Expat Chat – Interview with a perennial expat in Kazakhstan

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The Ersatz Expat shares her expat life

Interview date – July 2013

Woman in snow in KazakhstanWhere are you originally from? That is a toughie – I am Irish but was born into a Dutch/Irish family in the Netherlands. I have never really had a home country because I spent my life moving. I feel at home everywhere and no-where and have come to the conclusion that home is people not place. I spent a lot of years in the UK and my husband and kids are British but there are still things about British/English culture that seem strange to me.

Where are you living now? Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan.

How long have you lived there? Since August 2011

Where did you live before that? The UK for some years.

What made you decide to make the move? We had wanted to give the kids a taste of expat life. We saw the advert for the current post in the paper. It said ‘are you looking for an adventure’ and who can refuse that.

Did you bring family and/or pets with you? How have they adapted? We brought our dog with us, she has been with us all our married life and we can not imagine being without her. She is not too keen on Kazakhstan though. In the UK she could wander in the woods at the back of our house for hours. Now she lives in an apartment and is walked on a lead. She hates the cold weather – even with a coat she does not like to go out in the winter.

How many kids do you have? Two, our son is 6 and our daughter 4.

Were they born in your ‘home’ country or in your adopted country? Or elsewhere?! They were born in the UK which is my Husband’s home country.

How have your children adapted to your move? They love living in Kazakhstan. They found the move a little disruptive and took a while to settle but now feel very at home here. Our daughter tells everybody that she is Kazakhstani.

Do you speak the local language? If so, how long did it take you to learn it? Kazakhstan has two languages Russian and Kazakh. I can get by in basic Russian and am working to become more fluent. I only understand very basic Kazakh.

Have your children learned the language? What method of language learning worked best for them? Our children go to an English school but have lessons in Russian and Kazakh. We also have a Kazakh housekeeper who teaches them Russian at home. They have a good vocabulary and excellent pronunciation. Our son’s teachers tell us that he is particularly talented at Kazakh.

What three personality characteristics would you consider are necessary for a success expat life? Flexibility, a sense of humour and sense of adventure.

How do you keep in touch with your friends and family in other countries? We use Skype and email for conversations and Facebook to share photographs.

Tell us about local food you and your children love or hate. I am not keen on Horse or fermented mares and camel’s milk. We all love Cherry Juice.

Is there anything that is ridiculously cheap or expensive compared to where you used to live? We can get Ikea furniture here but the prices are sky high. Usually at least 60% more expensive than Europe because of the high import costs so something budget becomes a luxury. Most imported goods are expensive here though.

Going out to the cinema or the circus is much cheaper than Europe. Tickets are not expensive and food and treats are not market up to ridiculous levels.

What do you most appreciate in your new country? Kazakhstan is a very friendly society. It is young and ambitious and the country is going places. It is wonderful to see.

How did you make new friends in your new home? In the same way we do anywhere. People are very friendly here, as soon as we moved in our neighbours came to welcome us to Kazakhstan and offered help with everything from translation to cups of sugar. We also meet people through work and just out and about.

Tell us a bit about your own expat blog. How long have you been blogging? I started the blog earlier this year. People outside Kazakhstan don’t know much about Astana and I thought it would be interesting to share this city that we have fallen in love with. I also thought it would be interesting to write about the challenges of expat life and how things have changed for expats since my childhood.

Thank you for sharing this with us, Ersatz Expat!

Find Ersatz Expat on social media and her blog link here: Blog: Facebook: Twitter:

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