Teach English in Kazakhstan

Teach English in Kazakhstan

Teach English in Kazakhstan – the following comments are from English teachers who have taught, or currently teach English in Kazakhstan.

Kazakhstan is still not very open to the West or Western ways. English tends to be taught by Kazakhs (badly) and it is generally thought that native speakers aren’t needed. The cost of living in Almaty, Astana and Atyrau is very high. Make sure any ESL job includes a base salary of at least $30,000 paid outside the country PLUS housing, utilities and local supplement and air fares (very high). Ensure any ESL employer gets visas sorted out in advance or you won’t get into the country. Don’t hand over your passport after arrival. Stick to a one year contract only. Very strict on visas!

Kazakhstan is still very Soviet with lots of bureaucracy and red tape. English is not widely spoken anywhere and signs are all in Kazakh or Russian. It isn’t a tourist destination as yet and they are not geared up for it. Alcoholism is a major problem – supermarket shelves are stacked with hundreds of different vodkas – the only thing apart from cigarettes that is very cheap here. Winters are cold and miserable and summers hot and dry. Avoid the police as you might be fined for just being foreign or not having your passport handy.

Jodie, 2 November 2007


That advice is pretty gloomy! There are some great aspects to life here, too. You will never feel as appreciated as you are made to feel by your students here. They are very respectful, and very interested in people from other countries. In the bigger cities, people are very interested in the west and western ways. Sometimes to a startling point (I’ve had three people in the last three days ask me if I could either help them get to America or help them study English because they (or someone they know) want to go to the west. It is pretty hot in the summer and can be very cold in the winter, but the spring and fall months are delightful. Plus, in Almaty, it is one of the few places in the world that has four healthy seasons. It is very expensive, with Almaty being one of the most expensive cities in the world (literally). And rental prices are also expensive. But, as a foreigner, you can also get a pretty good salary for teaching English. Probably much better than you can in the west in a public school! But you do need to stay on top of things like visas and so on. And you need to be vigilant just like you would be in any big city. I would say come, if you are adventurous, and want to see a part of the world not many westerners have seen.

Chester, 15 July 2008


First of all, I have resided off and on in Kazakhstan for 12 years now, so I think I know the place reasonably well. To be fair, Kazakhstan can be quite daunting to the uninitiated. There is a great deal of bureaucracy, with regards to visas, registration, work permits, and generally walking about.

As regards the latter, this means that you should always carry your passport with you in case the local police (militsia), usually roaming about in groups of three or four, ask you to present it. Indeed, you are required by law to carry your passport on your person at all times. The U.S. embassy had worked out a deal with the Kazakhstani government to permit Americans to simply carry a notarized copy, just as they had for the Almaty registration office to allow travel around the country with only Almaty registration, but the police never seemed to honor, or maybe even know about, this rule. A friend of mine was forced to call his seven-month-pregnant wife to run over with his passport, which he had forgotten at home, when he was accosted by a band of police after leaving my office. They tried to take him away while she was on her way, but I kept blocking them for the approximately 30 minutes it took her to get here. They had asked for KZT 10 000 (at that time about US$80) to let him go, but as a general rule, I never pay bribes.

Indeed, though corruption is ever present, if you never pay bribes, you can still get done what you need to. After all, there are laws here, and everybody knows them (or should), so nobody wants a scandal, especially with a loudmouth American, like me. Should you pay a bribe, even unknowingly, you become part of the system, and you will find then that bribes become inevitable. Word of an idiot foreigner spreads quickly. Along those lines, never just go with the police if they just ask you to, always call a local, preferably a lawyer. Of course, if you have actually broken the law, or some other party has filed a formal complaint against you, then you will have to go with the police, but at least then someone will have been informed as to what is happening, and so can begin the process of helping you. It is of utmost importance to have a mobile phone.

A word of advice, if you go out at night, never walk home after drinking – you will be harassed. Always take a taxi trusted by the establishment, which can be done simply by asking security to take you to one personally. There are sort of unofficially designated places for foreigners to cut lose in relative protection, including Mad Murphy’s, Guinness, Dublin, Stetson’s, the American Bar & Grill, and several others. The safest places are of course in the elite hotels, such as the Intercontinental and the Hyatt Regency, but unless you are out for the regular Whiskey and Cigar night (by invitation only by the way), those places do not really hop, and are more for formal or official events.

