Moving to Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan is an oil-rich former Soviet republic lying on the Caspian Sea between Russia and Iran. Expats moving to Azerbaijan will find a country rich in cultural heritage and sitting at the crossroads of Europe and Asia.
Azerbaijan’s economy has seen steady growth in recent years. The country is rich in oil and gas reserves, which account for a large percentage of Azerbaijan’s GDP, and Western companies have invested millions in the development of Azerbaijan’s energy sector in recent years. Other important sectors in Azerbaijan’s economy include agriculture and mining (the country has rich deposits of gold, manganese, cobalt, silver, titanium and copper).
Most expats moving to Azerbaijan will find themselves employed in the oil and gas and mining sectors, while others find employment teaching English or within the humanitarian sector. The cost of living in Azerbaijan, particularly in the capital, Baku, is high, and expats are largely well-compensated.
Expats relocating to Azerbaijan with their children should consider the move carefully. While Azerbaijan has a sufficient public education system, expats don’t usually send their children to public schools in Azerbaijan, rather choosing to enrol them in international schools or send them to a boarding school abroad. International schools in Azerbaijan are all based in Baku. Places at these schools will be limited and parents will need to plan well ahead of time.
Expats living in Azerbaijan will find adequate medical care in Baku for most basic medical needs. However, for more serious medical requirements, expats will most likely need to travel abroad. Azerbaijani citizens are entitled to free medical care through a national health insurance scheme, but expats will need to ensure that they have private medical insurance. This is often covered by employers, and expats should ensure that they negotiate this as part of their employment package.
Although a secular state, the majority of the country’s 9 million people are Muslim, and it goes without saying that expats should respect the local customs and cultural etiquette. Nevertheless, religion is viewed as largely a private matter, with many Azerbaijanis not describing themselves as religious at all.
While polite, Azerbaijanis are generally known to be conservative and reserved. Azerbaijani is the official language, with Russian and Turkish also widely spoken. Expats will do well to ensure that they have a basic understanding of at least one of these languages.