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Horse riding, tea culture and the weather: what else surprised and attracted foreigners to Kazakhstan


Horse riding, tea culture and the weather: what else surprised and attracted foreigners to Kazakhstan

Jonathan Bailey, hometown — Wrexham, teacher at Haileybury Astana School, @jonathan_m_bailey

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I have not lived in Wales, the UK, since Isince I left for Birmingham University over 20 years ago. During this time I been fortunate to travel to several countries around the world plus work, on two separate occasions, in Cairo, UK, New York, and Australia. I am living and working in Nur-Sultan, with my partner Jessica, where we both work at Haileybury Astana School. Kazakhstan has been home for only two months since we arrived at the end of August.

The appeal of working in this exciting Central Asia country was alluring. Kazakhstan, although in theory a new country, is steeped with history. I have previously read novels regarding the crusades of the Knights Templar and I am currently reading the Silk Road by Peter Frankopan and the scenes described I can now see for myself.

About first impression

I have not been disappointed with all that Nur-Sultan has to presently offer, it is a fabulous city. I have noticed since moving here from Cairo is the city feels so open and green. I have enjoyed the walks around the city, there are some wonderful examples of great modern architecture, and the Baiterek Tower looks very impressive. I am making the most of this opportunity of being able to walk around but I am also excited by the prospect of the snow and being able to skate on the River Ishim. I have also visited Balqaragai and been able to go quad biking and paintballing; I am enjoying the outside experiences.

About difficulties

Relocating whilst having to contend with recent regulations, the borders closing and flights being cancelled, was going to be a challenge for all. Yet I am very thankful for the Haileybury Astana’s HR department and the staff at Air Astana for being very welcoming, responsive and extremely helpful. Since arriving the biggest difficulty I have faced is trying to improve both my Kazakh and Russian, and I may need to be more active in my approach than just using Google Translate.

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About differences

I have moved from a very busy and densely populated Cairo so I have been impressed with all the openness and wide streets and how blue and beautiful the sky is in the morning and also the fabulous colours of the sunsets in the evenings. The city is so clean and, for a capital city, very quiet.

About similarities

I feel the culture of both countries, Wales and Kazakhstan, are underpinned with family values and community driven; I am content and comfortable and have been made to feel very welcome by all people I have met. The values to care and support one another is deeply rooted in both countries, and so is the sense of national pride in community and country.

About people

The Kazakh families I have met both inside, and outside, of School have been delightful. I am hoping when restrictions are lifted that there will be more opportunities to foster these relationships and begin to fully embrace the culture of this great country.

What I like there

I have started horse riding and the lure of riding across the Eurasian Steppe has an amazing appeal. The vast flatness of the Steppe with its wild horses and panoramic views is definitely on my bucket list. I am also looking forward to being involved in some of the local games, although I am not sure my riding is up to the Kazakh standard yet. I am also eagerly waiting for the opportunity to go skiing in Shymbulak, and trout fishing at Lake Kaindy in the Tien Shan Mountains.

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Interesting story

I have recently purchased a coat. I felt like I was on the Game of Thrones TV show with all people telling me “Winter is coming!”. This was a new type of shopping experience I, instead of looking at style, was looking at its qualities for keeping me warm; there are not many cities in the world where I have to look for coats that are suitable for -30C conditions. A favourite highlight has been the banya; this was an experience I have never heard of previously and one I reported quickly to my friends. I went with a few colleagues and am looking forward to this again during the depths of winter.

Daniel Ivory, hometown — Norwich, special effects and firework technician, @pyro_ivory

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I have lived in Kazakhstan two short times. One time I lived in Astana and was working for EXPO-2017. And then this year I am with my family were in Taraz, my wife's hometown, for three months then came back to Astana. I was there for one month. Right now I am in UAE.

About first impression

I like Kazakhstan but also found a fair bit of abuse the first time as I was a Brit seeing a Kazakh girl and the Kazakh boys did not like. This last visit mostly very nice people I met.

About difficulties

We have found that even though we are married with UK wedding certificate, I can not stay longer then three months with my family. Also we can not registered our marriage in Kazakhstan for some reason so my wife can not officially change her last name. Which is very upsetting for us. So the marriage and visa problems for me.

About similarities

Tea. My father in law says us Brits are the gods of tea drinking. I have to say you Kazakhs drink more tea then us Brits. We would never have a tea pot and a kettle of hot water of the table with every meal. Other then tea lots of different stuff not much the same really from my limited view point.

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About people

Kazakhs have a lot of tradition they keep too. Especially with the older generation, which is good and bad. Good in the way it keeps the old ways going. Bad as they have no interest in the new ways. The family gathering and parties are a bit overboard to me also. It seems to be the way though. Filling a table with so much food so when guests arrive they see so much. I was surprised to find out this was only a first course too.

What I like there

The landscape is beautiful that I have seen. I love the mountains and winter there. I like that draft beer sold in bottles.

I love the Kaspi banking system.

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Interesting story

We started a pizza store in Taraz. We built our own wood oven. We went round different restaurant to see what there pizza was like and was very happy as we knew our pizza was on a different level. We started selling good for first week, then dropped off. We took to a restaurant owner who said as we thought it was best pizza he had tried. And we started to look at opening a restaurant together. This are all failed. We where told that our pizza was wrong. This was because people where used to the bland boating USA style pizza not the traditional Italian pizza. So we had to stop as we founded this with what savings we had and I could not work official in Kazakhstan.

Christopher de la Cruz, teacher at Galaxy International School, @kristoferdelacruz

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I lived in Kazakhstan for three years. I came for work and to further my understanding on different cultures and traditions.

About first impression

My first impression was that its a developing country.

About difficulties

The language is the main difficulty that I faced apart from that no major issues or adjustments that I faced.

About differences

While being in Kazakhstan, I missed the large bodies of water in my country and of course the warm tropical weather. The nature and the climate is the main differences.

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About people

I like the deep respect to parents and familial association which I believe are common from us. The Kazakh people as far as my experience are very kind and I find them cheerful when you got to know them.

What I like there

The colors of autumn and the vibrancy of spring, the chilly winter as well. I am from a tropical country and also I worked and lived in the Middle East thus the seasons and its changing is a nice experience for me. Visiting Nur-Sultan is also very memorable. It is more friendly and warm so you can feel the freshness and vibrancy of the new city. Honestly every minute that I spent in Kazakhstan was memorable.

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