Inspired by my friend Jamie who was inspired by my other friends Nick and Corrine, I’ve decided to make my own observation list of Kazakhstan.
1. The word for an orange in russian is appleseen. Right, it has apple in it, but it means orange.
2. Chas literally means an hour. Which is also how to say one o’clock. It can also mean now. Or “now.” Maybe locals can tell the difference; I can’t.
3. Locals don’t wear seatbelts unless they are passing police checkpoints. They buckle up a few hundred yards before them and then immediately unbuckle after they pass. As an adamant, always wear your seatbelt type of guy, I can’t understand why you wouldn’t want to do this simple life-saving procedure. I want to introduce the crash dummy characters to the youth here.
4. Toilet paper is cheap, but newspaper is even cheaper.
5. Bananas are not dirt cheap here, but it is December, and you can still buy them in Kazakhstan.
6. Everyone knows the f-word here. They understand it’s a bad word, but it has no real meaning for them. Hence, it’s acceptable to say at the dinner table in front of your mother.
7. Um is apparently a curse word in Kazakh. Luckily, my crutch word is naturally uh.
8. 75% of primetime television advertising is for banks and cell phone companies.
9. M&Ms has a Christmas themed commercial here. (The one where Santa faints when he says the talking candy.) Of course, here it is a New Year’s commercial, but it’s the same idea.
10. A lot of families have two dogs. There is one small dog that yips in the yard and a large angry one that is always chained up in some corner of the yard.
11. Whenever you see a Kazakh man for the first time that day, you must shake his hand. The handshake need not be firm, and it probably won’t be. Just a touch really. If you really want to show respect you should also use your other hand to clasp slightly above the wrist as well. If you see them later in the day, you don’t have to do it again. They’ll probably look at your funny if you try, but they’ll be okay with it.
12. If you walk into a group of men, you should shake all of their hands. For example, if you are waiting in the lobby of city hall, it almost becomes like a greeting processional as men walk in. If you walk into a room and there are five men, you go around the whole room shaking hands. If you are with a group of men and encounter a group of men, a rather fun round robin of handshaking occurs. Unfortunately, women are generally excluded from this game.
13. Interior paint hasn’t quite caught on in this country. The walls are usually whitewashed and you will get white dust on your clothes if you lean up against them.
14. On the subject of paint and colors, Kazakhstan steems to really like using its two national colors of light blue and yellow for nearly everything. It’s still a very young country, so it’s forgivable. I’m not sure when America realized that red, white, and blue look good on the flag, and not always on bus stops, street signs, banners, buildings, etc, but it probably took a while. I hope part of their 2030 plan is to incorporate a wider palette into their public works though.
15. A lot of people don’t know the alphabet in Russian. Or at least the order. Hand them a dictionary for them to find you a word in Russian, and you’ll see them flip through it cluelessly The trick of discerning whether the words falls between the two header words at the top of the page is also lost on them. Better to ask them to spell it while you look it up yourself.