we were looking at kind of big hubs and big cities mainly. So Hong Kong was on there, Singapore was on there, the Philippines was even on there. Wow, Australia was even an option. So I started to have a little look around. And to be completely honest, I’d never been to Asia before in my life. I literally Googled jobs in Singapore, I was working my way through the latest right? So I Googled jobs in Singapore, and I applied to three companies. [Jaz]
Sorry, yeah. And when you Google, that was the exact situation I was in as well. When you type in a UK dentist in Singapore or UK, there’s nothing really useful out there. [Surinder]
No, there’s not. So I just kind of went straight into jobs available in Singapore. There’s actually the Singapore Dental Association job list, which I found later on after I’d applied, but a few companies came up and I applied to three of them. One of them got back to me really, really quickly, like surprisingly quickly, and then before you knew it, I had a Skype interview at some ridiculous hour in the morning because I got the time wrong. And then I got offered a job as a dentist. [Jaz]
Where were when you had that? You were in England when you had the Skype interview? [Surinder]
I was in London. [Jaz]
You were not working? You were not working as a dentist in England up at that point or [Surinder]
So what I did so after my dental foundation year, I went into hospital as you know, all surgeries in London hospitals came out of that and you know, just it I really struggled to get a job in London. I had my CV was literally everywhere. It was over the BDA it was amongst the private clinics. It was amongst NHS, I was really struggling. I got a job offer in northwest London that night. Yes, come on jackpot. So I went to Australia came back. I worked there for a day and the second day I went in the practice, owner said to me “Look, Surinder, we’ve decided that you’re not right for the role, we want with more experience. We’re going to ask you to leave” and I was like, “What, it’s like, I’ve been here a day. [Jaz]
That was so cold. [Surinder]
It’s cold, but it happens. And you know, for young dentists, this is the kind of climate when UDA values driven down to the ground a lot of competition, particularly in the London area. [Jaz]
This is why I’m getting a lot more messages. I’m sure you do as well, but this is why I’m getting a lot of young dentists and there’s basically two groups people who are messaging me who want to know about moving abroad to Singapore. One is those who are out of df one or just finished their a few hospital jobs and then now they’re like, okay, now what? And the other group is actually, 10, 15 years qualified and now they’ve got children, whatnot. And they’re so these are two groups. We were in that first group and you’re describing harsh reality. [Surinder]
Yeah, it absolutely is. And even as I was doing my hospital job, I was working alternate weekends in private practice, just keeping my hand on the clinical ground, but it really had no waiting it really didn’t at all. So then from there, I do some low coming in a corporate in the UK, which was a massive eye opener. I don’t know if any of you listening or have ever worked for corporate but it is something really different particularly going from hospital into that kind of setting and I actually learned a lot but I also learned a lot of dentistry, NHS. The old expression bashing the Nash? Yeah, absolutely. It was, that’s the game, that’s what’s going on there. Then after that it was time, I was like, I wanted to do this year abroad, I’m going to do it. Singapore came about and literally, I moved out like first time in Asia, set foot in Asia 2014, I think it was October, November 2014. I started working in December in Singapore. It was quick, the process was really quick. So I mean, it took about six weeks, six to eight weeks for everything to go through. [Jaz]
So let’s help everyone out in terms of infrastructure. So you had a skype group. So you went on the SDA website, you found the job board, you contacted three corporate, one of them got back to you really quick, you had a Skype interview. And then what happens in between you and actually you actually working in Singapore, just briefly describe the hurdles, one has to go through if you want to work in Singapore. [Surinder]
Right. So roughly, this is what happens and things may have changed a little bit. So you have to come to Singapore, first of all, sign the contract, that’s the first thing that you do. And then there are some appointments. So the Ministry of Health is one of them, you have to go to the Ministry of Health, get your photo taken and show that you’re a true person to kind of get registered, the company that you generally work for then applies for your employment pass. So that’s kind of like them sponsoring you so to speak. So they apply for that on your behalf, that’s going on in the background, then you just have to have your medical checks done and some kind of the National Environmental agency, that’s another another kind of application you have to do to take radiographs. That’s something else you need to do before you start practicing. But there’s a waiting time. So it’s kind of like I think it was about six weeks, it can be shorter. And they need to see you in between as well. [Jaz]
