Survey of Expats About Life in Kazakhstan
Kazakhnomad has yet another interesting series of posts up on a survey she did of expats living in Kazakhstan. If you start from that post and go forward in time, you’ll be able to see all the questions and results.
I thought it might be fun to answer the questions myself as well, or at least the ones that she put up on her blog. I can really only give my impressions of life in Astana because this is the only part of Kazakhstan I have ever really lived in. I’ve also linked the questions to the post where Kazakhnomad talks about her results.
What is the most common question asked of you by Kazakhs?
Are you married? Is your family here or in the US? Are you a volunteer or do you work for the Embassy? Are you parents still alive? Is it cold in the US like in Astana?
Kazakhstan can be a challenging place to live, even for the locals, what bothers you as a foreigner the most?
The brusqueness of people on the street and lack of common courtesy, lack of customer service, things break all the time and fixing them is difficult, the cold weather, the constant changing as stores close or move to new locations, company and government policies change constantly so you never know what is going on.
What is the most onerous thing about living in Kazakhstan?
1. disparity of income in cities of KZ compared to the rural areas
Bothers me, but doesn’t affect me. What bothers me more is the lack of attention to the poor quality of life outside Astana and Almaty.
2. old Soviet era methods of doing things
Very much so. Bureacracy is king and filling out pieces of paper is the national sport.
3. politics in this new “democracy” with residual nepotism
Again, doesn’t affect me directly, but bothers me.
4. traffic gridlock and cars getting too close to pedestrians
As a driver, I can say that the gridlock isn’t too bad–although the fact that it is constant and unpredictable is awful. The psychotic drivers are a real problem. And the psychotic parkers, c.f. lack of common courtesy.
5. air pollution or cold weather or both
6. police and their wand wave for trumped up fines to drivers
It’s not the trumped up fines. It’s the fact that they take away your license or impound your car for any violation. And they make you wait while the tow truck comes. No matter how cold it is. Then they try to chat with you as if you are friends. “So how do you like Kazakhstan? Have you tried beshbarmak?” Sir, you are towing my car to God knows where because it was dirty, I don’t want to talk to you.
7. laws that are too complex to understand about visas and work permits
More the constant changing of the laws and the fact that no one ever gives you clear and complete instructions. They tell you you need document A, then when you bring that, they tell you that you also need document B, then when you bring A and B, you find out you need a physical from the hospital, so you bring that but you find out that you went to the wrong hospital. Etcetera.
8. feeling cheated or feeling like you are not wanted in Kazakhstan
Feeling cheated, definitely. It seems to me the mentality here to suck the marrow out of workers by piling more and more work on them without increasing their salaries or any kind of benefits.
What is the most precious memory you have had when dining in a Kazakh friend’s home? If it hasn’t happened yet, just wait, it will.
Being served sheep ear and a huge hunk of fat, like 1/4 pound of fat, and being told these were the most precious pieces of meat and a great honor. Realizing I would have to eat them and like it. It was really sweet of them to honor me in that way, and it wasn’t the worst thing I have ever eaten in my life. After a few bites, they figured out I wasn’t really enjoying the fat and I got some meat to mix it up with, which was nice.
Kazakh people are known for their generosity, peacefulness and hospitality. T or F
They are known for it, but generosity and hospitality only extends to family and friends and superiors (bosses, celebrities, the rich or the powerful). To strangers, the Kazakh people (like all former Soviet people) are very brusque or even rude.
Kazakh people are known for their hypersensitivity and holding grudges. T or F
Only when it comes to Borat.
How much does it bother you when you go home from Kazakhstan to your friends and family and they ask you “How is life in Russia?
That rarely happens. It bothers me more when I talk to my bank or a customer service center and they ask me what state Kazakhstan is in, or why I can’t come to a branch store to deal with my problem. You’d think the computer would tell them where Kazakhstan is, if they don’t know it’s a foreign country. That being said, can the world decide if they think Kazakhstan is part of the European zone, the Middle East zone, or Asia?
How do you think we, as foreigners living in Kazakhstan, can help create a better image about this great land of Kazakhstan?
I don’t think we have a responsibility to do so, but writing and telling the truth about life here is probably the best way. That means the good and the bad. The problem with the campaign to have foreigners only write good things about Kazakhstan (i.e. these paid advertisements written by foreign journalists) is that no one believes them. The truth is usually a mixture of good and bad.
Do you think this upcoming O.S.C.E. conference in Astana (Dec. 1-2) will make a difference for Kazakhstan?
I have the benefit of hindsight, but no. The OSCE is not popularly known in the world, the summit didn’t make international news and most places that have declarations named after them are not famous for that. Have you ever heard of anyone going to Geneva to see the place where the Convention was signed?
And of course the way international news travels, Kazakhstan gets international press attention even when it isn’t hosting a summit. So the OSCE summit may have some positive effect but if there is a scandal tomorrow, that will get attention too.
Do you believe that Kazakhstan will reach its goal to be one of the top 50 countries by the year 2030?
Well, it was 51st the year they announced this goal, 2005. The next year, it went down to 56th place. It was 67th last year and now it’s 72nd. So the trend appears to be downwards not upwards. But by 2030, I think it is possible. Reduce the bureaucracy and the corruption, make laws and policies from the point of view of the users (i.e. citizens and businesses), and start really innovating instead of just copying ideas from the West and Russia. The people of Kazakhstan are well educated, intelligent, persistent, and hard working.
So what do my expat readers think? Any answers to these questions?