While I had some insight from my husband before joining him, I did not know what to expect from Astana—Kazakhstan’s capital. Now that I’ve been here two weeks, I have noticed a few things about our apartment, the university, the city, the country, and myself.
- This is an optimistic city! There are new apartments and large buildings being constructed everywhere. The people of Kazakhstan are planning for a bright future and one that is very connected to the rest of the world!
- The city is highly globalized. I can find bath products I use in France (Le Petite Marseilles!!!) as well as various American products – not to mention KFC, Burger King, Hardees, etc.
- It’s my first time being a minority.
- Many of the skyscrapers downtown are unique – each has its own special touch or detail to set it apart from the others in the skyline.
- This is not a place for vegans or animal activists – it’s a cold place and fur is a warm material and it is EVERYWHERE! Also, the diet seems to be primarily beef or chicken and root vegetables.
- The students at Nazarbayev University dress better than most faculty in the U.S. I feel like a slob any time I’m on campus. These kids know how to look good even in winter!
Things that will take some getting used to:
- Having to refill bottles with drinking water – the tap water is too mineral rich.
- Hard water – it makes everything look dirty all the time!
- Not being able to communicate – but hey, I’m working on it!
- The toddlers next door who only have one volume, and that is scream-talking (or today it is just screaming). My solution is to blast jazz or Classical music from our smart TV. It drowns them out quite well.
- The outrageous cost of some basic foods – $10 for one bunch of celery, but a 2 pound bag of potatoes is $0.60…?
- Cooking on an electric cooktop…oh my goodness do I miss my gas range.
Things I really like:
- Seeing my husband every day!
- Our apartment has a supermarket and gym on the main floor and we can get to campus through a skyway meaning I never have to go outside in winter!
- The fruit juice is delicious! So many varieties, not from concentrate, and they don’t start with apple or grape juice bases.
- People embrace the winters and try to make the best of it, similar to people in Minnesota – ice sculptures, outdoor art, a Snow Festival, etc.
- Traveling around town via taxi, Uber, or public transportation is affordable, like a few bucks a ride.
- The cat litter here is out of this world. It does not smell to begin with (no fake added scents) and there is literally no smell after the cat uses it. It’s non-clumping, which means the litter should be completely dumped out, but it’s been two weeks and there is still no smell – it’s like it sends the urine to another dimension, it just disappears!
- The water pressure in my shower – almost on par with a fire hose ( = my ideal).
- Reminders that World Expo 2017 will be held in Astana can be found around the city either through signage or art installations – there is a lot of hype and it is creating a lot of excitement for the big event!
I’m sure as winter subsides and I take in more of the city and continue to interact more with Kazakh people, my opinions and impressions of this place will deepen. For now, overall, I can say that I like living here and think the next few years will be positive ones!