It can be longer as well. I mean, I’m sure you know, we’ve got friends out there who for whatever reason took a long time. I think if you were to give a guideline for someone moving out there to expect to have enough savings to cover yourself. I mean, would you say three to six months maybe just to be on the safe side? Or? [Surinder]
I’d probably say now. Absolutely. Yeah, give it I’d say a couple of months minimum, what I did was I came here signed a contract. And I traveled around Asia for a bit, which is quite common a lot of people did that a time. Yeah, absolutely. Lovely, definitely recommended. We did a bit of traveling, came back and then you kind of have to be on the ground a little bit, because you have to have several checks, you have to go to the Singapore dental council that might have changed now. I had to go there physically in person. Yeah, Singapore Dental Association, your DPL and other memberships, those kind of things as well as they’re there at the tail end. But the main thing is signing the contract, going to Ministry of Health and then going forward in that direction. [Jaz]
So the take home message number one, I think for this podcast so far is that before you go out there, or even if you’re you know, thinking about it, you need a job first, you need a ‘In-principle approval’, I think it was called. That’s right. And so you need to actually secure a job ideally, that’s what’s going to really accelerate your starting because if you just go out there without a job, which some of my friends have, it took them six to eight months, because they first find a job and then the rest of it can be quite quick. But the most difficult thing I think is to actually find that job. I know it’s easy for you. And actually, for me who followed in your footsteps, upon your advice working for the same corporate, which is called Q and M, we can we can discuss that a bit bit more later. But I think nowadays what we’re gonna focus a little bit on that later. But it’s it has changed a bit. And we can give some advice based on that. But the take home message is you need to find someone who’s willing to take you on first. [Surinder]
Absolutely. I completely agree with that, Jaz. I know people that have come out here, and they’ve really struggled and there’s also the financial aspects as well. And if it when you were a little bit younger, I mean, I didn’t really look at this in too much detail. But you need to have your finances a little bit in place, particularly if you’re going to sustain yourself for a few months. So having a job. The good thing is everything’s online. So you can get information online quite easily now with the job list. And you can contact people, the only thing that I would say is when I got here, I found it easier meeting other people in different corporates, and different with different job opportunities in different offers. So I think there is something to be said for being on the ground. It just depends how you work and how you want to roll with it. [Jaz]
Yep. And I think the other thing is just to anyone who’s thinking of moving out to Asia or Singapore, and you’re doing all this sort of emailing to and fro remotely. It’s a good idea to actually visit the country right and actually get it you know, there are plenty of things which might shock you like English is the main language, a lot of people say “How was the language barrier?” You know, it’s really humid. When I started this call with you, I was like, is it raining and you’re like, “No, it’s the fan”. It was one of those things that you actually get a feel, is this country right for you? And if you’ve got children into learn about the education, lifestyle, expenses, so why don’t we just dealt right in so when you when you start working the number one question I get, believe it or not, I suppose it’s really important is what’s the income like? [Surinder]
Oh, yeah, this is the question that everybody asks and you know, we have a lot of thing, but “Oh, shall we ask, shall we?” Really important, it has to be known, it has to be discussed, there’s a massive range. And it really does depend as you’ve experienced, where you’re working, the amount of patients that you’re seeing, the type of company that you’re working for if you are working for a company. And I would say that in seeing dollars, anywhere between six to 20k a month. [Jaz]
I think that’s a really good range is a huge [Surinder]
That’s a massive range. And it can be even more if you carry out complex treatment. Your fee split with a company can be between 35 to 55%. That’s also something to consider. Yeah, there’s a massive range there. [Jaz]
So Surinder, I mean I was on when I was with the corporate I was on 45%. And you know, to get 45% here in private practice is really a thing of the past, you wouldn’t get that. And the other beneficial thing about Singapore is the tax is so low. [Surinder]
