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Kazakhs in Paris. Madina Mahmut on how to live and work in France for 10 years


Kazakhs in Paris. Madina Mahmut on how to live and work in France for 10 years

Madina Mahmut, 32 years old, hometown — Semey, manager, @ahmutodi


Almaty — Paris

I was born near Semey, in Shulbinsk Village, but grew up in Almaty where I studied at the Linguistic Gymnasium and took lessons of piano and violin at a local music school.

I graduated from school as an external student — earlier a year and then graduated from Mathematics Faculty of the Kazakh State University, with specialisation in IT Systems in Business.

Then, unexpectedly, I passed an interview and started working as a flight attendant in Air Astana Aviation Company. I was trained in Frankfurt, and then for almost two years I had been performing flights to local and international destinations.

While working there, me and my friends had an occasion to visit an exhibition in Almaty dedicated to education abroad. I liked the idea of getting a master's degree in France, because I learned French at school.

I arrived to France to continue my education in Informatics

I arrived to France to continue my education in Informatics, and I entered the university to get a degree in Master of Business Informatics. And now it’s been 10 years that I live here.


First difficulties and impressions

Despite that I travelled a lot while I was a flight attendant, I had never been to France before moving here.

I immediately fell in love with this country. I liked the mild climate, sunny weather, the beauties of Paris and ancient architecture.

To mention the difficulties that I’ve met, I had to deal with a lot of paper chase. In France they use postal service for most of their official procedures, even to create a student's transport card or medical card. But luckily everything works great and even after a long wait, you will get the answer.

I was pleasantly surprised by the level of education at the University. We did not have redundant courses just to complete hours of studying — all the courses were essential and very useful.

Computer classes were equipped with software and hardware of high quality.


I liked that people here were very gentle, amiable and friendly. French people have a special loyalty to foreigners, at least in Paris and its environs. People here are open to other cultures, and Kazakhstan is an exotic country for them, which they pose a lot of questions about.

French people have a special loyalty to foreigners

About French lifestyle

I don’t think that you can compare the way of life in France and Kazakhstan. Each place has its own charm and also disadvantages.

French people love to fight for someone’s rights – their rights, your rights, and the rights of minorities and foreigners.

I respect it a lot.

French people can flirt anytime. I think it’s an opportunity for them to have fun and break the routine.


To talk about the disadvantages that I’ve met, I can mention excessive feminism. But I think if I had grown up in France, I wouldn’t have noticed that.

For a long time French women have been fighting for their emancipation, and they had "won" — men here won’t think about giving a seat to a woman, and they will never talk about her weakness.

About work in Paris

After a graduation it took me some time to find my first job here, but luckily I’ve found exactly what I wanted — management of IT projects. My level of French language wasn’t professional even after graduating local university. I improved it when I started working.

I managed different types of projects, mostly implementation of Electronic Document Management System and dematerialization projects.

I had to manage several projects from A to Z at the same time: I wrote preliminary technical description of the future solution, contacted software and hardware suppliers, had to approve the details of the solution with clients, managed a team of developers, managed the budget and execution planning, and finally wrote tests for the delivered solution and launched projects.

I worked there for three years and then decided to try to work as an IT consultant. It’s when some company outsources some of its functions, and then another company proposes their personnel (consultants) to do it.

I worked in one bank on implementation of insurance documents acquisition chain, and after that I worked on a platform of online consumer loans in another bank.


I recently quit my consulting job to get additional education and do something more interesting and relevant to me.

I took a course of mobile app design and several other courses in different fields. Now I would love to pursue my work in this direction, and manage projects of creating mobile applications.

About working culture in France

It was interesting and challenging for me to adopt another working culture. Although I spoke French, my mind-set was still Russian - a little bit too straight-lined.

Emails that I wrote were too "direct” for French people. In my emails I usually started by greeting my interlocutor, then I got straight to the purpose of my letter or a request and then said goodbye right away.

In France they have completely different style of email exchange. In their emails, they would sincerely and politely greet you, express their respect to you, then they would ask you how have you been since the last time you’ve met, after that they would express the hope that everything is fine for you, they would tell you that they are also doing well, they can even talk a little bit about the weather. And after a few paragraphs, they would get to the purpose of the letter, but they would talk about it quickly, like if it wasn’t something that important. And finally they would say goodbye very politely and express their respect few more times. Eventually, I got used to adopt the same way of email exchanging.

The thing that tired me a lot in local working culture – are the meetings. Despite the fact that discussion plan was always prepared in advance, everyone wanted to express their opinion at the meeting. This could have been some abstract opinion, not very close to the subject of the meeting, but it didn’t matter because everyone wanted to philosophize on a given topic.


How the city has changed her

I think moving to France have changed me a lot. I can’t tell if it’s a good or bad thing. Every year I go to Kazakhstan to see my family. But I know that now I am not a 100% Kazakh in my mind-set and that it would be difficult to me to live there. But I am not French neither, some of my views are more Eastern than European.

I cannot say that I will live in France my all life. There are many other places that I would like to try. The idea of changing activities and the country of residence is very appealing to me, and this is what I would love to pursue.

And wherever I would be living, when I will have my own children, I will teach them the Kazakh language.

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