The other side of the Kazakhstani postcard


As a tourist in a foreign country, very often, we are enchanted with what we discover.

Living abroad is different. It's a rich experience but there are also some difficulties to face.

When people ask me for advice on living abroad, I then tend to say that one should also look at both sides of the postcard.

As an expat in Kazakhstan, how would you describe the two sides of your Kazakhstani postcard?

Thank you for sharing your experience,


Living here, I would say, on the down side, the inherited Soviet-era bureaucracy is probably the most dispiriting part, given that it affects so much of an expatriate's life here. Round blue stamps, rectangular blue stamps, notarised forms and documents, translated documents, some notarised, some apostilled, some not, correct seal and so on ...

Each city and region will have their own laws that they appear to make up on the spot ... such is the inconsistency of the system, e-Gov says one thing, so you assemble those documents and data, the official at the office you attend says these are not correct and writes out (what they think) is required (which cannot be challenged) ... the visa system is capricious with random (and inexplicable) changes that impact on our ability to live here (the loss of the one year visa being perhaps the most inconvenient and costly, requiring you to leave Kazakhstan every 30 days ... just the airfare alone out from Ust-Kamenogorsk is over $1 000 before cost of hotels in the other country ... it gets draining).

Computer mistakes are never challenged (these are more common than you might think) ...

There are other areas that show there is still a great deal of influence from Russia on the population here, perhaps this may change with younger generations having better command and understanding of languages other than Russian and will be able (and interested and willing) to access other sources of news and information.

I am unable to think of another country (in the first world that Kazakhstan appears to wish to belong to) in which I have lived, that makes it quite so difficult for a foreigner to own a car. I'm unsure quite why this is so ... perhaps yet another hangover from the Soviet-era intended to keep foreigners away from "sensitive" areas ...

There are a number of talented and good expatriates that have been lost to Kazakhstan because they can no longer fight with this system and it drains them, they give up and either return to their country of origin, or find a more welcoming country with more consistent laws and immigration policies.

In a smaller city such as Ust-Kamenogorsk, shortages of what would be regarded as relatively staple food items appear to occur regularly. Tinned tomatoes have not been obtainable for over two months at time of writing (late February 2014), however, from the same company, you can have as many tinned peas and tinned horse as you desire, so for that pasta recipe that calls for two tins of tomatoes, well, just add one tin of peas and one tin of horse ...

On the positive side, the population, by and large, are generally welcoming and tend not to mind so much that you may not have the exact word in Russian or Kazakh for an item, they will generally smile and are glad that you are making an effort to understand their language.

The public transport (buses and trams) in my city (Ust-Kamenogorsk) works reasonably well despite the age of much of the system and the -40C temperatures that occur here during winter. Although the newer buses from China appear to be made only for extremely short people. People taller than about 175cm are unable to sit normally in the seats and must almost sit side-saddle ... the older secondhand Scandinavian buses, despite their age, are better suited to all (and sensibly, are double glazed to deal with the unremitting cold here, unlike the Chinese ones).

A lot of the nature and surrounding regions has great beauty both in summer and winter and is generally reasonably accessible (as long as you have access to a private motor vehicle).

Unlike many, the weather here does not trouble me, I quite like the intense cold in winter (There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing ... an old Scandinavian saying) and being from Australia, have no problems with the heat in summer ...

Ok received e mail from Julien , founder of Ex Pat Blog for Kazakhstan,  asking me how I found my experience of living there, well here it goes, especially to any ex pat wives whos  husbands go there , or thinking of going there.
Its a dangerous place to leave your husband alone , its full of local woman ready to pounce on your man, and men being men , they cant resist even if you think your husband is solid and would not stray word of warning they do , and am talking approx. 95 per cent of them even higher, I lived there and saw it, men I new were married and had there live in girlfriends, then go home to there wives at vacation.  My husband used to say how silly it was of them, UNTILL I had to come home to nurse my mum , for 3 month, and later died, after my return to Kazakhstan , and grieving , there is nothing to do for ex pat wives unless you like craft classes , or coffee morning , I was unwell and had to return home, within weeks my husband was in the club with the rest of them took a lover, that he has now left me for 30 years younger. 
Now please am a very attractive lady , and it happened  to me  . As I new that he was having affair , I decided time to go back, which I was never going to do but put him to the test , and he would not allow me to get invite/visa , whilst he denies it all, strange the lady I suspected , has been on holiday with him many times in the last year and is living with him now.
Well there is my experience of the country , you asked so told you .  Some ex pat wives, as some may read this blog, and may prefer to turn blind eye , but my pride is worth more than the money and the lies that our husbands tell,
Sorry if not painted a good picture of our husbands but cant hide from the truth , as am living the nightmare, but hes not worth me and done me a favour, now looking back

Maybe this one will be helpful

Really sorry to hear about what happened between you and your husband. There are two sides to a coin  and it may not be a suitable matter to be discuss in too much details in an open forum like this.
However, I do understand what you are posting and why. It is a warning to us all, not just WaGs, but also any male working in an oversea location. There are lots of "Temptations" in life every day not just when working overseas. I don't pretend to be an expert, but as someone who has"baggages" and experienced life quite a bit in at least 2 different cultures and upbringings.
I always believe a marriage is a legally recognised "contract" between two people and must not be taken "lightly", but if two people are either drifting apart or breakdown in communications for a long time within any union, it is no longer a "union" of mind or spirit.
However, the point about local "temptations" are there, it all depends on how "strong" the union between the individual and their "partner" are. Also depends on how and where their upbringing and moral compass are pointing to, as "compass" can be distracted by "magnets" nearby.
IMHO - If you are single (Free Agent) good luck and stay safe, if you are in a "relationship" or 'partnership" or "marriage" put your chastity belt on and find something else to keep your wondering mind occupy (like focus on your paid work).