As regards the weather, this is a minor issue. Kazakhstan has great climatic swings. Having traveled about the whole country, excepting Shymkent and Uralsk, in winter I have both sweated in Almaty and frozen in Kostanai. Conversely, in summer I have found Pavlodar quite temperate and the cold mountain breezes of Almaty to be frigid. Americans, with our great regional climatic differences, should be used to weather swings.

The biggest problem you should fear is neither weather nor bureaucracy, but crime. Almaty, at least, is infested with poor young men, mostly from the outlying regions, who prey on the unsuspecting. They are known by the slang term “gopniks”. Often, they do not ask for your money and valuables, they just attack. They are known to hospitalize victims, and have even killed a few. Never walk in dark places at night, unless you happen to think you can defend yourself against four or more strapping farm boys who hate you on general principle. Remember, these guys are resentful they lack the opportunities that those who preceded them in the 1990’s received, and have been relegated to low-wage, dead-end jobs, or to unemployment. Nonetheless, some confidence tricksters are also about, so if someone comes up to you on the street all friendly like, the best thing to do is to say “izvineeti”, and walk away.

I suppose, since this is a English teachers’ forum, I should mention teaching here. First of all, do not expect a high salary here, unless you have a contract with a real company, like in the banking, petroleum or mining industries. Most of the schools are locally owned, and pay a fiddling amount. There are lots of great promises made of additional hours at better pay, but often you are just forced to work extra for nothing further. Some of this cannot really be helped, especially since the price of bringing in a foreigner has just increased, and become infinitely more difficult, under the new law passed that limits the number of foreign workers and how long they can stay in Kazakhstan.

As regards students, just like anywhere you have good students who need and want to learn, as well as bad ones who do it because they are forced into it. Some students will become your best friends and protectors – “krisha” is the term here. Others may just try to use you. On that last account, never issue a letter of invitation to the U.S. in your own name for a student. By doing so, you could end up with some hefty financial liabilities. Some students may just pretend to be friendly in order to get free teaching time. After a while, you should be able to tell the difference. Finally, keep work and pleasure separated. Never sleep with a current student, as it is bad for your reputation, just like anywhere. This is especially true if you are working in a university environment, as you will gain the same reputation as local teachers who have been known to give out good marks for money or sexual favors.

If you decide to come to Kazakhstan, I wish you the best of luck. Do not be scared off by what I have outlined here, as I am only trying to forewarn you. It really is a beautiful country, but just not one for the faint of heart.

For more information on Kazakhstan, please go to Travel.State.Gov

Bryce Combs, 12 August 2010


Hello, I am from Kazakhstan. However, I’ve been living in UK for a year, have travelled, worked and studied in different countries including USA, Italy, UK and Spain and can easily tell you that everywhere I found crime, bureaucracy and horrible people. Regarding crime only UK could be excluded from the list. It is really safe, but I didn’t feel safe at all while walking after 8 pm.

The other thing that you should understand is that all those things are common for all places. Regarding the comment about police, I totally agree and advise you not to break laws and minimise your communication with police overall.

Regarding people, I really can tell you that people are GREAT! Not because I am from Kazakhstan and so on. No! The thing is that I have travelled a lot and was residing for quite a lot of time in those countries. Especially English speaking countries like USA and UK, particularly locals were quite unwelcoming. I really do understand that we have different cultures and so on. However, in Kazakhstan, Almaty you will find it not difficult to find friends among locals and even practise your Russian or Kazakh. And YES, the cost of living especially in Almaty, Astana and Atyrau is VERY EXPENSIVE:(though if you are really adventurous and open-minded you will gain a lot more. Surroundings of Almaty and weather are absolutely fantastic and I cannot compare it to the weather in England which is so depressive. Just remember one thing while teaching English and living in Kazakhstan, it won’t be easy if you come here with all those stereotypes, BBC movies about Kazakhstan and stories of Borat. You will get a rewarding and invaluable experience in my dear Kazakhstan!

Anonymous, 9 October 2010


I’m reading this in Jan 2011. What ESL Teaching post pays you 30,000 plus added benefits of housing and bonus? What a strange post!

Anonymous, 25 January 2011


I am from Kazakhstan and I have been living in China for a very long time. First of all, being a foreigner in any country comes with a PACKAGE of problems, troubles and warnings (personally US has been the toughest for me in this matter). Visas, regulations and limitations – don’t want to deal with it? Stay home, where you might not even need a passport. Should you decide to go abroad to teach English, be prepared to add some changes to your ways and habits, should you then decide to go to a developing country like Kazakhstan be prepared to almost rethink your whole lifestyle.

