Do and don't in Kazakhstan

Are you living in Kazakhstan? We need you to share your experience of the local customs :)

Is it difficult to adjust to the local customs in Kazakhstan?

Could you please share with us a list of the do's and don't's in Kazakhstan?


I suggest if you are going to live anywhere in the world you take time to learn local customs and culture.  It is just polite to know these things.  You can start by getting books and reading, but you can also learn by being a good observer and listener.

It didn't take long to realize that the custom here is to remove your shoes at the door before you go any further into someone's home.  Because of this you should also have extra slippers to offer people when they come to your home. 

Hospitality is the cornerstone of life here and you will come to appreciate how warm and hospitable Central Asian people can be.  As such you need to respond in kind.  It is customary to bring a gift if you are invited to someone's home.  It doesn't have to be much but flowers, candy, bread, anything will do.  Be aware that they will bring you a gift when they come to your home. 

Also, don't admire things too much in someone's home, the custom is if you admire or comment on something they will feel compelled to give you that item.  Always be prepared to offer people something to drink and eat when they come to visit.  Have on hand tea, and bread at the very least to entertain guests who drop by.  You must also be aware that you will be offered something when you go to visit and it is impolite not to at least drink one cup of tea and eat a piece of bread.

Try to be aware of your manners.  It is rude in any culture to make fun of someone or make fun of their country or food choices.  It is one things to comment that something is new for you but it is another thing to say that something is awful.  You may not like a food choice but you can always find a nice way of refusing.  Just remember that not everything you find delicious is that way for someone else.

Be open to poke fun at yourself.  Laugh about how you are adjusting to things.  By being able to laugh at yourself people will be very open and accepting of your ability to at least try.  I laugh all the time about silly things I do because I have little to no language skills.  My local friends find that amusing but they also tell me that it is refreshing to find a foreigner who at least tries to fit in.

Learn some of the local language even if you only manage a few words try to learn.  Learn at least how to say; hello, goodbye, how are you, I'm fine, numbers 1-10, thank you, sorry, please.  If you can master just that list you will find yourself on your way to making friends.

Be respectful of religion, and the culture supporting it.  Here in Almaty people are mostly Muslim by culture not by practice.  If in doubt read some good books to learn what that means and how to behave.  One thing to remember is that if a person is a practicing Muslim they will not eat pork so don't offer it. 

Ask permission before taking a photo of someone.  It's just polite to do it.  Be prepared for them to ask you to pay, for some people this may be their only source of income so be sensitive to that.  Also be aware of your own behavior.  Try not to be too loud in public even if those around you are being loud.  If you learn to be sensitive to others you will find that goes a long way in the process of making friends.

In Almaty the custom is to flag down cars as "taxis".  While this is a common practice you need to be careful if you choose this mode of getting around.  Some do's and don'ts are as follows:

Don't wave your hand, rather put out your hand and slowly drop your wrist to indicate you want a ride. 

Don't get in a car that has several people, especially if you are a single woman asking for a ride never get in a car with more than one man already in it.

Don't give permission for the driver to pick up more passengers.

Don't pay until you get to your destination and be firm about the price you negotiated.

Do have exact change on you, as it will help.

These are just a few hints to make using this mode of transportation a little safer.

If you are a man be prepared to shake hands with every man you meet during the day.  However, you only shake hands the first time you meet that particular day.  Be prepared to have men shake hands then touch their heart and nod their head slightly.  If you are a woman be prepared to kiss other women as a greeting.  It is also customary for women to walk down the street holding arms or locking arms.  I have seen men do this too.  It is not common however for men and women to shake hands, so if you are a woman don't extend your hand unless the man does so first.

While you will see an array of fashion and more skin exposed than you'd think for a Muslim country, be prepared to dress conservatively as it will go a long way in making a good impression.

Almaty is still very Soviet in many ways so be prepared to find people in public sometimes acting sort of rude.  People tend to crowd and push their way on to buses or in line, however they will also get up and offer you a seat on the bus if you are older.  Age here matters and in this culture respect must be shown to anyone who is older than you.

Overall, if you are willing to be open to learning you will adapt well anywhere in the world.  I personally find Central Asia a warm and inviting place that can easily become home if you just are open to it.

