Andrey, 30, Interpreter-Economist, Paris, France

“I feel myself with a slightly different perspective on life. I am a citizen of Kazakhstan in France, enriched with their experience.”

Koshpendiler: Hi Andrey, could you please tell us about yourself?

Andrey: I am a professional interpreter and an economist. I graduated from the Paris-Sorbonne University. Currently I work as a Kazakhstan economy analyst for the Organisation Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), interpret for the Government of Kazakhstan and international organisations, as well as do a film and voiceover work in French films. Additionally I am the initiator and co-founder of the Youth Association of Friends of Kazakhstan in France.

My first degree is in Languages (English, French and Spanish), which I obtained from the High School of the Interpreters at the Paris-Sorbonne University. My second degree is in international commerce, and now I’m writing a doctoral thesis in economics about “Policies used to attract foreign investments to the Republic of Kazakhstan, starting with Independence Day.”

Koshpendiler: Wow, quite many things. But what is your one true calling?

Andrey: I think my first calling on a personal level, is to be always happy. Second – to contribute to the development of my homeland throughout my life and on my level. Despite the fact that I live in France, Kazakhstan will always be my motherland, and I think I am very useful for my country, where I am now. I’ve been involved in many projects related to Kazakhstan, and thus made a commitment to the advancement of our country.

Koshpendiler: Where do you come from in Kazakhstan? How do you remember your hometown? 

Andrey: I’m from the East Kazakhstan from a small town called Ust-Kamenogorsk. Unlike Paris, there are many more sunny days. People seem quite aloof and not as smiling as the French, but actually they are very friendly. Especially, when you get to know them closer.

Ust-Kamenogorsk is one of the most beautiful strategic cities of Kazakhstan.

Firstly, because almost all large-scale industry of East Kazakhstan is concentrated in this city. Secondly, because it is also one of the most important cultural centres of the country.

Vast steppes, high mountains, deep lakes, dense forests, mountain streams and rare species of animals of the Eastern Kazakhstan are combined with high technology, advanced mining and metallurgical industry. The industry processes uranium and gold cast, produces solar cells and extracts polymetallic ore.

And it’s all intertwined, thanks to people who live here. In fact, it is the people – the main jewel of the east. Here very well known people not only in Kazakhstan, but also the whole of Eurasia have been born, lived, or worked. Many well-known art and culture people came out of East Kazakhstan, such as Abay Kunanbayev, Shakarim Kudayberdiyev, Mukhtar Auezov, Bari Alibasov, Lera Kudryavtseva, Sergei Zverev, etc. “Malachite Box” was written in Ust-Kamenogorsk. Thus, this land is rich in natural resources as well as in human potential.

Koshpendiler: What brought you to France? Why did you choose this country?

Andrey: Actually, I’ve loved French, French songs, was interested in French culture since my childhood. In the school curriculum I also quite liked French literature. But after I finished high school and I went to Almaty to take the admission test at the state conservatory, I changed my mind at the last minute and decided to apply for a degree in foreign languages ​​- English. What happened then was a pure incident – I simply confused the department buildings and ended up in the Department of French. I was the only guy there and so I remained.

Though I have never studied French before that, I really enjoyed studying it – it became my hobby, even passion. I worked day and night, went to all sorts of activities organised by the Alliance Française and the French Embassy in Kazakhstan. I’ve also been involved in many projects between Kazakhstan and France and as a result at the end of my undergraduate studies I applied for a scholarship to study at the Sorbonne. The competition was high, but I passed and got accepted to this prestigious school.

I want to note that while studying in Almaty I had had a lot of doubts about my choice of the studies. “Foreign Languages” is not very serious degree from a traditional point of view, and especially the French language. The key question was, what would I do in Kazakhstan with such profession. Many friends advised me to change my program while it was not too late, but I decided to go until the end. And I must say that it is French that has opened so many doors for me. Thanks to the knowledge of this beautiful language I had the opportunity to meet with world-renowned personalities, French movie stars, musicians, politicians; to work at a high diplomatic level, to take part in the most conceivable international projects. French has always favorably distinguished me from the other candidates in any competition, playing the role of kind of “magic filter”.

Koshpendiler: And what was your first impression of France?

Andrey: Impressions were plentiful. The first thing I noticed when I got off the plane at the Charles de Gaulle airport – how multinational this country was. I grew up with the notion that Kazakhstan was possibly the most multiethnic country (smiles). And then, when I saw all these faces and so many different ethnicities in the airport, it shocked me. The second thing that astonished me was the richness and beauty of the architecture. I have been to many countries by now, but France is still a country of exceptional architecture. And the third thing – the fact that people were friendly and smiling (at least it appeared so). Therefore, the first impression was very positive.

Koshpendiler: How does your working day look today?