So low 15% max like you’re looking low. [Jaz]
Max, I mean, I remember paying it off in one go. And I was like, this is amazing. I was literally smiling, paying my tax bill, whereas here, I’m dreading it. Although, you may sometimes think, ‘oh, the Sing dollar is weaker than the pound.’ But you have to also factor in massively the tax advantage. So is very low in tax. So the range you gave there of six to 20k. I completely agree with that. And if you’re someone who’s doing lots of implants, which are partially, you know, the surgery aspect of the implants, you do have some insurance in Singapore, you know, forget what it was called, what’s it called? [Surinder]
So with DPL you basically upgrade your insurance to it. [Jaz]
With the DPL, which is, by the way, the indemnity as much as well, I meant a patient’s when they have a surgical procedure, ie wisdom tooth removal, or medicine, everyone has like a bank of money that they’ve been saving up towards which they can then offset against the cost of surgery. So it’s as if they’re not paying. [Surinder]
They are paying, but it doesn’t feel like it’s hot, you know, [Jaz]
they don’t feel like they want to use their medicine. [Surinder]
So it’s basically permanent residents, or people that are citizens of Singapore, they’re paying to a part every month that comes out their salary, where they make a payment, and they say this up over time. And that can be used towards housing, it can be used on care, on health care, and they can use that for surgical procedures, as we said, just need and also implant surgery and various other things. [Jaz]
So there’s that aspect. And the funny thing was in Singapore, is that wisdom teeth removal is so routine, right? In primary care. And I think one of the reasons is, every country, every system, even here pre and post 2006 of the contract, is that the way you get remunerated does impact the way you do dentistry. I mean, I think we just have to accept that firstly, right? [Surinder]
I think we do have to accept that to a degree. And I think that, you know, every dentist has their own clinical judgment. So when you come here, as a dentist from the UK, your mindset is very different. It’s very, very different. But you can you can maintain that. I mean, a very early on, I think was Raj Ratan said to us on our kind of Dental foundation year, your standards will drop without you even realizing and this is something that we go through going from a young dentist, you go out in the world and you kind of realize, oh my gosh, like things are a little bit different, however, can maintain our standards as we go along, you know, even though the system dictates one thing or the other. But what I have seen here in comparison to the UK is that wisdom tooth removal is a lot more common, a lot. [Jaz]
Well, there we are, we’ve got the nice guidelines here whereas the guidelines that they seem to follow in Singapore is that the only time they don’t remove wisdom teeth in Singapore is that if they’re congenitally absent is the feeling that I got really, is that you literally have to be born without any wisdom teeth for them not to remove it that’s how I felt, you know, with all the dentists around me, but you know, with people were coming in pericoronitis and they want their wisdom teeth out, it was a real opportunity for me and I took it, I bought a surgical NSK 45 degree contra angle handpiece and I did it I went for it and I was I really gained a lot more confidence out there in surgery, in wisdom tooth removal and I think sometimes you just have to put yourself outside your comfort zone a little bit. I mean, I did have some DCT, two, so Oral Surgery experience, but she use it out there. So if you’re good at surgery, if you can do implants, if you can do orthodontics, these are all, obviously quite lucrative areas, I suppose. And that’s what would push you up higher. But all of that depends on getting a good patient flow. My wife was working in quite a quiet area of Singapore, and that her income was more in the lower end, I was in a busier clinic. But the type of dentistry I found that I was doing was pretty much I think, if I was to describe it to be like, fee per item NHS, what do you think about that? [Surinder]
