Working in Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan has a small, struggling economy, stunted by political strife since its independence from Russia in 1991. As a whole, the country is a predominantly agricultural society. A large percentage of Kyrgyzstan’s GDP comes from mining, foreign remittances, and by re-exporting Chinese goods to other parts of Central Asia (made possible by Kyrgyzstan’s membership in the World Trade Organisation).

Finding a job in Kyrgyzstan

Expats working in Kyrgyzstan are mainly employed by the development sector, either for large, international organisations like the United Nations and the European Commission, or for smaller non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

Most expatriates will earn salaries far lower than what is possible in Western countries, or even other expat destinations. That said, most expats don’t move to Kyrgyzstan to become rich.

Working in Kyrgyzstan provides expats with the opportunity to live cheaply and experience a new culture and working environment. Kyrgyzstan has received relatively less developmental aid and attention than other developing countries, and does not suffer from “aid fatigue”; a circumstance that presents plenty of chances for expat workers to take part in and accomplish fulfilling and meaningful development projects.

In addition to development opportunities, there are several foreign-owned mining companies operating in Kyrgyzstan. Native speakers of English, and European languages to a lesser extent, are always in high demand as teachers across all education levels.

As most international organisations and NGOs are required to post job openings online, interested expatriates should research the websites of organisations and companies operating in Kyrgyzstan. It is not impossible to find such a position once in Kyrgyzstan, but most employers advertise and hire for positions based on online correspondence instead of looking for potential candidates who are already located in-country.

Getting a work permit in Kyrgyzstan

Every foreigner planning to work in Kyrgyzstan must have a valid work permit. Most employers will organise the visa and work permit, and expats should be wary of language schools and smaller organisations that do not assume this burden.

Business etiquette in Kyrgyzstan

The Kyrgyz work week is Monday to Friday, and the typical workday is eight to nine hours. Teachers could have an altered schedule depending on their class load. Punctuality is not an obvious aspect of business in Kyrgyzstan and expatriates should be prepared to plan meetings around the participants arriving at least 15 minutes late.

Men must always shake every man’s hand, whether meeting them for the first time or not. Some Kyrgyz men are not comfortable shaking a woman’s hand, although this attitude is changing. When preparing business cards to distribute in Kyrgyzstan, it is useful to have one's information printed in both English and Russian. Expatriates should dress smartly for business purposes and always remember to keep their shoes clean.

Kirstin Styers Our Expat Expert

I'm a 23-year-old media analyst starting a research organization in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. I previously lived in Jordan and Iraq, studying Arabic and consuming massive quantities of hummus, but gave it up to learn Russian and develop media projects across Central Asia. I try to tell some of Kyrgyzstan's untold stories through my photography and writing on my personal blog. I'm also working hard to bring the magic of cupcakes to Bishkek.

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