A German dentist's move to Abu Dhabi pays off in a big way.
Sinking your teeth into a career in the UAE
I have worked as a dentist for 20 years and enjoy what I do; there is so much satisfaction from treating patients and guiding them through the right treatment. I cannot see myself ever changing career fields. About a year and a half ago I left my job, family and life in eastern Germany and came to work in Abu Dhabi, and it turned out to be the most difficult and demanding thing I have ever done.
I felt it was time for a change, so the only question was, where do I go? I chose Abu Dhabi for a number of reasons, not the least of which the chance to earn better money and enjoy the sunshine. After being here for awhile I found that I could really settle down and enjoy the lifestyle. You cannot just go to the beach whenever you want in Germany. Here I take care of my health and lifestyle more. Europeans start work at 7:30 in the morning and don't stop until the evening, it's always work, work, work. Here your view changes. I can take breaks in the day and I close the practice for four hours from midday, and always take the weekend mornings off. It's much healthier than working straight through. So the way I work here is completely different to the way I worked in Germany, I'm maybe at work more, but I'm more relaxed, and where in Europe can I swim outdoors every day?
As soon as I arrived in the UAE I started working for the Government in an Al Ain hospital, but soon after had to leave because I was still registered as self-employed in Germany. It was at this point that I made the choice to stay in Abu Dhabi and set up my own practice. Going at it alone was extremely difficult, but not impossible. To achieve what I did one needs a lot of time, patience and money. There's no doubt that persistence and determination are the most important things. The fact that I truly enjoy what I do helped drive my motivation to succeed. There has been a long, gradual improvement in life here, and as you can imagine it wasn't easy to get over the cultural and language barriers.
It is a lot more difficult opening a business here than in Europe. The policies and rules here can be real hurdles, and are very different than back home. I have had to constantly work with the Municipality to make sure that I was adhering to local rules and regulations, such as hiring the required number of staff for a small business. ) My wage here is better, though, and the health care system isn't as complicated in terms of practising my profession - there are fewer procedural constraints than in Germany. That red tape back home can be an unnecessary barrier to administering treatment to patients. For instance it is not easy to get permission from the government when an operation needs to be done. And, of course, the fact that there is no tax here means that take-home earnings here are a lot better than in Europe.
This higher income, however, hasn't affected my spending habits as you might expect, because I own my 400m sq practice and it, in turn, owns all of my money. Plus, no one else is supporting me. I am focused on my target to expand the dental centre and employ two more dentists, and to open a medical treatment centre. It makes sense to have a medical centre next to my dentistry, as my nursing assistants and administration staff can work in both. It helps to keep down the costs of hiring new staff, and by offering a wider service under the same brand I can take advantage of the the recognition and trust I have already gained with existing patients. Word of mouth and familiarity with my brand should help launch the medical centre.
My advice to those who might consider opening a business here would be to spend a bit of time getting to know Abu Dhabi's laws and procedures. I think that newcomers often either really like it here or emphatically do not; there is no middle ground. Abu Dhabi is definitely a good place to save money, and is a cheaper place to live compared to other emirates, such as Dubai. Rent in Abu Dhabi was cheaper when I moved here, and I benefit from the law prohibiting rent rises above 5 per cent a year. Because of my background and the huge responsibilities I have to my family and the centre, I am a very careful spender. I have two children, one of whom lives in Japan, so I send about 10 per cent of my income to them, and around 80 per cent gets put aside to pay for my practice and to save for future expansion. So, in truth, only about 10 percent of what I earn I keep to spend on myself, which for me is fine - as long as I have enough for occasional shopping trips and self-pampering, I am happy. My husband and I have even managed to purchase three other properties abroad - two in Germany and one in Italy.
For me, money is only important as a means to live, but apart from that it is not important to me at all. Living in this country has taught me that the most important thing in life is to be healthy, and to take care of myself. - As told to Paul Driscoll