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, there’s a massive range. I’ve worked, I think, for three different corporate companies here, and around 15 different clinics, and they’ve been in all sorts of different areas. So in the centre of Singapore, you’ve got the central business district, the CBD, and then towards the outer areas, you’ve got the heartlands. Now, heartland dentistry, you have a lot more local people. And in the center, you have people working in the banks and in the city, the demographics are completely different. And it’s a fee per item system. So if you’re working in private practice, you will have be faced with that, which is again, different to the NHS. The other thing is there a kind of government subsidies called CHASS, the community health assistance scene scheme. People can be subsidized with that if their household earnings are under a certain range. But yeah, it’s interesting. Some patients I mean, particularly in the heartland, they’re in pain, they were not sorted, you’ll go in there and you’ll be like, “Oh, my goodness, when was last time you see over dentist many years ago”, and there’s caries everywhere. They don’t want to touch it. Other areas and it’s more prevention. And you kind of doing the scaling and polishing other areas, people have lost teeth, they want to do treatment, other areas, they want a static treatment. It really there’s a big variation. [Jaz]
This is Singapore’s, I think, the second most densely populated country in the world in terms of population density. And working in two or three different clinics out there. And just like you said, I think the demographics really, really can massively influence the type of work you’re doing. I mean, I was doing loads of dentures and looking but talking that in the heartlands where I was working, and I was doing lots of extraction. So it felt to me like fee per item NHS, that’s why I was saying, it didn’t feel like it, you know, I was in private practice, but it wasn’t fancy. Whereas when I was working in a few other areas, there that sort of dry for aesthetic, you know, people would clean them out. And active work was more, but I think if you’re going to be going in thinking, Okay, so your private practice can be really fancy. There’s no disease out there, then you’re definitely wrong. There’s a plenty of disease out there. [Surinder]
There’s a lot. It’s just what the system is here. So you do have hospitals here as well. So you have hospital dentistry, you also have polyclinics. So there’s smaller clinics that patients can go for treatment, and you have the Health Promotion Board. So there are other salaried kind of areas that you can work in. But it’s not like what you would think in your head as a UK dentist, private dentistry is not that kind of mindset. It’s very different. The reality is very different to that. And I mean, like the population is like 5.6 million, I believe. And, you know, we’ve got about 2000 and two thousand and a half dentists, where and there’s a demand, there’s a need for dentists here, there is actually a demand at the moment. So that’s something that the government are working on. And I think the intake at the university here has increased to try and meet that demand. [Jaz]
Brilliant. Well, that’s one of the things that I read about before moving to Singapore. But let’s talk about the current realities, as I understand them. So if you’re someone now looking to find a job, okay, am I right in saying that it’s much more difficult to when you or I were applying for a job? As a foreign grad, be in whether you’re from the USA, UK, wherever. [Surinder]
So as a foreign graduate, so you can be from Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, USA, Canada and UK. If you’re not from those countries, you probably need to sit in examination to get in and practice here. But it’s changed a lot. Some of the main issues are the conditional registration. So when you come here, as a dentist from overseas, you need to be kind of supervised. So you have a supervisor in practice. Now previously, the supervisor only had to be the number what so one supervisor later on, they’ve changed it to two and I think this was since when you were here, Jaz, actually 2017. [Jaz]
I have a last few intakes or the last intake whereby, the culprits were like, Okay, come on over. I mean, I found a dead easy shot. But after that, I’ve seen a big change and people were jobless for quite a few months, and I think I really want to send that message to the listeners. Because if you just think is going to be really easy getting the job. There are lots of barriers. And the main barrier is your unconditional registration. So there are limits to you being able to practice alone and whatnot, and therefore you need a supervisor. And a supervisor, I suppose, is like having a df one trainer in the sense that your DF one or VT trainer has to always be there technically, whether or not they’re actually mentoring you or not is a complete different story. I mean, that’s not exactly what it’s designed for, is someone just to tell the Singapore dental council that you’re safe, and that you are able to practice safely. But this is the issue because a lot of the surgeries in Singapore are single handed? [Surinder]
Yeah, for sure. So I think this is one of the problems is that a lot of the companies here are a little bit more reluctant to take on conditional registrants because they don’t have the capacity to provide supervisors. And the Singapore Dental Council has actually said we need it. We’re going to be inspecting, we’re going around, and we’re monitoring this. So when you and I applied Jaz, it’s a completely different story. Now, I’ve spoken to a lot of people that have come over here, similar conversations like this, and they’ve struggled to find work, whereas for me, it was Google. For you, it was yet applied to this company. And it’s not quite like that anymore. [Jaz]
