Kazakh people take great pride in their traditions and customs. Exploring and respecting the local culture while visiting Kazakhstan will not only result in better interactions with the local population but will also allow the traveler to experience the Kazakh culture and way of life more authentically — from celebrations and hospitality to cuisine, national costumes, and craftmanship.
It is advisable for international tourists to familiarize themselves with the Kazakh culture before leaving, just like they would make sure to prepare their travel documents for Kazakhstan and itinerary accurately prior to departure.
And with the possibility to complete an online visa application for Kazakhstan from anywhere in the world, more and more travelers each year decide to make Kazakhstan their next destination.
In order to help international tourists, the following article covers useful Kazakhstan cultural information, including a list of the main local customs and tips to respect Kazakh values when traveling.
Kazakh Hospitality: Being a Guest in Kazakhstan
Good hospitality is one of the most important values for Kazakhs. That’s why there’s a great number of customs and traditions associated with guests receiving.
If you are a guest in Kazakhstan, you will most likely be offered the finest food and beverages in the house, small presents, and in some cases, a small celebration will be organized in your honor. Bringing a gift to your hosts as a sign of your gratitude is not mandatory but well received.
Kazakhs always remove their shoes when entering a house. You will probably be offered slippers at the door. Taking your shoes off is not only a sign of respect but also a hygienic practice, as streets can be dusty and muddy in certain areas.
Superstitious beliefs result in a series of unwritten rules inside Kazakh homes. The more rural the area you’re visiting, the more likely that these rules are observed — yet, some apply everywhere. For example, it’s forbidden to whistle inside the house across Kazakhstan. It’s also considered very unpolite to leave before the tea is served, sit on pillows, or place your plate on the floor, and if you admire something inside the house, your Kazakh hosts will feel compelled to gift it to you.
Meeting New People: Greetings and First Impressions in Kazakhstan
Greetings are rigidly structured in Kazakhstan. Because of the great importance that Kazakhs give to respecting the elderly, older men and women are greeted first with specific phrases that express reverence.
Kazakhstan is a multi-ethnic society, with over 100 ethnicities represented across the country. Asking about one’s ethnicity is considered an offensive topic upon meeting someone for the first time. In a business meeting, it’s unusual to start talking about work straight away.
Appropriate questions when opening a conversation would be on the line of:
- How are you?
- How is your health?
- How is work?
- How is your family?
Usually, 2 or 3 questions will suffice. Enquiring about Kazakh sports and arts is also well received.
In general, Kazakhs speak softly but use a variety of gestures. When hearing English speakers have a conversation with a tone of voice considered normal in the West, Kazakhs may think that they are arguing. On the other hand, gestured normally used in the West may be considered offensive in Kazakhstan. For example, holding one’s thumb between two fingers is considered obscene.
Gender Interaction in Kazakhstan and Appropriate Behavior
Kazakh women enjoy the same freedom and rights as men. They are considered hard workers and valued in the workplace, especially in urban areas. Marriages are not arranged in Kazakhstan but the families of the bride and groom participate heavily in organizing the wedding and celebrations. Kazakh weddings usually last 3 days.
In formal occasions, physical contact is discouraged especially with the opposite sex. Handshakes between men are more common. Try to keep at an arm’s length distance when talking to someone and make eye contact before starting a conversation (however, keep in mind that starting is considered unpolite). It’s common for close friends to hug and hold hands in public in informal settings.
Gallantry is a part of Kazakh culture. For example, it’s expected for a man to help a woman carry her bags or get off the bus.
Especially in rural areas, smoking in public is not well received on a woman’s part. Female travelers should be aware that they may be stared at if seen smoking on the street.
The above information is intended to help foreigners interact with the local community when visiting Kazakhstan. However, as long as no purposedly offensive behavior is displayed, Kazakhs will forgive the occasional faux pas and will be delighted to help travelers explore the local culture. Use the above knowledge as general guidelines to take with you on your Kazakhstan travels together with your Kazakhstan online visa.