THINGS TO GET YOU STARTED IN ALMATY
Moving to Almaty? Then there are a few things you need to get you started.
A few Russian phrases: Now if you are like me and language does not come naturally then don't worry. With the help of Google Translate and other applications, you will be able to get by from day one. However, it is nice to be able to speak a few phrases, such as ‘Good Morning’ or ‘Thank you’. I literally couldn't speak a word when I arrived, having found online language learning really difficult. Moving during a pandemic also meant that face-to-face lessons were not possible. I have however found a language teacher easy enough, that was recommended to me, and am making some progress.
All-round weather clothes: Almaty has continental weather, meaning it gets all the seasons beautifully. Winter really is winter and summer is really very warm. As Kazakhstan is a landlocked country, imports are expensive. You can find reasonably priced clothing in some places, but you will need to hunt for these or be able to haggle at the market. Think about what you want to do, winter hiking? Then ensure you buy some winter boots back home. Skiwear? Again purchase back home. These are items that you will not have many options for, in terms of shopping around for the price. Having had some issues with the weight of my luggage due to having to change airlines (pandemic related), I didn't get to bring many clothes and had to do a big shop here. I really did feel it in my pocket!
Electronics: Electronics are also expensive! Like really expensive here. Most are imported, so again will have the tariffs reflected in the price. If you have electrical items that you feel you can not live without or would want in your home, then bring them. You can buy conversion plugs. I know colleagues that have slow cookers brought from the UK, including deep fryers, grills, and other small electrical goods.
English Books: If like me, you like to read actual books, then you’d be well advised to pack some. That includes children's books too. It is great to have a Kindle and yes it saves on space, but I like the idea of my son having paper books from time-to-time, to step back from the ‘device’ culture.
Smartphone Apps: Key applications you will need to include Yandex, 2GIS, Google Translate, Instagram (lots of businesses communicate using this platform), Facebook to join expat groups, and Wolt for food orders. There are loads of others but these are the ones to get you started.
Favourite snacks and spices: The reality is you are moving to a new county, meaning you will embrace new foods. I am all for new experiences and trying stuff, but occasionally you just want a bit of home. I would therefore advise you to bring a few bits such as certain spices you may like. You will get used to the items available here, but every so often you will crave what you no longer have access to.
Bedding/homely items/pictures: So this one comes with some reservations. You can get all this stuff here! It is fine, but you may have to search a little for the ones you like. I do believe in supporting local communities, but I have also found myself ordering from Next.com.kz for most of these items just for the ease of navigation. If you can bring a few to get by, until you are settled and find your way around, then it will help.
Children's Toys: If you have kids, be warned kids' toys are EXPENSIVE! More expensive than inflated electronics. I packed a whole suitcase of Lego, having been warned about the prices, and am I glad I did. I have found a cheaper toy shop in Atakent Mall, which is a mall visited more by Kazakh residents, rather than foreigners like me. Therefore you can get stuff, but again you do need to be patient and search. As much as the larger malls are great, you will pay a premium.
Any organic/natural products: I try and use where possible organic or natural body products. This includes biodegradable tampons, as well as either homemade or natural deodorant. I am sure you can find this here in the malls, as well as on Instagram or even iHerb, but to get you started I would suggest you bring a few of your own, while you navigate places to pick them up from.
I hope this post has helped you get a little insight into settling in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Get in touch if you have any other suggestions, or think I missed some essentials off the list!
Love Carole xoxo
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