With the country's rich oil and gas reserves and booming economy, many expats find doing business in Kazakhstan an attractive prospect. From mineral resources and space technology, to opportunities in agriculture and finance, Kazakhstan has a lot to offer.
In the World Bank's Ease of Doing Business Survey for 2020, Kazakhstan achieved a rank of 25th out of the 190 countries surveyed. The country did particularly well in categories such as enforcing contracts (4th) and protecting minority investors (7th), but fell short in ease of trading across borders (105th).
The most common complaint among expats doing business in Kazakhstan is the bureaucracy that seems to lurk around every corner. This is a legacy of the bygone Soviet era and is something that should be taken into account when planning business operations.
Despite its lingering bureaucratic issues, Kazakhstan's economy is the largest in Central Asia and, as such, it is an excellent destination for those looking to do business.
9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.
Russian is the language of business, although multinational corporations with offices in Kazakhstan may operate in another language such as English.
It is best to dress in formal business attire as dressing too casually may be taken as an insult.
Small gifts are acceptable in a business setting and are generally opened right away.
While there is movement towards equality in work settings in Kazakhstan, senior business positions are still dominated by men.
Handshakes are the appropriate greeting in a business setting. If greeting a woman, expat men should wait for her to extend her hand first.
Business culture in Kazakhstan
Interpersonal relationships are of great importance to Kazakhstani business people, and those doing business in Kazakhstan should be prepared to spend some time getting to know their business associates. Small talk is common at the start of a meeting.
When it's time to get down to business, Kazakhstanis can be tough negotiators and may even raise their voice during negotiations. Expats are free to hold their ground, but should never argue or contradict someone more senior than they.
Seniority is greatly respected in Kazakhstan, and expats will notice that there is a definite hierarchy when it comes to decision making in Kazakhstani companies. The higher-ups tend to make all of the company's decisions without consulting the company's employees, and employees will tend to look to their supervisors when unsure of something.
Kazakhstanis are known for being extremely welcoming to foreigners, and it is likely that expats will be invited to the home of a business associate during their time in Kazakhstan. Such an invitation should always be accepted, as turning it down would be considered a slight to the host. It is polite to bring along a small gift, such as sweets or pastries. As many Kazakhstanis are practising Muslims, it is best not to give alcohol as a gift.
Dos and don'ts of business in Kazakhstan
Do ask questions about your associate's family and health at the start of meetings
Don't try to rush the initial small talk in meetings
Don't ask questions related to ethnicity
Do get business cards printed in English on one side and Russian on the other
Do make eye contact when shaking hands
►To learn more about the country's social nuances, see Culture Shock in Kazakhstan
Are you an expat living in Kazakhstan?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Kazakhstan. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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