Yeah. And are you fully registered there? [Surinder]
I’m fully registered. So it takes two years. [Jaz]
It supposed to take two years, but I’ve heard from some colleagues, we get some rejections. It can take up to three years, maybe more, and you get some rejection and whatever reason, so be prepared. [Surinder]
You need to be working more than 30 hours a week and your supervisors need to submit the relevant documentation to the SDC. They’re kind of check everything. I was really lucky. And I got it first time. So I literally sent in my application, they okayed it straight away. I know people that have had to redo six months, 12 months, even longer to get their fully full registration with the SDC. So it does vary. [Jaz]
Brilliant. Thanks so much for clarifying that. Okay, the next thing I want to ask you about is another question I get is GDC registered dentist. When they come to Singapore, and let’s say to start working there, should they continue to pay their GDC subscription? [Surinder]
That’s a great question. So I’ve paid 890 pounds for the last four years. And I kind of feel that it’s a little bit like dead money, like it’s not really going anywhere. I would say that if it’s a short term move, absolutely, just pay it like what I’ve heard, and this is completely hearsay, that it’s quite tricky to get back on the registry, it can be difficult, whatever. I don’t know if there’s any truth in this. I know people that have come from Singapore have come off the register, have kind of got all their CPD together, submitted it, and they’ve got back on. It’s been a laborious process. But they’ve managed to do it. So if you’re okay with waiting, and you’ve got all your documentation, particularly with that enhanced, then maybe come off it. For me, I’ve got one day left to pay it and I’m seriously debating “Am I coming back?” [Jaz]
You haven’t pay it yet? [Surinder]
I haven’t. I’ve got one more day, I’m going to call them tomorrow to see like, you know, I’ve emailed them, they haven’t got back to me. So, but it sends off many jars. [Jaz]
It’s a big talking point. And me and my wife, we paid it because we came to Singapore. I think my wife came with a short term outlook. I came with a long term outlook. I think it depends on your personality type. Are you a risk taker or not? [Surinder]
I mean, I don’t think it’s going to be too difficult to get back on. As long as you’ve documented all of your CPD, you’ve done it. You’ve got it all kind of together. But yeah, I’m hanging on there. But I’m still not paying for this year. I don’t see myself coming back to the UK anytime soon. And that’s probably the reason, it adds up, it just add up. [Jaz]
Yeah, and my personal recommendation would be that in your first year, just pay it. You never know. Or you might move back and you don’t want the hassle. But if you’re there, and then you are in a situation whereby you’re working for a few years, you then get the full registration from the condition and really don’t think you’re going back then maybe that’s a point whereby you can consider not paying your GDC subscription anymore because you’re pretty much in a flow, you’re settling in that way, is that fair advice? You think? [Surinder]
I think it’s fair, but I know plenty of dentists from the UK here that still pay it and they’ve been here for years and years. So yeah. If I get any more information on this, I’ll send it your way. [Jaz]
Sure. Thank you so much. So what was it like to live in Singapore? Can you give us a flavor of the living cost? So how much you know what’s the housing situation like? schools for kids? If you know that I’m not really sure myself to be honest. What can people who are looking to move to Singapore budget in terms of is it expensive country? Is it quite easy to get by? Any sort of light you can shed on that? [Surinder]
Absolutely. So I’ve been here for four years now and I’ve lived in three or four different areas in different places. The rentals in the city centre obviously more expensive, you’re looking at London prices. So Sing dollars, 3.5k you can go up to ridiculous numbers like 10k. The living situation here is you have condominium, so they’re like flats. So a lot of people live in flats. Then there are these other things called landed properties, which are also known as houses, normal houses that people don’t tend to live in so much here. And you also have walkups. So walk ups are basically walking upstairs into your flats. Benefit of condominium is you’ve got a pool there, you’ve got a gym that is pretty standard. And you can see a two bedder in one of these may be between 3.5k to 5k per month. That’s kind of what you’re looking at. You have three bedders, they can go basically they’re kind of in ranges going up and up. And it depends on what area and city center is cheaper. Go and you go out you get more for your money. So but then you’ll be traveling in. I say traveling in but the kind of longest you go into communities probably about 14 minutes on public transport, most probably, depending on where you’re working. [Jaz]
