All students from Kyrgyzstan are Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) Program scholarship winners. Click here to learn more about the FLEX Program.
Kyrgyzstan is a mountainous country in central Asia with much natural beauty and a proud history of nomadic tribes. It has a history of occupation and invasion until it became an independent nation after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.
The most important element of etiquette in Kyrgyzstan is respect. Respect is given to elders and authority figures. Verbal respect is given by using the polite pronoun and endings, and by using the titles eje (older sister) and baikay or aga (older brother). People always use these polite forms, even with close friends and relatives.
Women are more equal to men in Kyrgyzstan than in most Muslim countries. While Kyrgyz women are not sequestered, they tend to have less status than men. Age is the most important determinant for status, however, and an older woman will be given respect by younger men. Women also tend to be the main decision maker in the household.
The youngest son traditionally lives with the parents until they are deceased, thus it is common for a family to consist of grandparents, parents, and children. Individuals live with their parents until they marry. Members of the extended family also may visit and live with the immediate family for months at a time. Children are protected in the home until their teens and are not taken out to social functions.
Popular sports to watch and play in Kyrgyzstan are horse riding, wrestling, rugby and polo.
Most people eat four or five times a day, but only one large meal. The rest are small, mostly consisting of tea, bread, snacks, and condiments. These include vareynya (jam), kaimak, (similar to clotted cream), sara-mai (a form of butter), and various salads. Common dishes include lagman (hand-rolled noodles in a broth of meat and vegetables), manti (dumplings filled with either onion and meat, or pumpkin), plov (rice fried with carrots and topped with meat), pelmeni (a Russian dish of small meat-filled dumplings in broth), ashlam-foo (cold noodles topped with vegetables in spicy broth and pieces of congealed corn starch), samsa (meat or pumpkin-filled pastries), and fried meat and potatoes. Most meat is mutton, although beef, chicken, turkey, and goat are also eaten. Kyrgyz people don't eat pork, but Russians do. Fish is either canned or dried. Lagman and manti are the everyday foods of the north, while plov is the staple of the south.
In 2000 Russian was adopted as an official national language and Kyrgyz is the official state language. All children study Kyrgyz, Russian, and English in school. Around 80% of the population is Muslim.