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Kazakhstan and France

Kazakhstan is a country situated between Eastern Europe and Central Asia. It is a big country (the ninth in the world by size), and the unique location make it one of the few states that reside on two continents at the same time. The official name of the country is the Republic of Kazakhstan, and the official language is Kazakh. The neighbours of it are China, Russia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. The capital city is Astana and the official currency is called tenge. Since it has been a part of USSR for a long time, many Kazakh people also know Russian (it is spoken by 30% of the citizens). In general, the population is diverse and has many ethnic backgrounds (Berlyne, 2010). Kazakh language is related to Turkish languages and has many common word roots. Although the covered area is quite vast, the population density is not so high (less than 6 people per square kilometre).

Kazakhstan is a republic but the authoritarian power of the president is not balanced by the powers outside the executive branch. It is a predominantly Muslim country (47%) with a significant share of Russian Orthodox Christians (44%) and other confessions (9%). Due to the growing economy and sufficient reserves of natural resources, Kazakhstan has become an attractive business partner and an opportunity to invest for the representatives of other countries. However, in order to make sure that the negotiations and business contacts are successful it is essential to learn more about the peculiarities of Kazakhstan culture. 


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Since the collapse of the USSR, Kazakh economy has experienced many ups and downs due to the ruined economic ties, familiar patterns and support from neighbouring countries. However, a range of fundamental reforms, privatisation and economic measures have led to significant growth that has grown particularly strong in energy and oil sectors (Berlyne, 2010). At the current moment Kazakhstan economy tries to keep a healthy balance between its agricultural and manufacturing sectors monitoring the amount of foreign investment. The economy in general is experiencing a period of substantial growth and development which is a positive feature attracting new investors.

France is a country in Western Europe that is bordering Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland, Andorra, Italy, Belgium, Monaco and Spain. It also has a diverse ethnical background: apart from traditional Celtic and Latin white French people, France is also home for many Slavic and North African minorities.  The official language is French that is spoken by up to 90% of the population. All other languages are generally not used in business and are rarely spoken (Basque, Catalan, German dialects, etc.)

French people are known for their exceptional culture and love for arts, music, and literature. The economic conditions of France also attract investments but in some cases French businessmen also become investors themselves. France is one of OECD countries and an influential member of the European Union.

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The Central Values of Two Cultures

Kazakhstan culture is traditionally nomadic, and one of the key values is hospitality that is displayed in generosity and welcoming behavioural patterns in private lives, social spheres and business. The foreign partners of Kazakhs may be invited to a traditional dinner called dastarkhan, and the invitation should not be ignored as by sharing food with their new acquaintance (or old partner) Kazakh people get to know them better and demonstrate their appreciation with generosity.

There are several strong cultural traditions that are still present in today’s Kazakh society though by the current moment many of the older customs have become extinct. Most of them are celebrated within family borders. It is worth remembering that traditions is what Kazakhs are proud of, so this part of their lives should be respected and taken into consideration.

Both Muslim and Russian Orthodox communities are represented in Kazakh society, so the religious traditions which are honoured by all Kazakhs may differ depending on the confessions of a particular partner foreign businessmen deal with.

The religious representation in France is primarily Catholic (up to 88%), so in terms of religion France is more homogenous than Kazakhstan. French people are also family-oriented but have a rather practical attitude towards marriage, the division of duties and responsibilities in the family, and the kinds of support that can be provided by the family members.

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French people value order in conducting business, so no mixtures of personal life and work are allowed. French businessmen appreciate art, music, home accessories, books and wine that is of exceptional quality. The intellectual appeal, logics, rational approach and formalized order are the primary values of French in both life and business sphere. In their private lives they are always happy to talk and stay society-oriented ready to talk to the street pedestrians and demonstrate their politeness.

Due to the importance of Christmas season to French people, it is not recommended to schedule the appointments during this period. The same is relevant for July and August – the traditional period for family vacations. French people hate to be disturbed by their boss, colleague or partner when on a holiday or day off with family unless it is a life-and-death emergency.

Business Practices of Kazakhstan and France

When you are going to do business with partners from Kazakhstan there is no place for hurry or impatience as your Eastern-minded partners need to take their time and build some relationship with you before singing any contracts or deals (Communicaid Group, 2009). It is also notable that Muslim Kazakhstan people need to take frequent breaks for traditional praying, and it is the sacred part of their day that cannot be interrupted or ignored. That is why the appointments you are scheduling need to rely on the prayer schedule if it is necessary.

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The business hierarchy of Kazakhstan is quite strict and the employees are not expected to ignore the traditional patterns or demonstrate independency with laissez-faire tendencies. The leaders of the group are rather remote and separated from the group. At some level of conscience, Kazakh employees tend to perceive their leader or boss as a superior person, or at least such an attitude is expected from them. The power is distributed from the boss to the employees (from up to bottom). The negotiator leading the delegation is frequently not the major decision-maker and not a senior leader – his role includes representation and battling for the company’s interests. That is why the attempts to influence the opinion of the negotiators are at times useless. The hierarchy is also reflected in the respect shown for age, social status, wealth and position.

