Expats moving to Kazakhstan will encounter an ethnically and geographically diverse country with vast fossil fuel and mineral resources that is just beginning to make its mark on the world economic stage.
Kazakhstan is one of the world’s top oil producers and the biggest producer of uranium. Foreign companies and international banks also have branches in Kazakhstan. And the country’s entry into the world economic stage has opened up lucrative employment opportunities for expats teaching English.
Expats usually relocate to either Almaty (the former capital) or to Astana (the current capital). Almaty is the country’s largest city and situated in the fertile, mountainous south, with a skyline that's a blend of the old Soviet and pre-Soviet era. Astana is across the windswept central steppe in the north, and by contrast, is characterised by new, modern buildings and rapid growth.
Relocating to Kazakhstan isn’t for everyone. The vast, empty steppe and lack of historical sites and attractions puts some visitors off, while others are drawn to the exceptionally beautiful landscape. As the largest landlocked country in the world, its sheer size could come as a shock to expats from Western Europe. Although buses and trains connect cities, travelling times can be long.
Expats moving to Kazakhstan from milder climes should prepare for the surprising variation in temperatures, with long, freezing winters and short, hot summers.
There are both public and private clinics and hospitals, and both are cheaper than in the USA. While medical facilities and staff in the cities are fairly good, the quality of healthcare in rural areas is likely to be far behind Western standards.
For expats moving to Kazakhstan with family, the country has a good education system with free compulsory education until the end of high school. There are also a handful of private international schools in Almaty and Astana.
While expats in Kazakhstan will have to contend with many cultural differences, the Kazakhstani people are known for their hospitality and warmth, which can go a long way towards easing the adjustment period.
Ultimately, while expat life in Kazakhstan is not for the faint of heart, those who approach it with an open mind are bound to have a rich and rewarding expat experience.