Dec 31 2007

You Drinking. Other People Driving.

Category: Kazakh Driving,KazakhstanChrisM @ 2:11 am

Which leads us onto the next topic – if there is a chance you’ll be drinking, then it’s likely someone will want you to say a few words, when it comes to your turn in the toast making.
You don’t need to be Over The Top, but DO make sure you thank your hosts for the meal/drink/their time (especially true if it is 4am, and they have work in 3 hours!).
You can wax lyrical if you have enough to say, but don’t feel abashed at all if you just want to say something like:
“First I’d like to thank Mr & Mrs Jones for their hospitality; I really appreciate your thoughts (assuming they mentioned you in their toast ;>). I hope to enjoy my stay here, and look forward to seeing this…. etc. etc.”

Driving. For those that ever sat in a car with me at the wheel, now is the time for you to admit it could have been so much worse…
I’m glad to say that in the last 5 years of visits to Kazakhstan, I’ve only been in a car once, that has been crashed into, but if this is going to be your first time driving/being driven off the continent, just remember one thing – loud screams/whimpers will distract the driver, and therefore increase the likelihood of a mishap.
I wouldn’t say people are necessarily bad drivers over here; it is just that they operate on a different logic & reasoning plane to UK drivers.
If a driver is in a queue, wanting to turn at the next set of traffic lights, and is bored of waiting, then they’ll happily ‘create’ a new lane in the other direction’s stream of traffic. If the road has 3 lanes marked out with paint, in each direction, it is quite normal to find a total of 8 or 9 lanes of traffic.

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Dec 30 2007

Couldn’t Stay Away

Category: KazakhstanChrisM @ 2:11 pm

Whilst fiddling with back room stuff for this site, wanted to try a few things out, so here is the next section on Kazakhstan.

If someone thinks you look a little different to the accepted norm for a Russian or Kazakh person, they will simply stare at you. This shouldn’t be taken as an insult (or an invitation to get to know one another ;>). It is just if they want to cop a look, they won’t be subtle.
People have different coping mechanisms for this behavioural trait. Some avert their eyes, others pretend not to notice. Still others will decide to turn it into a juvenile game. Whoever breaks the stare first loses, and you can keep a tally through the whole day you are out. Once you are up at the end of a day (18-3 for example), you can assume you’re no longer feeling like such a wimpy foreigner. Ummm, or so my friends tell me ;>

Whilst we may all joke about English manners and overly polite social standards, standing in line for something over here is an experience you’re not likely to forget very quickly.
You’ll also be likely to quickly re-appraise your understanding of the term line or queue. People will have no shame, nor should you, about pushing their way to the front of what could have been a perfectly civil and organized wait for the bus/ticket desk/shop assistant/train/you get the idea.
I still draw the line at elderly/young people, other than that, its every queue jumper for themselves, ultimately. (This does tend to mean most elderly/young people get served/on the bus before me, but I have this thing against trampling over brittle bones/people smaller than me.)

Upon arrival/exiting the country, be it 8.30pm, 3.45am or 3pm, you’ll likely find yourselves being greeted with a small (OK, more likely a table laden with more stuff than you’d normally see for a ‘light’ meal) snack and some drinks, to celebrate your arrival/time in the country.
You might not feel exactly like wolfing the lot down, but if you take your time, with the food and the drink, you should do fine. DON’T feel obliged to down shots of Cognac/Vodka each toast. Unless that’s your adjusting mechanism to the flights & time difference ;>

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Jan 01 2007

Money – How Much?

Category: Eating Out,KazakhstanChrisM @ 2:11 am

OK, a couple of people have already e-mailed and asked “so how much money should I bring?”
Well, I’m not sure on an exact total, but if I give you an idea of how much stuff costs here, you’ll be better informed to guess a holiday total I suppose…

20 fags (Parliament) – 80pence
20 fags (Marlboro) – 40 pence
20 fags (Russian smokable stuff) – 20-35 pence

Bottle of coke in a shop – 50 pence
Bottle of vodka in a shop – 90 pence to 5 pounds, depending on brand (drinkable – nice), can pay more, but what’s the point?
Bottle of beer in a shop – 40 pence to 90 pence (Russian to European brands)

In a restaurant/cafe, fags, coke and beer maybe double the price, or there abouts, vodka costs maybe two pounds for 200ml

PC Games/Applications/MP3 collections – 2 pounds to 5 pounds, depending on amount of discs in box, and how obvious the copy is
Music CDs – between 40-80% of UK price

Taxi ride (real taxi) – 2 to 3 pounds for a 10/15 minute ride
Taxi ride (flagging a random car off the street) – haggle price, normally little cheaper than real taxi

Meal in a cafe (salad (ha ha ha), meat dish, chips, coke, vodka) – Between 4 and 12 pounds per person, depending on type of place you go to

Meal in a restaurant (same stuff as above) – Between 6 and 20 pounds tops, per person

Obviously, if you want to get drunk, rather than merely relaxed, add more money for the extra vodka/soft drink/beer

Entrance fee to a club – 5 to 7 pounds – basically, the more ‘exclusive’ an activity or brand is, the higher the price soars, prices for drinks in clubs a little higher than elsewhere.

Next door to China, so disposable electronic trinkets, that might last 5 years, or 5 days, are to be found in plenty of shops.
If you want any ‘Kazakh’ souvenirs – cultural stuff, definitely bring along a little bit extra cash.

Re. Money – bring at least 100 euros or a little more in dollars, the rest is up to you – there are ATMs over here (don’t forget to budget for banks comission/charges for this service), and there is ONE place that we know of that will exchange English pounds for Kazakh Tenge, but Irina says you shouldn’t rely on it still working/taking UK currency by the time you come over. Your choice basically.

Re. CDs/DVDs vs. portable hard drive. I’ve read around, and people have less difficulty taking hard drives out of the country than lots of discs, apparently. Couldn’t find any info on importing. Personally, I’ve never had a problem in either direction. There is apparently a rule, on your way out of the country,that if Customs discover discs in your luggage, they must have been previously inspected and sealed by a dept. elsewhere in Astana. You’ll need to do this four or five days before the flight.

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Oct 03 2006

Personal Posts Have Been Slowing Down Recently

Category: Eating Out,Friends,Kazakhstan,PersonalChrisM @ 4:01 am

Due to ChrisD coming over. A slight increase in my alcohol intake may also account for the lowering of posts per week. Chris came over for a week, and I hope we’ll both be writing more about his visit soon.

We just dropped him off at the airport, and despite the authorities restarting the scheme where you have to declare everything with you, on your exit of the country, he eventually got through all the steps required, and is, hopefully, by now on a plane to Istanbul, then on to Heathrow.

Also meant to say, we all met up with a nice man who runs the KZBlog , and his wife, over at the Chelsea ‘pub’ last Saturday. The company was good, the prices were high, but not heart stopping, and good news for John – they sell Guiness !!

Anyway, more info to come soon…

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