Sure. And the public transport is amazing in Singapore that MRT, the tube if you like is so clean and efficient. Ubers are cheap. Still. Is that still the case? [Surinder]
No. It was out. It was gone. All this county company policies, but they’re out now. And we’ve got grab, so it’s mainly grab taxi. So it’s cheap, definitely cheaper than the UK but the prices are kind of going higher and higher and higher. That is that kind of vibe at the moment. So yeah, no Uber anymore, Jaz. [Jaz]
Those who are listening, it’s a real shame but those who are listening, and they have no idea about Singapore and they think they’re just gonna rock in, buy a car, you know, just explain. I see probably don’t need a car unless you’ve got a massive family or something. And to buy a car is maybe six to seven times more expensive, let’s say to here. [Surinder]
It’s very expensive to buy a car. And then even when you buy after 10 years, it’s meant to be sent scrap, like the kind of thinking behind it is to try and control the traffic on the road. It’s a very, very small island. But it’s very, very expensive. Some people have cars, I know people here that have cars, they have kids as well. But like you said, Jaz, the public transport needs to really go, the buses and the MRT, the mass rapid transit, really convenient and really easy and they’re basically everywhere. So it’s really easy to get around. And it’s a small island, you’re not really traveling long distances a lot of the time. [Jaz]
Yeah, you can literally do the whole thing. If you go on holiday to Singapore, three days, you’ve done the whole of Singapore. [Surinder]
You can really get around. [Jaz]
Exactly. Which we’ll talk a little bit about how we can make the most of your time in Asia. I mean, you’re wonderful at doing it. It’s traveling the rest of Asia because otherwise if you just stay in Singapore, it can get a little bit boring I suppose, this is tiny island, get Island fever. So, you know, tell us about the traveling adventures that you can have when you’re in the heart of Asia. [Surinder]
Yeah, there are so many I think the first year I came here, this is quite ridiculous. We went overseas about 12 times like it’s absolutely ludicrous. So Changi Airport is really efficient. [Jaz]
My favorite airport in the world. [Surinder]
So efficient. I think I got back. I landed this morning, I got into my bed in an hour. So I did take a grab. But I was straight back in bed. It was awesome. There are loads of places you can travel. Malaysia is literally just up the road. Thailand is an hour and a half away. Philippines, Bali, Hong Kong, Taiwan. Perth is like maybe four hours away. So it’s a really great hub. I would say that if you really want to travel and see Asia, it’s a great place to be situated in, you can make sure you go away for a weekend. So we often go to Phuket for kind of a weekend. There are some places that you can train that. If anybody does CrossFit or is into yoga or exercise or some really lovely beaches in Thailand as well. Malaysia, you can actually drive over that’s an option or get a bus service in Malaysia. [Jaz]
It really is so close to Malaysia, I had nurses who commuted from Malaysia to work every day. [Surinder]
Absolutely. I have that as well. And then literally, I think it’s like one to two hours to get in Singapore, depending on traffic, but they do they commute from there, because it’s cheaper to live there than it is in Singapore. [Jaz]
So it’s really a great travel hub to explore the rest of Asia. So that is brilliant. What else can we talk about to give the listeners a real good insight into moving to Singapore what they need to know. [Surinder]
And so I think that the culture is actually very different when I came here, I’ve never been to Asia, I’d never been to Singapore. I kind of really underestimated the move. I just kind of like yeah, I want to do it. I’m gonna do it and I did it. And it took me a while to settle in, but you kind of have two things. The first thing is that you take all your stuff, your personal issues and everything you take them with you wherever you go. There’s no running away from your own stuff if you’re looking for a better life, you’re still going to have to do the self work wherever you go in the world. The second thing is you will create whatever it is you want to create. So for me when I came here, it was really important for me to plug into communities. So I’ve got involved with the Singapore Dental Association and I got involved with like various other things and activities that I was doing in the UK there’s a really big expatriate community here as well so you will make friends and local community as well really, really awesome it’s a different mentality. British banter wise it’s very different so you need to be prepared that you’re moving to a different country and to really immerse yourself in the culture, different food, different people, different climate. It is very humid here. You will be sweating profusely pretty much all the time unless you’re indoors, it’s like the opposite of the UK, indoors here you’ve got your coat on because of the aircon, outdoors you go out to warm up that’s that’s certainly the case for me and my clinic weather. Fronts at the aircon in the shopping mall like super high. So it’s really interesting. There can be language barriers so if you’re working in the heartland be prepared for that, your nurse will also be able to translate but I do think there’s something to be said to be able to communicate well with your patients from a working perspective [Jaz]
