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Business Customs

In terms of business customs, Kazakhstan draws on a combination of Russian and Central Asian cultural influences, and customs may depend on the ethnicity of the person you are meeting. It is customary to shake hands and call people by their first name and patronymic at business meetings and at informal get-togethers, though use of just the first name is also acceptable. Business attire is generally a suit and tie for men, and a suit or business dress for women. Refreshments are usually served at business meetings - coffee, tea and water are the norms. Small gifts (pens, company logo pins, portfolios and books) are frequently given at the end of an initial meeting as a token of appreciation. Business cards are the norm, often in both Russian and English.

Scheduling meetings can be difficult, but this is also the norm. It can sometimes take weeks to get a response to an email, fax or a telephone message request for a meeting. Once contact has been established, patience is still required to confirm a date and time to meet. And, it is not uncommon for meetings to be cancelled with no explanation. Since traffic is a problem in Almaty, company representatives appreciate meeting at their office locations, but are not averse to accepting an invitation for a lunch meeting.

Kazakhstani businessmen are generally less direct than American businessmen, and what can be accomplished in a few meetings in the U.S. might take more in Kazakhstan, requiring patience and discipline on the part of the American. An experienced and competent interpreter can add invaluable context to your business meetings.

It is common in Kazakhstan to have dinner with business contacts, but usually only after establishing a business relationship in a more formal setting. Business attire is almost always worn at such occasions. Usually diners share a bottle of vodka or cognac and offer toasts, stating their desire for a fruitful business relationship and warm personal relations between partners. After-hours informal meetings, dinners and toasts, as well as weekend hunting trips and barbecues, can be very important to forge close business relations. Though Kazakhstanis tend to be Muslim, business travelers with experience in Islamic countries will find the country to be more secular, and many taboos elsewhere are disregarded as such here. It is quite common for ethnic Kazakhs and Uyghurs to consume alcohol at dinner functions or receptions.