Q & A Series With Locals: Gabit From Kazakhstan

After Uzbekistan, In my second post of Q & A Series With Locals, I interviewed Gabit from Kazakhstan. I met Gabit in Astana, Kazakhstan. He hosted me in his apartment via Couchsurfing. Like me he is a big cinema buff. Apart from Cinema he love traveling and Football. We had some really interesting conversations ranging from Cinema, Cultures, India, Kazakhstan, USA, Asian and Western mentality, Exploring western countries as an Asian and so on. He is a thoughtful, helpful and friendly guy. Great guy to hangout with. My trip to Astana would have been ruined If he had not insisted me to have his Jacket, Cap and Muffler out of which I lost his Cap and Muffler. Sorry and Thank You, Gabit!



Please tell us about yourself. 

Hi, My name is Gabit. I’m from Kazakhstan. I was born in the city of Baikonur (Where the first Cosmodrome/Spaceport was ever build and Sputnik 1, the first artificial satellite, and Vostok 1, the first human spaceflight was launched into the space). I graduated from Moscow Aviation Institute with a major in applied mathematics. Currently, I’m living in Astana and working as a Business Analyst in IT sector.

How many countries have you visited so far?
So far I’ve been to Russia, United States, Finland, Norway, Sweden. Excluding Kazakhstan it’s 5 countries. Besides the fact that the city (Baikonur) I was born in geographically located in Kazakhstan but given on lease to Russia because of the cosmodrome till 2050, which means I’ve been living in two countries simultaneously and Russia is not really that foreign country for me. I have been to USA twice as an exchange student during summers and did summer jobs. Recently, I have solo traveled to Nordic countries i.e. Finland, Sweden and Norway. Can’t wait to complete my Nordic countries trip next year! I’m hoping to explore more of this beautiful world.

How would you describe your people?

We are hospitable, warm and freedom loving people. We are traditional in the matter of relationships and family values. From a foreigner’s perspective: Kazakhs are the people who look like Chinese but speak Russian and above that we’re mostly Muslims. A Paradox!

How would you describe your country?

90% of the territory is just a flat surface. Other 10% is the most beautiful parts of our country (lakes, mountains, canyons, forests).

How well does your country speak English on a scale to 1-10?

Average throughout the country would be 5 out of 10. Most people in cities will understand you but probably 6 out of 10 will be able to give you proper and clear answer. It would be wise to ask a younger people on streets for directions. In villages, ratio would be much lower. Very few people might be able to help you out with directions. Kazakh and Russian are widely spoken.

Which is the key phrase/word/expression that people in your country usually say?

Salem – Hi
Kalaysin – How are you
Rakhmet – Thank you
Zhaksy – OK (Also, can be used for Bye)
Sau boliniz – Bless you (Also, can used for Bye)

Which is the best/essential local food to try in Kazakhstan?

Definitely Besbarmaq (Meat mixed with Noodles, Spices and Sauce) and Kazy (Salty Horse meat).
You also might want to try kuyrdak and some other foods of Central Asia such as lagman, plov, manty.

Which is the best/essential local drink to try in Kazakhstan?
Kumis is a fermented dairy product made out of Mare’s milk. Sorpa is kinda like a soup that goes with besbarmaq. Ayran is salty milk-based beverage.

Which is the best/essential festival to attend in Kazakhstan?
Nauryz(Navruz) falls between 21st-23rd of March. It is basically a New Year when the day equals the night. You will observe all the cultural things and events. It’s been celebrated long before the Islamic expansion and still is one of the biggest events in Kazakhstan.

Which sport are you guys crazy about?
We are good in wrestling, boxing, kokpar (kok boru). We love football but we are not very successful in it.

Kolsai Lake

Charyn Canyon

Kaindy Lake

Which are the best cities/places to visit in Kazakhstan?
Almaty (mountains), Turkestan, Otyrar (history, Silk Way), Astana (young fast developing capital city and it’s close to Burabay national park), Baikonur (first cosmodrome in the world), Shymkent (sunny and warm, a typical southern city).

What are the landmarks and hidden gems of Kazakhstan?
Charyn canyon – our little Grand canyon, Beautiful Kolsay and Kaindy lakes, Burabay national park – our little Switzerland, Bozhira tract – a bit of Utah/Nevada in Central Asia, Khoja Akhmed Yassavi mausoleum, Korkut Ata mausoleum.

Please share an Interesting trivia about Kazakhstan?

