Foreigners speak about life in Kazakhstan's Atyrau09 january 2013, 17:49
Foreigners living and working in Kazakhstan share their impressions of Atyrau, Kazakhstan’s city of oilmen, in their posts published on the Internet. The posts range from warnings of potential dangers to opinions of cultural sites and local customs.
According to Ak Zhaiyk, there were 6,419 foreign citizens living and working in Atyrau Oblast, as of November 1, 2012. 90% of them work in Kashagan and Tengiz projects. 70 of them are 1st category employees (top managers), 2,081 foreigners are 2nd category employees (managers), 3,869 foreigners are 3rd category employees (engineering group) and 399 foreigners are 4th category employees (highly skilled blue collar workers).
Here are some extracts from advices, comments and opinions written by the foreigner for the foreigners:
“Away from the posh office buildings that keep popping up at regular intervals and the glitzy hotels and restaurants there is a different side to this city. Most people still lives in houses that would be considered quite poor by most people in the west, and with average wages between 500 and 1,000 USD a month it is obviously often difficult for locals to get ahead in a city where the costs are only going up.
This has caused some resentment towards the outsiders, in particularly expats involved in the oil industry. And unfortunately random attacks on foreigners walking home from bars late at night have become quite common,” a foreigner nicknamed TheEagleGuy writes.
“One unique experience is that you can cross over the river Ural main bridge that links Asia to Europe and literally claim that you've walked between two continents!! The Asian bank of the Ural river that divides the city has a lovely footpath ideal for a daytime walk but undesirables loiter the footpath at night time,” another foreigner continues the subject.
“There are many restaurants and bars here, most serve basic food but if you don't have a robust digestive system stick to the main hotels such as the Marriott and Renaissance. Night time can be dodgy if you are out alone so stick to the populated bars and always travel in a taxi with a companion,” another warns.
And here is another good advice for nightlife fans:
“Do not drink too much and keep your wits about you. The local population accepts the expat presence but you must respect them.
Don't flash money and jewellery around, you will have problems if you do. Several people have been mugged outside the club.”
Resentment, money and women
Surprising as it may for Kazakhstan, a nation known for its hospitality, resentment among locals, especially young ones, is widely discussed by foreigners in Atyrau.
One explanation is money that causes envy among locals:
"All that Western money has caused resentment among young Kazakhs. The fact that there has been built an "American city" in the center of Atyrau, is very unpopular among the local people. So if you are from/or look like an American, you should be extra careful when you are walking alone after dark..."
"American city" in Atyrau. Photo courtesy of azh.kz
Here is another foreigner's explanation that sheds some light one many more things besides resentment:
"Women in Atyrau outnumber men and they are mostly young women who are lucky to get 100 dollars per week. Expats come in like I did flashing the cash around like it's confetti and women are literally spoilt by in particular expats between the ages of 50-60.
A lot of these women don't care that these guys are married at home with kids, as far as there concerned if they are resident or working 6/2 there spending most of there time with them so there classifying themselves as wife number 1.
Remember in Kazakhstan it's not illegal to have several wives and expats know this. You will find many expats that will move these women into their apartments and live a second life while there wives and kids worry about them at home. I have no kids nor am I married so I felt it was time to spill the beans on what's going on here. (…)
I can't say I blame young girls here wanting a better life but there is no excuse for the actions of certain not all expats here in Atyrau. For my part I cannot blame local guys for being hostile towards us when I see 60 year old men being with early 20 year old women. If its not acceptable in Europe or America it shouldn't be here and I would not like it to end up like Thailand. If you feel your husband is doing the dirt get a holiday visa or contact Kazakh embassy for advice on how you go about travelling to Kazakhstan.”
Roads and transport
This advice is true for both foreigners and local: Be careful on pavements and roads, especially at night:
"A friend stood on a manhole cover in Atyrau and fell down a very deep hole (over 1 meter) and injured his leg. These are sometimes unsecured since people open them up but don't properly replace them. In addition it's fairly common to find holes of various types in and around pavements, uneven paving and other hazards - so watch out especially after dark or if you have had a few beers."
It is best to arrange a company car or to rent one to move around the city and to the outskirts. Another option is to bring over your own bike.
“Local busses are very often crowded, and if you are so unlucky to not get a seat, you will have to stand in a very uncomfortable position. But this is even though the cheapest way to get around town.”
If you are taking a taxi it is better to agree on the taxi fare beforehand:
“Taxis in Atyrau don't have meters. Instead a fixed price should be agreed before you get into the taxi. This is often difficult unless you speak Kazakh or Russian. So a basic knowledge of Russian numbers is recommended. However, prices commonly double or triple at night or when the taxi driver thinks he can get away with it. The best strategy is to get the hotel to book a taxi whenever possible and get them to ask how much the fare should be,” TheEagleGuy writes.
Among positive things the bloggers note free Wi-Fi at the airport and local sights: Central Bridge that is the border between “European” and “Asian” banks of the river and the Victory Park, where one can take a walk during day time to get some idea of the place’s history.
The bridge over Ural river in Atyrau. Photo courtesy of maps.resurs.kz