You know when I was there I learned how to say some, i’m sure you do as well, some things in dental related things. So I’m going to test you, Surinder, I’m going to say something Mandarin and let’s see if you sussed out what I’m trying to say. Okay? And for those of you who can understand Mandarin I do apologize for perverting your language. And what I’m going to say is ——- [Jaz]
It’s a root canal treatment in the Mandarin. [Surinder]
Oh wow. So —– have a rinse, Ni hao ma – how are you? [Jaz]
If you say in Bahasa it’s —- That is what it’s all about. So when I was working in the heartlands, my nurses were fluent in Mandarin and Bahasa, which is you know, what they speak in Indonesia and Malaysia. So when you have those generation of patients, which is generally the elderly patients and the other hot tip, Hot Tip we have for those who are thinking of going to Singapore and working there is that the elderly men are called uncles. I remember you taught me that. When I came there, there wasn’t like lesson, Mandarin 101 Uncle and Auntie there’s no need to be apprehensive because this is something that you just pick up when you’re there. [Jaz]
I’ll send you the audio bite for that later. Every time you get every time you get a message, you can make that your message tone as well. So, let’s, let’s talk about the expat community. Because, you know, I think 20% of Singapore’s expats? [Surinder]
Yeah, I believe so. I don’t quote me on that. But yeah. [Jaz]
That’s what I had at the time. And it was really amazing. You know, you can go to some areas, and it just feels like you’re in the UK sometimes. [Surinder]
It really does. But it’s warm. [Jaz]
It’s much much, much nicer and warmer and sweaty. [Surinder]
Yeah, there’s a great community here. I mean, as certain areas are kind of more expat hubs or Holland Village, Tian baru, you’ve got the blend of expats, and you’ve got kind of an elderly population of Singaporeans. But yeah, it’s a really great community, you just need to plug into it. And there are loads of things on social media, loads of groups, expat gatherings, events, there are loads of things you can plug into. [Jaz]
Lots of Americans being present, but also there was loads of American dentist working within our corporate. [Surinder]
I didn’t I didn’t realize that. I knew there were a few but I didn’t know how many but I think actually a quarter of the corporate that you’ve worked for, Jaz, are from overseas. Foreign trained dentist. [Jaz]
That’s right. And loads of them were American which really took me by surprise. So in my cowork about join, you know, those lectures that we’d have as part of it, induction, there was so many American dentists and in here I was thinking you know, and if you’re a American qualified dentist, you’re in such a great place, you’re going to be in the USA, which is the best place well to be a dentist, but here they are, they moved to Singapore. So that was a really interesting to see that. And when you speak to these guys, you actually realize that it’s not as amazing as it might, we might think it is. It’s really is the perception. [Surinder]
Yeah, the grass is greener, it’s perceptions. And everybody also has their own experience of a place like somebody might come here, they’ll be working in the heartlands. They might not like it, like poor patient flow, difficulty with language barriers. But somebody else might be placed somewhere completely different, different social circle and have an amazing time. So there’s that aspect of it as well. [Jaz]
Brilliant, that’s amazing. I think we’ve got lots of good information to help everyone, get gain an insight into what it’s like working in Singapore. What are the next steps for you? I mean, you know, I think our listeners saw how passionate you are, what a good speaker you are. And you know, that’s your certified health coach, sort of hands on, in Singapore, with the SDA magazines, you’re always writing articles, you’re teacher of yoga? [Surinder]
Yeah, I teach Kundalini Yoga, which is pretty awesome. So I’m doing classes at the moment in Singapore, we’re running workshops, and mindfulness and meditation. So that’s pretty cool. It’s kind of like a bit of a side project that’s going on. [Jaz]
