How to Go to a Kazakh Wedding

To get invited to a Kazakh wedding, you should move here and become friends with a co-worker who’s fallen in love with a Kazakh woman.

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They are absolutely adorable and she looked amazing.


I was disappointed that she didn’t wear a traditional fun hat (user uploaded Pinterest photo).

It’s okay, some fun hats came into play later.

Here is what you can expect if you go to a Kazakh wedding.


“Kazakhs’ favourite colour is gold,” laughed Madina when we entered the venue. This was by far the fanciest wedding I have ever attended. Every surface was grand, shiny, and $$$.


You will not feel out of place wearing red-carpet attire but it’s okay to wear standard fancy dress.

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I decided to match our apartment rental.


If you show up two hours late, you will be right on time.


A hired emcee takes everyone through the evening. I mostly remember him often proclaiming, “SHABA-DOE!” which means “applause” in Kazakh.

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There are traditional dances.

And all the young men were asked to participate in games. One consisted of each man wearing a pair of baggy pants over top their regular clothes, and playing musical chairs with training potties, and before sitting down, each man had to pull down their baggy pants, as if to use the potty. For another game, each man had to wear an oversized velvet jumpsuit with balloons stuffed inside. They had to slow dance with women and then bump against each other to pop as many balloons as possible.


This guy won the velvet jumpsuit/balloon game. He was sassy.

Gifts & Toasts

It is a truth universal that everyone loves money. I just put some money in a Chinese envelope that I picked up while in Malaysia.

There is no gift table because gifts are only presented once you’ve given a toast. The emcee calls up groups, based on how you know the bride or groom. For example, all of us who worked with the groom were a group. Then you each give a toast into the microphone, you all dance for a song (we got “Blue” by Eiffel 65) and then you go up to the couple’s table to hug them and present your gift.

I was totally horrified but it was actually okay.


Endless alcohol! Too much food! We only had to scoop one spoonful out of a salad (and by salad, I mean meat with mayonnaise) and it was promptly replaced with a fresh bowl. At the end of the night, each guest received a handful of plastic bags to take home the leftovers.


This was how much was left AFTER the ten people at our table had all they could eat.

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Procession of meat. Serious business.


How to Go to the Pharmacy

The other week, someone asked me what is the weirdest thing that’s happened to me in Kazakhstan. I replied by retelling the story of how an overly amorous graduate student found out where I lived and showed up at my apartment one day when I was dyeing my hair and eyebrows. This was an impressive feat considering that my building has security (okay, okay, they are pretty inconsistent and asleep half the time).

But what actually sticks in my mind as the weirdest thing, likely because of its longevity, is that I never get my period here. When I first moved to KZ, I had my period twice, in regular fashion and I have not had it since then. I was so panicky that in one of my lower points of life, I texted the gentleman whom I’d had a casual encounter with (I was once so lucky as to meet someone not affiliated with my workplace who was in town for business) to confirm that it was logistically impossible for me to be pregnant.

Think for a moment about the wording of the question that I had to ask this man. Then you will know how far the effort of going to the pharmacy for a pregnancy test surpassed the embarrassment of posing this question.


Low points

It was all moot in the end because though he answered in the affirmative I still felt uneasy and off I went to the аптека. I held up Google Translate on my phone with “pregnancy test” written on it, the pharmacist chuckled to herself, tossed one my way and yes, indeed, I was not pregnant. It was one of the most straightforward transactions I’ve had in KZ.

In my defense, it is really easy to blow things out of proportion when you live in an isolated place.

I still haven’t gotten my period here. But what really blew me away, was getting my period while on holiday in Denmark. Bodies are strange and amazing and I guess mine doesn’t like being here. Let’s see if it likes Japan when I go there next month.

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This somehow seems appropriate, okay?

Now here are some useful аптека/pharmacy tips:

  • There are pharmacies in every mall and they are separate stores, not attached to grocery stores. My favourite pharmacy is the one in Asia Park.
  • Things at the pharmacy are cheap!
  • This is where you’ll have to buy contact lens solution and dental floss.
  • This is also where you can buy herbal tea. For example, mint tea is sold at the pharmacy because it is considered a kind of aphrodisiac here. Once I bought two boxes of mint tea and the staff could hardly handle it.
  • You don’t often need a prescription for things. For example, you can buy birth control one month at a time for about $6. You can even buy antibiotics without a prescription! But you have to know the specific name of items like this that you want to buy.
  • You can order pharmaceutical items delivered to your house from this site. Though I find it too overwhelming to make any attempts.
  • Some things are universal, like Strepsils and Vitamin C. Other things you can type into Google Translate and show the pharmacist. Sometimes it just doesn’t work, like when I tried to buy cortisone. But I don’t really care enough to ask any local friends what the Russian equivalent is. This is one place you never have to be self-conscious of dry skin.


Everything is going to be okay (when you’re in another country)

Update: How Healthcare Works When You Leave Canada

A happy update to this post! Thanks to a lovely friend, I found an insurance service that will allow me to buy travel insurance as a non-resident Canadian citizen.

It’s a bit less than the amount I would’ve paid MSP/month and then I would’ve had to pay for travel insurance on top of that – so overall, it looks as though my poorly researched decision turned out to be a good one.

To recap:

If you are a Canadian resident moving from Canada, you have two options (specific to BC but I imagine similar to other provinces):

1) Contact MSP to arrange to continue paying the $69.25/month Medical Services Plan premium for up to 24 months. Acquire travel/medical insurance on top of that, whether paid for by yourself or through your new foreign workplace.

You should definitely keep MSP if you are eligible for any of these three options for MSP assistance:

2) Register yourself as permanently leaving British Columbia. Rely on whatever insurance your new foreign workplace provides or purchase insurance from this insurance service.


Celebratory balloons