There is a ton of aspects that annoy and frustrate even Kazakh people themselves. However, for every frustration there will be a payoff. For example, it’s tough to become an “insider” with locals, but once you are in, you are in for good. You will find Kazakh people to be cold and sometimes even mean to strangers, yet very loyal and sincere in their friendship, very respectful of traditions and beliefs, very caring and giving to people that they come to care about. It’s extremely expensive to rent flats in Almaty and Astana, but there are quite a few families that would open their doors for you simply after becoming more comfortable and trust you, and the benefit of not being too developed and capitalism oriented yet? – money is not of great importance, so you won’t be expected to pay for every step (which is the case in China). Dancing, singing and entertainment in general is very important, for everybody from teens to retirement, so learning to enjoy yourself even in a very different way than you are used to will help you a great deal. Alcohol IS available, true, and can be very inexpensive, but the store shelves are not packed with them (unless you walk into the specialized liquor store…), and alcoholism is not as bad as in neighboring Russia and Mongolia. Local police is not famous for being the most fair and objective to say the least, that’s true. To this I personally think that “blending in” might be a great help. Kazakhstan is full of people of different colors and sizes, so don’t walk around with a huge camera and open mouth and you most probably won’t be bothered at all. Corruption is still quite an issue though, and even locals at times fall victims to it, to which I can only say c’est la vie, deal with it.

All in all, coming here with an open mind, a genuine interest in local culture and extra cash for the first few months should give you a chance to experience and be part of the growth and maturation of one of the youngest developing countries in the world. You can learn to accept and love the differences and have a blast or have it your way and go home watch discovery channel instead. Either way, good luck!

Mex Mama, 2 June 2011


I am a Filipino Teacher who has worked in Kazakhstan for almost 2 years now. In 2 years of my experience, never have i encountered bad moments nor annoying circumstance that would lead me to say… not a good place. Indeed for me Kazakhstan is one of the best places I’ve been. People are very nice, friendly, kind and hospitable.

Mary Jane T. Sevilla, 23 Feb 2012


I can sympathize with many comments that I have read on this site because I know a lot of them to be true. I got lucky; My university (miras) is changing at an incredible rate and a lot of it is coming from the English Language department where they are working on developing a better syllabus and bringing western-style education methods to the country. I have found the president of the university to be a hard working, open minded and fair employer. At first, I was in despair, but every year there have been monumental changes. They do create some chaos but such large administrative and executive changes always create moments of absolute craziness.

I would definitely recommend to anyone who wants to immerse themselves in another culture consider Kazakhstan. It is still very soviet and there are things that are out-of-this-world for a westerner but it will be an unforgettable experience.

Eugenette, 16 Dec 2012


I’ve been teaching English in Astana since the end of June 2013 at an established language school with locations in a number of Kazakhstan cities. I haven’t had any problems here. I don’t get paid a lot, but it’s more than enough for me to live on.

A lot of things are indeed expensive, but a lot of other things aren’t – especially if you prefer to cook for yourself.

I admit that I was a bit worried about the winter weather, but so far it really hasn’t been that bad – even when it got down to -37C. You just have to know how to dress for it. Extra layers, keeping the face, head and extremities covered, and having warm boots make quite a difference. As I write this, several places in the US are having much worse weather.

I’ve made a few friends here and even played Santa Claus for one friend’s nieces and nephews. (Several people have been mistaking me for Santa Claus ever since I got here).

Don’t be afraid to try the local foods. Personally, I prefer the little hole-in-the-wall restaurants you find in various parts of the city. Also, don’t be afraid to explore your surroundings. You can learn a lot just by walking and observing.

Santa Claus, 7 Jan 2014


As an English teacher here, I have found that the people are just as cold-hearted as the constant ice pack that lasts for months. Good luck getting anyone to smile!!! There have been no great experiences here at all except for the high salary and free apartment. So here is what you can expect….
1. Extremely stressful working environment…. they work with the idea that everyone is disposable… if you don’t like it, leave. This causes the teachers to constantly be walking on egg shells which has passed to the foreign teachers as well.
2. Lack of simple care… If something goes wrong with anything that is in your life i.e. apartment, transport, mishaps in the community, don’t expect anyone to help you.
3. Bureaucracy… this one is a no-brainer….if you don’t mind nit-picking and constant changes that are only beneficial to them, then by all means, you are a very lucky person who would be able to handle it…good luck.
4. They will hold your salary against you…. The fact is that you make almost 3 to 4 to even 5 times as much as the local teachers here do, and they want you to keep it a secret….I will let you make your own conclusions as to why. How do they hold it against you???? Well, again, that is simple….they say “we are paying you good money, do what I say, and keep your mouth shut!”
5. You are here to help the educational model….. BUAHHHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! Yeah right!!! You would have better luck teaching a salamander to make sweet, passionate love to an eagle!
If you want to come to Kazakhstan, then go ahead. But enjoy the cold, enjoy the besbarmak, and I hope that you find a better circumstance than we have found here.