Andrey: It differs, but usually I get up in the morning, study languages (Spanish and Kazakh), then drink a cup of coffee or tea, work on a my PhD thesis and then go to work. In the evening, after work I’m doing extra curriculum class – I take theatre, cinema, piano lessons, then I go to sports, then do work for my research, and then it’s time to go to bed. The day passes quickly and there is no time to get bored.

Koshpendiler: And what are the characteristics of life in France? How can I integrate into French society?

Andrey: Well, firstly, the French are very polite. If you go to a bakery, for example, you can not just say “give me a loaf of bread.” You have to queue in the line, then say “Bon Jour,” and after you are served you have to thank the person. It seems plain simple, but this is the first thing that differs the newcomers from the locals. One has to get used to these cultural norms in order to be accepted here.

Secondly, the French know how to enjoy their lives. In the morning they get up, go to a bakery and buy a croissant or a pain-au-chocolate, drink a cup of coffee and that’s it – they are happy with their lives. The sun comes out rarely here and when it does everyone is happy about it, like if it is a miracle. So people go out and lie down on the lawn, even in winter when it’s not too cold, and enjoy the sun. Naturally, the question that comes to my mind is why can we not be so cheerful as French? Say, about beshparmak? Therefore, the main difference from us and French is not that their life is more beautiful, but that they are able to find beauty in everything, even in simple details.

Koshpendiler: Having lived for so many years in this country, do feel yourself like a French?

Andrey: I feel myself with a slightly different perspective on life. I am a citizen of Kazakhstan in France, enriched with their experience. I am of the opinion that one is who he was born and raised, and the rest are just extra layers.

Koshpendiler: And what Kazakh traditions and habits from Kazakhstan do you practice today?

Andrey: I often meet with other people from Kazakhstan for a “Kazy-party.” That is, if when someone travels from Kazakhstan, we always ask them to bring kazi. Personally I still love the kazakh style get-togethers, which in France would be described as traditional family (feast) kind of gatherings. In France you have it only on major occasions such as Christmas. The more accepted format here is buffet but I still like to set the table, gather friends around, and spend an evening around it. That is the kazakh hospitality, the host generosity that I still practice. And then there is also the habit of drinking tea with milk. I think this is not going to change ever.

Koshpendiler: And how hard it’s to get a job in France?

Andrey: I think that in France as well as in other EU countries, it is relatively hard to get a job for a foreigner. Firstly, work permits are not issued for all types of jobs and it’s not easy to obtain such permission. Secondly, there are difficulties with the language. Of course, it’s easier to get a job of a waiter, dishwasher or handyman than a white-collar job. But on the other hand there is a great demand for technical specialists and a good engineer will find a job quite easily, even if his French is not on highest level.

Koshpendiler: What are your three tips for beginners in France (or to those planning to move to France)?

Andrey: My first advice is quite simple – collect all your documents and apostle your birth certificate before you leave. You will avoid the need to ask the embassy (which is a huge demand of the embassy’s resources) or your relatives to send / obtain them for you. It is also desirable to scan them and have them saved in electronic format. In case of loss of a passport, etc. it will be easier for the embassy to help you if you have a digital copy or scan.

Second – it is necessary to arrive with an understanding or a vision of why you come here, and what you want to do here. When you have a goal, for example, to learn and get a master’s degree or run some project, then it is always easier to adapt and transform your problems into advantages.

Third – no matter what happens, you should never panic. Failures should be taken calmly and positively. You do not need to be upset, even if something does not work. There are different associations which can help when necessary.

Koshpendiler: Can you tell more about such associations in France and where to go for help in case something happens?

Andrey: First of all, you should contact the Embassy of the Republic of Kazakhstan in France. There are also several official associations of Kazakhs, since there are quite few of them here. The most famous of them are the following:

  • Youth Alliance of Friends of Kazakhstan (Jeune Alliance des Amis du Kazakhstan) – I am one of the initiators and co-founders of this association. The main activity of the association is to help students from Kazakhstan and to promote Kazakh culture in France;
  • Association of Kazakhs in France – they organize various cultural events, and are aimed at an older group.
  • Kazakh disapora – descendants of Kazakhs, who have earlier migrated to other countries (mainly Turkey), they are also very active.

All of these organizations help citizens of Kazakhstan in France, you can ask any of their members. We help as much as we can, or at least suggest where to look. Specifically, our Youth Alliance of Friends of Kazakhstan is working closely with the Embassy of Kazakhstan in France, together we organize cultural and national events, and also organize traditional dancing classes and conduct the Kazakh language courses in Paris – by the way our courses are the first of its kind in the history of Kazakh-French relations.

You can contact my personally with any questions about living and studying in France, I will be glad to talk about the subject of my dissertation, to talk about the work in international organizations, as well as about language learning. It is best to email me.