Kazakhstan is a huge country in the terms of area (9th in the World) located in the centre of Eurasia bordering the two powerful nations i.e. Russia and China.
Our country is rich with oil, uranium, gas but with very poor resources management that leads to classic “Eastern Country” situation where the ruler is vastly rich, no middle class, impotent political opposition and mass media. Some parts of Kazakhstan might seems like a third world country.
Apples and tulips are originated from Kazakhstan. Also, we are one of the first people to ride horse as well as eat them 😀

What are the most popular stereotypes/cliches about Kazakhstan?
Many people think Kazakhstan is part of Russia (which is not true) or China (Also, not true).
Because of the “Stan” in the name of our country, we often mistaken for Afghanistan or Pakistan which are completely different countries with completely different culture, language and history.

Nowadays, most stereotypes comes from Borat movie. I’m personally over it but you probably do not want to mention it. We’re not well known or famous nation. It does upset us if a foreigner associate us with that movie or his/her only point of reference about us is through that movie. Just come to visit us and see for yourself 🙂

Which is the best time to visit Kazakhstan?

We have very hot summers and very cold winters. Autumn and Spring are probably the best time to visit.

Are there any local customs a visitor should be sensitive to?
Get your shoes off when entering someone’s home.
Never put your legs on the table, It is very rude. Table is for eating or having conversation.
You might not want to refuse if your host is inviting you to drink tea or dine in his/her house. It is bad luck for them if you refuse.
Guests always take the main place at the table (usually hosts offer it).
First cup of tea is for the guest otherwise host is being rude.
Don’t whistle inside home as per the popular superstition. And some other customs for you to discover 🙂

Pictures courtesy: Gabit S.

When I asked him to share an interesting picture of him. He chose the above one.

In his own words: “So I got a tent, sleeping bag and spent two great days hiking to Trolltunga, observing the beauty of Hordaland with Amon Amarth playing in my headphones. Loved it.”



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An Indian Traveler

Hello! My name is Saurabh and I am the voice behind the “An Indian Traveler” blog. I'm a cinephile, travel writer, an avid traveler with a song stuck in my head which I keep humming till ad nauseam :)

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  1. Thank you for an entertaining and enlightening post! I loved learning about Kazakhstan and also appreciate that you educated us on just about everything we need to know when visiting. The pictures are stunning!

  2. This is such a great idea for a series. And this interview in particular is super fascinating. It made me realize I knew next to nothing about Kazakhstan and its people. I had seen some photos before that showed how beautiful of a country it is. Now I'm more inspired than ever to visit… but also maybe to add some questions to the profiles/interviews I publish on the Happier Place blog.
    Thank you!
    xx Luci

  3. You can learn so much from locals in different countries. I enjoy experiencing local culture more than going to all the big tourist sites. Just go to a new country and live life.

  4. Awesome post and love the pictures. Im totally digging the interview series as it sheds light on so much insider information. Kazakhstan is such a beautiful place

  5. Lovely interview with what sounds like a really nice host! It's customary for my family too to offer/pour tea for others first. I also totally agree – it's rather unfortunate that the only point of reference the western world has for Kazakhstan is Borat… so silly. I hope I can make it here one day to dispel the stereotypes and make my own judgement 🙂

  6. Kolsai and Kaindy lakes look really beautiful. It's a nice way to remember how to distinguish Kazakhs – people who look like Chinse, speak Russian & are generally Muslim – and coming from a native, it really must be true!
    – Nandita

  7. Loved to hear conversation with Gabit. Kazakhstan is really a beautiful place and one day I would surely visit this place. Thanks for sharing your conversation with Gabit who is also a movie buff.

  8. I've worked in Kazakhstan for almost a year in a very remote place called Bautino and offshore on the Caspian Sea as well. Really liked working with the locals, but as you say, there was veeeery little English with these people. Many only spoke Khazach so I learned quite a bit of Khazach at the time. I didn't get much time to explore the rest of Kazakhstan but Astana is definitely on my list! Hopefully I can stay with Gabit then too!! 🙂

  9. A fascinating interview! I would love to visit Astana. My best friend went there very recently, and what he described to me is very consistent to what you say about the people – hospitable, warm and freedom loving! Always interesting to hear a local's perspective and I hope I can visit myself soon.

  10. What a great concept to hear an interview perspective. Great way to promote your country and city. Really love the landscape captures, makes you want to jump in the plane and do some hiking.

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