Anonymous, 31 Jan 2015


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19 comments and teachers' experiences of Kazakhstan

  1. Bradley


    I am a certified teacher from Colorado in the U.S. I have been working abroad for about four years now; I am currently working in Taiwan. I’ve been looking into going abroad again and Kazakhstan has been in my peripheral for the last month or so. I am no stranger to new cultural experiences. I also read a post that the weather in Almaty and it said it is similar to that of Denver, Co, so I’m not concerned about that either.

    Currently, I’ve been researching a lot and reading posts about Kazakhstan, but most posts are from several years ago. I’m wondering if anyone has a new information about teaching there (salary, living, cost of living. etc.), and some more information about Almaty versus Astana. I’m leaning more towards Almaty for its history, environment, and location. Most the things I’m reading about Kazakhstan get me excited about it, except for the police harassment. Is this really a problem or are people making it out to be more than it is?

    Please, any and all information is helpful.


    • Bradley

      Also, when I search for jobs in Kazakhstan, NIS comes up most frequently. Is there anyone that works/worked there can give me some details about the school?

      Thanks again.

      • cherryblossom

        Hi there,

        so what did u do with your job in KZ? Its really interesting as I am from Kz myself, but now living in UK. I was also searching for EFL job in KZ. ye, and saw the same. its expensive schools as i know.
        I dont agree that people in kz are not friendly to foreigners

  2. sabreena

    Hi, I have a job offer to teach in Turan as a Science teacher, but I am hesitant because I heard that people are cold towards foreigners – like their weather!
    I need some good advice, please!
    Thank you.

    • MagreefJohn

      Hi Bradley and Sabreena,

      There is really nothing to be worried about. All the infrastructure you need exists sufficiently even more than needed.
      You might find people cold in the beginning, but you will get used to it as it is not so at all. They are just not as those people you used to see. NIS are a network of schools with better education and better equipped labs and buildings. These schools are administered by the body which does not under the monitoring of Ministry of Education. So its more of liberate. So many things have been changed. Tens thousands of people have graduated and have been studying, working in western countries. Tons of schools, companies, firms and institutes having connections with western similar institutions. The weather is not so problematic as it depends which city you are heading. Mainly foreigners go to Almaty or Astana. In Almaty summers are not so hot (around +25 Celcius), winters around -15 in average. In Astana winters are colder. Around -35 in average. You put on some sheepskin coat and all problems turn to amazing views of snow. Almaty and Astana are expensive, but mostly earned money goes for rental and bill payments. So if you are being employed by a company which pays there is nothing to worried about. There are so many places to enjoy, just have a look on youtube or google/images. It has amazing history, traditions and touristic places as well as awesome nature. There are places like ‘Saryagash’ where tens hundreds thousands of hopeless patients from around the world have been cured/treated organically. There are over 132 nationalities that makes Kazakhstan even more interesting with its multinational and multicultural environment. This has made people tolerant. I think the best advice would be if you are a foreign, especially from western countries, you may find students or workers from Kazakhstan, talk to them. Believe me talking to people is tremendously differs from the impressions got from these written people reviews. Then even if you decide to work, maybe its better first to travel there for a short period of time and see with your own eyes. Another thing I would like to highlight is about getting friends as soon as possible. I have travelled a lot and all the countries which I classify myself as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ mostly related to people I have met and have had with. This is very rapid developing country. It has still things to improve but definitely worth seeing. The nation that has 2000 year old cities, the biggest libraries of 11-18th century in the world; taxed Russia, China…historically; country with almost no citizens migrating as unqualified laborer workers does have worth seeing, reading, talking and wondering.

  3. MagreefJohn

    ‘I think the best advice would be if you are a foreign, especially from western countries, you may find students or workers from Kazakhstan, talk to them.’