That’s really cool. And what are the next steps for you? I mean, do you think you’ll be in Singapore for next year? Or roughly, what do you think? How is your career gonna, and life gonna gonna fare in Asia in terms of what your plans are? [Surinder]
I have got no idea. Something that I’ve really learned from moving is to be open and flexible, I think it’s good to have a rough plan of what’s going on. So I think we may stay here for the next one to two years, and maybe consider another country, we may end up staying longer. It’s a little bit open at the moment. But I have to say, after four years, I’m pretty settled here. And I’m really enjoying it. It’s taken a little bit of time, but it’s a really great place to live. [Jaz]
It really was. It’s Asia light, as they say, it really is very liberal. It’s such a livable country. And I miss it dearly every day. And me and Sam are always sort of recalling experiences from from Singapore. And I know you’re super healthy, super vegan, that sort of stuff. But I really miss chicken rice and the local delight are fantastic, the Hawker centers. And if you don’t know what a Hawker center is, a communal eating areas, it’s that make it sound really bad. But it’s like this, you street food, but it’s dirt cheap. It’s really good. And it got high turnover. So you know that the food is fresh, and they cook it right in front of you. So I really miss having that community feel about Hawker centers? [Surinder]
Yeah, sure. Like, I think in the 1960s, the guys used to carry around the carts and sell them on the streets. And then the government were like, right, we’re stopping there. We’re having you in a place. So you could get Indian food, you could get Chinese food all in the same place, and then just kind of eat together, which is awesome. Because you can get what you want and then eat together in that same area. So yeah, I know there are there are things in Singapore that when I come back to the UK, I’m like, Oh, yeah, this is like, and I realized that become very Asian as well. Like, around the world. I was in Australia recently. I was like, wow, like some of the things that I’m saying like can [Jaz]
It’s singlish. [Surinder]
English language like, so? Can you do this for me? Can. Instead of yes or no. And at first you’re thinking, what does that even mean? This is this stop thinking like that. Great is a brilliant. [Jaz]
Brilliant. That’s one of the things I really miss about is brought back lots of lovely memories speaking to you today. So thank you so much for coming on the show. And I wish you all the best with your amazing ventures in Singapore. And thank you for giving us an insight into what’s like and what the requirements are to work in Singapore. [Surinder]
Absolutely. If anybody has any questions, feel free to email me. I have loads of tips, loads of other information. [Jaz]
What are your I think you’re @dr.surinderaurora on Instagram is that right? [Surinder]
Yep. @dr.surinderaurora on Instagram. You can email me email@example.com, just drop me an email. I’ll get right back to you. [Jaz]
Brilliant. All right. Thank you so much, Surinder, really appreciate it all the best, Surinder and I’m trying to think of —- [Surinder]
It’s telling you you’re coming back. [Jaz]
Hello, hello Chinese. I tell you about the app. Hello Chinese is a great way to learn Mandarin. [Surinder]
I’m going to download that right now.Thank you so much for having me. Thank you.
Jaz’s Outro: So there we have it everyone. Thank you so much to Surimder Auora for giving up her time to record this podcast with me. She was such a great interview guest and she really you know is a great speaker and I think anyone out there who’s into to yoga, into self development, into healthy eating, get in touch with her Instagram is @dr.surinderaurora and she is such a great and lovely person to connect with. As promised, I’m going to be attaching some notes to this podcast which we be able to be found on the blog jaz.dental. I’ll put it under an episode and then you can download the PDF version also see the written version as a reference. So you can have the link to the Singapore Dental Association jobs this that come comes out as well. And for the next episode we’re going to be having speaking with my colleague, Rob, who’s going to be telling us about Australia what’s involved in actually working in Australia. I’ve got Christina who will be helping with me helping us with USA which is something that’s I think everyone has considered but as soon as you find out that there are so many barriers to working in the USA, people kind of switch off so be really interesting having someone who on the show who’s a UK graduate who’s in the transition to perhaps working in the USA, so that’s really awesome as well. Listen, if you’ve enjoyed today’s podcast show or if you’ve gained anything from it, if you found it valuable anyway, please share with your friends, share it on Facebook, subscribe on iTunes, on Spotify, on Google podcasts, and I really look forward to connecting with you again for future episodes. Thanks so much for listening. Have a lovely 2019. Happy New Year.