I would like to agree with what Irai wrote. I think all of that is good advice. I wanted to also highlight the notes about hospitality here in Kazakhstan. Some call Central Asia hospitality guerrilla hospitality because your hosts can be very aggressive about feeding you.

First of all, if someone invites you to their home or even out, chances are you will be eating and drinking. Except for young people who do go hangout at the mall or go to night clubs, people in Kazakhstan a social gathering means food. So the social life means going to cafes or restaurants. Not being hungry, being sick, having already eaten; none of these are excuses not to eat and drink socially. Your hosts will be offended if you do not eat a lot. And no matter how much you wat they will ask you to eat more. If you say no, they will ask a little later or just take your plate and pile more food on it. Don't get frustrated, it's just hospitality for them.

Also, a meal ends with tea. You should never eat and leave before tea is served--and tea means several cups (or bowls) plus fruits, cakes, cookies, nuts. Do not be surprised if you are invited over to someone's house and there is no clear end to the party. It is not uncommon for guests to hang out at their host's house for several hours even though they were invited for lunch or dinner. On the other hand, as in any country, be aware that your hosts may be tired or ready for you to leave. They will never say anything to indicate you should leave though and they will continue to feed you.

This means, as Irai said, that if you invite someone to your house, you should offer them food or at least tea. And if you have a party, make sure you have lots of food for your guests. Western cocktail parties with just hor d'euvres do not go over well here.

Another note: if a meal is held for some kind of celebration--a birthday or a holiday, for example--don't be surprised if there is an MC (tamada in Kazakh) who opens the feast with a short speech and then calls on people (in order of seniority) to give a toast. At formal dinners, everyone is expected to give a toast and to follow the order set by the tamada. Of course, if you don't speak Russian or Kazakh, it is fine to speak in English. If you cannot stay for the whole meal for some reason, do not leave without making a toast. You should announce that you want to make a toast because you have to leave. Then give your speech and say goodbye and go.

A simple universal toast for a holiday would be something like, "Thank you [host] for this wonderful meal. Happy [name of holiday] to everyone. I wish you all happiness, success, good luck and health."

Also at such occasions, do not be surprised if people do not mingle or talk much amongst themselves. In fact often one person will be talking and everyone will be listening. In other words, conversations are held with the whole table and there are few small conversations between 2 or 3 people. So don't be surprised if the whole table turns to listen to you when you speak. Also don't be surprised if your neighbors do not engage you in small talk or if the tamada interrupts to assign the next toast.

In general, Kazakhstany are very kind and understanding people and they will forgive any transgressions by foreigners. They like very much to share their culture with you and help you fit in, so feel free to ask for help if you are confused or feel you have offended someone.

Do not sit on pillows.
Do not put your plate onto a floor, so your dog would have a chance to eat your meal too.
Do not look people into eyes too much. Looking people into eyes here does not mean you are being honest. It means you are being somewhat agressive.

I would say KZ is less conservative than Russia in general.

Do not leave you cellphones and stuff unattended, it might dissapear (happened to me in Astana). Kazakhstan has lots of immigrants from Uzbekistan, Kyrgystan, Tajikistan, etc. They are responsible for the most crime here.

But do not get upset with KZ people being rude in business or service, they are good inside. They do indeed posess good human qualities like honesty, integrity, kindness, etc. They just do not express it on their faces 24/7. The life has been tough to many of them.

What are the customs surrounding affection in public places?
For example, if a foreigner were to come over to Kazakhstan with his fiancee, would it be taboo for them to kiss in public, or would that be fine?
Also, rings. Do the people there frown upon engagement rings?
I've been to Egypt, and I do know that there it is considered acceptable for two male friends to hold hands walking down the streets. Would this hold true for siblings in Kazakhstan?

It depends what you mean by kiss in public. I have KAzakh fiancé and we only give each other a peck on the cheek in public. It is ok to hold hands when walking around and there is no problem with the wearing of engagement rings

However if you are talking about holding hands with another man that, in my opinion would not be acceptable

On the down side of customs, if you are dark skinned, be prepared for all kinds of interesting encounters. People laughing at you from cars, calling out at you from across the street, asking you for photos, making very uneduacated assumptions about your ability to handle cold, always thinking you are from Africa, staring at you, smiling at you, asking you if you box and like mixed martial arts.

Seem like a an interesting place to live in 😊


Hello and welcome !

it might be indeed ! Are you looking to move there ?