    Just for clarification. I mean if you are from western countries you may search for students/workers in your home town or country universities, companies. Meeting them can help you a lot in making decisions. And this is another opportunity to get friends even before you get to Kazakhstan.

    Being sincere is key in getting sincere friends…

    Hope my comments were helpful.

  4. Stephen

    Hi, I’m Stephen, I’m also an English teacher in Ukraine currently but will like to relocate to Kazakhstan, how ever my native country is Ghana formally a British colony, but I lived and studied in the UK for 12 years and finally decided to move to any non English speaking countries to teach English, I have been teaching English in Ukraine for the past 3 years but the economic situation here is very terrible….I personally don’t know much about Kazan as compared to Ukraine… first of all I will like to know if I need visa from Ukraine to Kazakhstan secondary I want to know about racist issues in the institutions and on the street.

    • Dinara Kassenova

      Hello, Stephen. My name is Dina. I’m from Kazakhstan, Astana city. You need a work visa. Kazakhstan is a great country to live. We are hospitable, friendly, tolerated people. I have a friend he is from Kenya. He has lived here for 6 years. He is ESL teacher. we don’t have racist issues in the institutions and on the street. I would like to help you. I can offer to you work here. I open language school in Astana. If you are interested I can answer all your questions.

      • Ezekiel Katsirizika

        Hie Dinara Kassenova,
        Your response to Stephen`s enquiry has given me a bit of hope. I am Ezekiel. I was born in Malawi. I completed my high school over there and then moved to South Africa where i lived for the past 21 years and studied at University of South Africa. I have a bachelors and postgraduate degrees in Information Science. An English teaching and creative writing certificates. I have worked in Unisa library for just over six years.
        I am currently in Vietnam looking for teaching English jobs. I do not seem to be able to get any opportunity because my passport is not on the list of prefered nationalities. Any chance that i can get an English teaching job in Kazakhstan?

      • Ulebe precious

        My name is precious am from Nigeria base in Ghana i teach and take care of children in kindergarten school here in Ghana, can i get a job there in Kazakhstan? I will love to relocate

  5. Bel

    I want to know how people in kazahstan deal with foreigner and is it okay in turan school?kindly describe :) thank you

  6. Habib

    Hello : my name is Habib and I’m new here and I’m looking for a teaching English job in Almaty but I don’t how to find it. And I really find Kazakh people different.. they don’t like to talk or help u the way u find it useful. So is there is anyone who can help me through contact me if it’s possible.

  7. Жанадиль Бердибаев

    Hello Sabreena. Kazakhstan is very great country. And people are very hospitable

    • Adetola

      Do you live there?? can a Nigerian like me with great teaching experience and a Bachelor degree with diploma get a teaching job in Kazakhstan?

  8. Connie

    Is there an age restriction to teach ESL there? I just turned 60 and have turned down by several countries because of it. Thanks.

    • Mark Schwartz

      Don’t teach in Kazakhstan. Go to Japan or Europe.

  9. Mark Schwartz

    1) don’t teach in Kazakhstan

    2) the police won’t help you when you need their help. A taxi driver stole my wallet, and I called the police immediately and the person on the phone acted as if nothing happened. I waited for two hours for the police to arrive and nobody showed up.

    3) as soon as salespersons find out you are a foreigner, they will do whatever they can to make you pay extra

    4) winters are long — and prepare for an 8 month winter. I am not kidding. If you think you can stay all day in an apartment for like eight months… you can’t go out. Forget about it. It is usually below -30

    5) do not expect to see smiling faces in Kazakhstan. It was part of the Soviet Union.

    6) supermarkets and restaurants are mediocre. You’ll be bored after two months. It is so cold in Kazakhstan and nothing really grows there in the winter. So everything is imported… so they are expensive. For a single leek you can pay like six dollars. I am not kidding. You can’t find good nuts (almonds, hazelnuts and so forth) you need to eat the same type of food again and again. Potatoes and meat.. if you want to eat some exotic foods or something good you can easily end up spending your entire salary on food. If you want to live like a soviet and eat potatoes all day and drink some expired tea, you can live in kz

    7) you can not rely on your managers or bosses here.

    If you really want to ignore what I said above and want to go to kz then work for a university. Don’t work for a language school or something because they will just tell you to go back to your country when they don’t need your help anymore. They can act like they are the best persons in the world but they can show you what hell is like. I am warning you and the choice is yours.

    • Monir Hosen

      Monir Hosen Sumon knock me in messenger I talk to you.

  10. Al


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