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“And where are you from?” How to move to Uzbekistan without being disappointed

Once to Central Asia and not back again? Three families who emigrated to Uzbekistan talk about advantages, stereotypes and difficulties in everyday life in Uzbekistan. The article was published on February 8, 2021 at Hook, we translate it in abbreviated form with kind permission.

New home: Uzbekistan

For a long time Uzbekistan was a rather closed country with a rigid regime, but in recent years the situation has improved significantly. Reforms of the financial and tax system have had a positive impact on the investment climate. Some international companies already consider the region to be an advantageous business location. But there is a lack of highly qualified workers. The demand for executives, managers, geologists, engineers, as well as oil and gas workers is particularly high. For some years now, legislation has been promoting the employment of foreigners, for example by lowering income tax, abolishing a permit procedure and extending the period of employment to three years.

Read also at Novastan:Uzbekistan is providing almost one billion euros to support its economy

The mild climate and the relatively low cost of living are also attractive to many. But is it also life in Uzbekistan? Hook asked three expat families about their experiences.

"It's still stuck in the noughties"

A Belarusian family who has lived in Tashkent for five months with their three childrenlives, tells of their experiences.

My husband had an interview with a company based in Uzbekistan. At first we didn't really take the offer seriously. We hardly knew anything about the country, and what we knew - a Central Asian country with ancient traditions, a hot climate and lots of dried fruits - we got from Wikipedia.

The first impression was pretty strange. We felt like we had traveled 15 years into the past and the stark contrast in many areas amazed us. There were magnificent palaces on one side and dilapidated residential areas on the other. The salaries are low while the prices for everything are very high and you can see numerous small cars from our own production right next to premium brands. The difference was clearly noticeable.

Fruit and vegetables taste really great here, but you can now buy anything in Belarus, so this aspect is not the most important. The climate is pretty harsh for us - the dry air, the dust, the extreme temperature fluctuations.

First and foremost, Uzbekistan needs to develop in three areas: the infrastructure, the service and the education sector. We are particularly sad about the low level of education, because a strong and prosperous state can only emerge through a good education.

If we had to say three things about Uzbekistan it would be “it's stuck in the noughties”, “busy and emerging market” and loosely based on the cult movie White sun of the desert: "The Orient demands sensitivity."

Read also at Novastan: The white sun of the desert - Soviet western from Turkmenistan

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"You shouldn't confuse tourism with migration"

A family from Lithuania with two children, who have lived in Tashkent for six months, reports:

When I first arrived in Tashkent, it was May. Everything was green and the sun was shining in the sky as if there were never clouds in this land. That was my first impression and I immediately noticed how the city was blooming and how clean it was. I have already been to different countries in Asia, so I can safely say that Tashkent is one of the cleanest cities I have ever visited. In addition, you feel very safe here and can go for a walk alone. The only thing you can hear is a friendly "sister" to greet you.

Read also at Novastan:Uzbekistan: The fight against garbage continues

Unfortunately, before we moved, I only knew the name of the capital and a few facts from my father's stories. He traveled to Uzbekistan in 1980 and to this day he happily tells of the excellent plov with peach leaves [Uzbek national dish, rice with lamb and vegetables, editor's note], that he had eaten in Andizhan that time. My acquaintances, to whom I told about our move, didn't know much more about the country either.

First and foremost, we decided to emigrate because it was important to my spouse's career. The rest of the reasons were much more emotional: the country had enchanted us. It was relaxed, with friendly people, good weather and wonderful mountains that are only an hour's drive from the capital.

When everyday life came, we had to adjust our rose-colored glasses a bit. I remember an older anecdote that ended with the words: "You shouldn't confuse tourism with migration". For example, I noticed people pushing up the prices of their goods and services shortly after they said “you're guests in our city”. And if you meet locals, you should expect to be at least an hour late, and that the term “tomorrow” is relative.

To this day, I am unfamiliar with bargaining in the market, so I prefer to shop in stores. But of course these are all small things compared to the enthusiastic and good mood of the locals. Well, only when you get behind the wheel does your mood suddenly change. Then it is on the streets as if they were taking part in Formula 1, only what prize there is to be won, nobody knows.

I think the state should pay more attention to people and their needs. Another problematic topic is the environment, there is an incredibly high consumption of plastic here. Each product purchased is packed in a separate plastic bag, just to make it last better.

There are things that I really appreciate about Uzbekistan. I think it's fantastic that I can get to know the Central Asian culture. It is a unique chance to see the cities of the Silk Road and historical artifacts with your own eyes, and to exchange ideas with art scholars. And the carpets and homemade fabrics are worth a lot! I don't miss a chance to talk to the manufacturers to learn about their craft, their creativity and their lives. An interesting fact that unites our two regions, which at first glance seem very different: During the Soviet era, Uzbek craftsmen were often initiated into the secrets of ceramics in the Baltic states. For this reason, when I look at the elegant clay sculptures in Tashkent's museums, I recognize certain features of my home culture.

If I had to describe Uzbekistan in three words, it would be: speed, sincerity and authenticity.

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“That's Central Asia, children. Don't take it personally. "

A family of four from Israel who moved to Tashkent four years ago for career reasons, shares her experiences:

At that time we knew little about Uzbekistan, only had a kind of composite picture in mind: the former Soviet republic, the men there wear the typical Uzbek caps and women plait 40 braids before the wedding. Ah, and of course the melons! The older generation knows more about Uzbekistan, my parents smiled mysteriously: “That's how it is in Central Asia, children. Don't take it personally, ”they said of the unique mentality.

You don't remember everything now, and the mentality my parents talked about, the different everyday situations and the lack of goods and products now seem to me from a distant past. Four years ago, Tashkent was a completely different city. Above all, the range in the shops has changed by 90 percent, so that you can now also buy imported products. When Tashkent changed, we changed too. Things that were alien to us before, like Kurt, are now an indispensable part of our lives.

But even today there are often moments when we are confused. We noticed that the younger generation, unlike the older generation, speaks bad Russian. This is particularly problematic in the service sector. Many amusing situations have resulted from this. I think one shouldn't forget the Russian language. Furthermore, we still live in a kind of information vacuum to this day. You'd think it shouldn't be a problem to get information, but here it turns out to be complicated, for example, to get to an event planned for Uzbekistan Independence Day in a short time. Such a day is a good opportunity for us to get out for a weekend and attend festivals and events. You can find information about it, but where exactly and at what time the celebrations will take place and how they will take place - that is nowhere. There is a big problem here with access to qualitative information and properly presented content.

Uzbekistan in three words: heat, plov and opportunities

Every story is different

Every family has their own story of first impressions, debunking stereotypes and immersing themselves in the real life of the country. Uzbekistan is not a paradise on earth, as tourist guides suggest, but neither is it as bad as it sometimes appears to us locals. There are problems that absolutely need to be solved, but also advantages that should not be underestimated. To be objective, it is sometimes good to look at a country through the eyes of a stranger.

Hook
Translated from the Russian by Julia Tappeiner

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