Panfilova Street in Almaty, Kazakhstan
Panfilova Street in Almaty, Kazakhstan
Panfilova Street in Almaty, Kazakhstan

Living in Kazakhstan Guide

Living in Kazakhstan Guide

By Joshua Wood, LPC

Last updated on Feb 13, 2020

Summary: Expats, global nomads and retirees living in Kazakhstan talk about meeting other expats, befriending locals, the local culture, diversity in Kazakhstan, international schools, crime and more.

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People living in Kazakhstan share their experiences making friends, adjusting to the culture, what expat life is like in Kazakhstan, healthcare in Kazakhstan and more.

Meeting People in Kazakhstan

Expats living in Kazakhstan talked about meeting people in Kazakhstan and local clubs and organizations:

"Almaty International Women's Group despite the name it is open to both men and women. They have a guide, lots of activities and meet every Wednesday in the Ankara Intercontinental Hotel, 10.30 to 12.00 Otherwise expat bars Mad Murphy's Dostyk Avenue very well known," said one expat living in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

Expat Life in Kazakhstan

What is it like living in Kazakhstan? Here is what people had to say:

"I belong to the marries group and really don't know any single people here so I can't judge. The married lot socialise with each other, dinner's parties, trips to the mountains and places of interest. There always seems plenty going on. Many of the employed people spend a lot of time travelling within the country, its 2000KM to the capital Astana from Almaty and 3,000 to the Caspian. So they tend to want quiet weekends," said one expat living in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

What Expats Appreciate about Their New Culture

We asked expats in Kazakhstan what they appreciated about their new culture. Here's what they had to say:

"The hot chai and the willingness of the Kazak people to help in different situations," said one expat living in Semey, Kazakhstan.

The Most Challenging Aspects of Living in Kazakhstan

Then, we asked expats in Kazakhstan what was most challenging about their new culture. They replied:

"The language barrier and being one of the few westerners to live in the city . Also, it is difficult to not be able to get a lot of the regular groceries," said one expat living in Semey, Kazakhstan.

Diversity in Kazakhstan

We asked expats about diversity in Kazakhstan and whether locals are accepting of differences. They said:

"It's generally very relaxed. There is no dress code the women in summer wear very revealing clothes. Generally people are smartly dressed only the expats wear shorts in town. I have never seen homosexuals openly walking hand in hand as in Europe so I have the impression this is not tolerated, nor people kissing on the streets, so I assume its not done," said one expat living in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

International Schools in Kazakhstan

"The school is mostly local as the international community has moved to Astana. This is a problem for every 'international' school in Almaty. Quality Schools International system of learning / teaching is something to get used to (mastery education). Creativity is very low among teachers and this shows in art classes, or classes for the elementary children. The budget of the school is never published and the tuition money are not reflected in the quality of the staff or of the school. The school lacks guidance counselor for the elementary school, and this translates in issues being 'solved' through the principal who is not necessarily trained adequately," said one expat whose children attend Almaty International School, QSI (Quality Schools International) in Almaty.

"Be extremely careful to check the qualifications of the teacher teaching your child. Find out how many years of teaching experience in the grade and find out other parents' opinion. The school hires teachers without credentials and without experience. Parents need to join together to insist teachers have at least 5 years experience in the US and another couple of years teaching abroad. Lastly, make sure the teacher has no record of being dismissed from this school or another school for unprofessional behavior," added another expat with kids at QSI Atyrau in Atyrau.

"If your most important thing is that your family stays together while one spouse works in the Kazakhstan oil industry, it's not a bad place. If you come with an upbeat, positive attitude, and look to be part of solutions rather than part of problems, you can do fine here. I have been happy with the quality of education my child has received, and more importantly, my child is happy here," commented one expat when asked about QSI Atyrau in Atyrau.

"I'm pretty satisfied and my child seems to be happy :) It's all about your expectation in education," remarked another expat living in Atyrau with children attending QSI School Atyrau.

"For primary school (elementary school). QSI is fine. Their numbers tend to be high enough for the children to have decent socialization. Class sizes are low when compared to public schools at home, which is nice. The QSI curriculum is good and on par with other American-type programs. I advise workers not to bring teenagers abroad. You are pulling them away from their peer groups during a crucial developmental stage. (Do you really need to move?) If you must, these smaller QSI schools will educate them, but with limited social opportunities. Also, there is little to do in these communities, outside of school. Note: Tuition is high, because numbers are low, and the schools are developing. I was troubled by some comments, so I chose to write this. "Ask for a copy of the school handbook Ask about staff turnover and religious affiliation. " 1. Yes, ask for a copy of the school handbook. All the schools should have one. 2. Staff turnover. This is Kazakhstan, it's considered a hardship posting for most companies. Teachers don't have the monetary incentives that oil companies (and other expat industries) receive. Ask yourself what keeps you here? 3. Religious affiliation? I know that QSI does tend to hire "Christian" teachers. I've known non-religious and Muslim teachers in QSI schools. The religious beliefs of the staff, or ownership is not reflected in the curriculum nor teaching practices in any way different than a teacher in a public school's beliefs would. As for qualifications of locally hired teachers. There is a problem with language ability or locals, because once their ability improves, expat companies tend to hire them away from the schools. Final note: I do believe that the QSI organization takes input from the companies and organizations that pay your children's fees quite seriously," said another expat in Kazakhstan with children at QSI (Astana, Aktau, Atyrau).

"Don't believe this is an International school for a second. Most expats go to the QSI school because it's the best...which is really saying something!. Only a tiny percentage of students are expats. It's really a private school for rich Kazakh families. They run the PYP and MYP programmes but the local staff lack international understanding. Their teaching methods are out of date and the school lacks adequate resources. Fees are paid directly to the board and it's obvious only a small proportion gets passed on for running the school. Thankfully our contract is over shortly and we can get our kids back into a school that values children and not just looking good to the outside world," remarked another parent with kids at Miras Astana International School in Astana.

Cost of Living in Kazakhstan

"The cost of living in Almaty is "Euro light". For example, American groceries and fruits and vegetable out of season can be very expensive. However, there is always an abundance of season produce that is extremely inexpensive. Gas is very cheap. Buying a car can be expensive. Household items, clothing, and public transportation is far less expensive than Western prices. Housing can be expensive closer to downtown, but in the outlying areas of the city, all with excellent public transportation, homes and nice apartments are much more reasonably prices, and well below Western prices," commented one expat living in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

Residency & Visa Requirements

"Kazakhstan requires a visa for foreigners. Work visas can be obtained through employers. Travel visa for Americans are good for 30 days. The visa process can be quite arduous, and many foreigners do a visa run to the border with Kyrgyzstan, which is quick and cheap," commented one expat living in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

Why Foreigners Move to Kazakhstan

When we asked expats in Kazakhstan why expats move there, they replied:

"Foreigners move to Almaty for careers in banking, commerce, oil, and education. The breathtaking mountains and easy access to nature, along with four glorious seasons and many Western conveniences, cultural events, and green spaces make it an ideal city for families," commented one expat living in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

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Join our Kazakhstan Expat Forum

Visit our Kazakhstan Forum and talk with other expats who can offer you insight and tips about living in Kazakhstan.

About the Author

Joshua Wood Joshua Wood, LPC joined Expat Exchange in 2000. Joshua has a BA from Syracuse and a Master's in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Some of Joshua's more popular articles include Pros and Cons of Living in Portugal, 10 Best Places to Live in Ireland and 5 Best Places to Live in Spain. Connect with Joshua on LinkedIn.

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