All students from Kazakhstan are Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) Program scholarship winners. Click here to learn more about the FLEX Program.
It is a land rich in natural resources, with recent oil discoveries putting it among the world leaders in potential oil reserves. The newly independent Republic of Kazakhstan ranks ninth in the world in geographic size (roughly the size of Western Europe) and is the largest country in the world without an ocean port.
Lifestyle and Family
Kazakh men always shake hands with someone they know when they see each other for the first time in a day. Usually the younger man initiates this, and shows respect by extending both hands and shaking the older man's hand. Kazakhs rarely form lines when boarding crowded buses. Both Kazakhs and non-Kazakhs remove their shoes when inside a house. Greetings are also very structured in Kazakhstan. In Kazakh culture, elder women and men are greeted with certain phrases showing respect. A Russian system of patronymics is still widely used.
Kazakhs, and many other people from the former Soviet Union, often don't smile at people in public except to those they know. Public affection between friends is very common. Women and girls often hold hands as they walk; boys wrestle and often hook arms or walk with their arms around each other. Kissing cheeks and embracing is perfectly acceptable between good friends.
Most Kazakhstan homes are multi generational with the grandparents and extended family in the same house or close by. It is still common practice for the youngest son to live at home, even with his own family, until his parents are deceased.
Daily meals for Kazakhs usually are very hearty, always including bread and usually another starch such as noodles or potatoes and then a meat. One common dish is pilaf, which is often associated with the Uzbeks. It is a rice dish usually made with carrots, mutton, and a lot of oil. Soups, including Russian borscht, also are very common. Tea is an integral part of life in Kazakhstan. Many people sit down and drink tea at least six or seven times a day. Every guest is always offered tea, if not forced to stay and drink some. Tea is almost always consumed hot, as people in Kazakhstan think that drinking cold beverages will make one sick. Soft drinks, beer, and other drinks are drunk cold but never too cold, for fear of sickness.
A national habit is eating with one's hands. This is naturally more common in the villages, where traditions are more evident, but it is not uncommon to see Kazakhs in cities eat with their hands. In fact, the Kazakh national dish beshbarmak means "five fingers" in Kazakh.
Language and Religion
Kazakh, the official state language of Kazakhstan, is a Turkic language spoken by only 40 percent of the people. Russian, which is spoken by virtually everyone, is the official language and is the interethnic means of communications among Russians, Kazakhs, Koreans, and others. The majority of the population is Muslim.