Dental surgeon Gloria Kong Sing Huey has been living in Singapore for 16 years. Although she has adapted herself quite well into the work culture and life of Singapore, she still very much has the plan of coming back to Malaysia and start her career here within the next five years.
Kong studied at a Chinese primary school in Kluang, Johor. She proceeded to a national school. Like her father and grandfather, she had always dreamt of becoming a dentist.
She later accepted her aunt's suggestion to take "A" level in Singapore before taking a TOEFL test in order to further her studies overseas.
As she was not brought up in an English-speaking environment, Kong had problem coping with her studies in Singapore initially. At one point she even thought of giving up her dentist ambition to become an air hostess instead.
After graduation, Kong came back to work in Malaysia and later found an opportunity to work at a dental clinic in Singapore, offering her a much broader scope in dental treatments including post-accident dental restoration instead of just orthodontics, implants, scaling, etc.
Compared to private clinics, indeed a hospital environment provides a whole lot more room for Kong to learn. That said, back then Singapore hospitals only hired Singapore citizens.
"If I became a specialist in a hospital, I wouldn't get to learn things like human resource management and business planning."
Kong's husband is a specialist doctor. Although her husband also once had the intention of looking for career prospects in Kuala Lumpur but couldn't get the opportunity there, while Singapore offered much more attractive remunerations.
Today, both Kong and her husband are permanent residents of Singapore.
Kong now has four clinics in Singapore.
She said after working for a dental clinic in Singapore for about five or six years, her boss decided to sell the clinic to a public listed company which later decided to dispose of the business. After much consideration, Kong agreed to take over the clinic operation for S$35,000 to become her first clinic. Unfortunately the company later regretted selling the clinic after seeing its profit growth prospects and alleged that the deal was illegal. The dispute was eventually settled peacefully after much effort.
Having had previous working experience in Malaysia, Kong said the main differences between working in Malaysia and Singapore were that the pace was much slower in Malaysia and the relationship among colleagues was more like family, while Singapore has much tougher rules and restrictions.
"Singapore also encourages private practitioners to acquire sophisticated equipment in its bid to make the island a smart city; whereas in Malaysia, only high-end clinics will have them."
Having lived in Singapore for so many years, Kong nevertheless has no intention of becoming a Singapore citizen because she still has a strong passion for her home country, mainly because of her family here. As for her children, she will leave the decision to them.
After graduating from high school, Show See Ling came to Singapore to work at the age of 19. Two years later, she came back to Malaysia but after working here for only nine months, she went back to Singapore to work in a bank at the introduction of a friend.
When See Ling started working in Singapore in 2007, she made the daily commutes from her home in Johor Bahru. And she continued to do this even after she later worked in a Singapore bank.
However, she decided to rent a room in Singapore during the two years as a stewardess, and continued to make the daily commutes from JB after taking up the job in the bank until she decided much later to take an evening diploma class.
Singapore was not a totally unfamiliar place to her when she first started working there because she had traveled frequently to Singapore with her parents who worked there since she was very young.
She actually felt the "cultural shock" when she was taking up the course in Singapore mainly due to the language because she was relatively crippled in English.
While she still has a strong affinity for her home country, See Ling will continue to work in Singapore mainly because of the favorite exchange rate and purchasing power. Moreover, Singapore is much closer to her JB home than working in KL.
"I have built up my relationships working in Singapore all these years. I will have to start everything from scratch if I were to go back to Malaysia.
"Unless I start my own business. I can't convince myself to come back to work in Malaysia."
While there are many advantages of living in Singapore, there are plenty of other things she couldn't learn from the city-state, such as traditional Chinese cultural values and merits, as well as mutual respect for other people such as abstention from eating in front of Muslims during the Ramadan fasting month.