Meanwhile, French people have different ‘rules of conduct’ for those people who come from their private social circle and for those who have not crossed this line yet. French are very polite and delicate people but their close friends and family are the only people that they can feel free and relaxed with.

The key to success in dealings with Kazakhstan partners is the establishment of close personal contacts in various spheres. Prior to entering business Kazakh prefer to get to know their partner in an informal setting as any business decisions has to be outweighed and wise.

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The foreign partners will be a lot more successful if they have shown profound interest and sensibility for Kazakh traditions and customs. For instance, Muslim partners would take passing something with a left hand as an insult. Women are expected to wear stylish elegant but modest suits of classical fashion (Communicaid Group, 2009).

French business structure is also hierarchical, and the decisions are made by the seniors and top managers. The clothing should be fashionable and elegant but not overcoming the borders of generally accepted business etiquette. The suits or dresses should be of soft eye-friendly colours.

Differences in Meeting and Greeting

Kazakh people demonstrate the attitude, appreciation and the awareness of the person’s social status through the structure and formality of greetings. It is also a demonstration of the closeness of relationship. For instance, a person who comes from a lower organizational/hierarchical level usually greets the senior employee extending his hand for a handshake and even bows his head respectfully.

The initial introductions are usually informal and start out with calling each other by name and shaking hands. It helps both parties to forget about business for a little while and concentrate on each other’s personalities and the pleasure of communication.

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If the relationship has already been built and can be called stable it is also common to exchange hugs instead of handshakes. Just as Russians or Ukrainians, Kazakhstani usually call each other using the first name and the patronymic (a form of their father’s name with the prefix –vich or –ovna). You should wait to be invited to call your Kazakhstani partner by his first name but it is generally one of the first steps your partner will do.

French people also greet each other with a handshake, and it also may be accompanied by kissing on both checks for closer partners. It is generally not recommended to use the person’s first name unless he or she allows you to do so – the first names are intended for family and friends.

Although French people may ‘get down to business’ comparatively quickly, the decision-making process takes much time. The hierarchy requires an experienced senior who often presses authoritarian style of leadership. Planning is an important part of any business operation, and French plans contain many details. Entering rooms and taking a seat may be ritual depending on the employee’s position, so it is recommended to wait until you are invited to sit down. The debating should be professional but not pressing, and the intellectual appeal is central.

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Differences in Gift Giving Etiquette

Gift giving in Kazakhstani culture is not fixed. However, it is polite to bring a small gift to the hostess if you are invited to share a meal with the partner’s family. If your partner is a practising Muslim, it is forbidden to bring alcohol, so you need to make sure he drinks. The gifts may be opened in your presence.

French people may try to read additional information in the kind of flowers you give them, and that is why if you choose flowers as a gift please advise with the conservative information sources. For instance, some flowers and their numbers are traditionally intended for funerals, others are bad or unlucky symbols. White flowers are limited to weddings. If you choose wine as a gift, make sure it is of premium quality as French people are knowledgeable in winery.

Differences in Communication

The communicational style of Kazakhs has indirect character – it means that getting to know Kazakhs may become a time-consuming challenge for those who come from an absolutely different background. The decision-making will become more effective if more time is spent talking about various things unrelated to the deal or contract. Moreover, it also helps to establish a stronger business relationship. It is recommended to shake hands with the Kazakh colleague or partner but before shaking hands with a Kazakh lady you should wait for the initiation from her.

In French culture the formality of conducting business is emphasized. Everything is done with mutual trust and respect but here trust is earned through appropriate behaviour and action. It is also essential to make personal contacts in all business spheres. If you don’t know French, learning a few phrases in it with an apology as a demonstration of respect will fortify your business relationship with French partners (Frewen, 2010). The communicational style is not always fixed and can be significantly influenced by the background, social status, education and upbringing of the person. Unlike Kazakhs who prefer delicate and probing questions instead of direct ones, French people may seem very straightforward in asking questions.

Men are free to initiate the handshaking with women. It would also be reasonable to use Madame, Mademoiselle, and Monsieur as an additional to the person’s last name to demonstrate cultural awareness and respect (Hofstede et al 2010).

Differences in Business Meetings

The meetings in Kazakhstan do not have a stable structure, so the agenda is subject to transformations and variations. Although Kazakh people are proud of their traditionalism and conservatism in some life spheres, they recognize the value of innovation and try to be open to new bright ideas. Due to the hierarchical tendency, Kazakhs prefer to meet with the people of the same position or rank.

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While meeting with French partners you should not exaggerate. You are not expected to be late for meetings, and if any delay takes place the French partner needs to be notified immediately. Meetings with French colleagues or partners are not intended for making the final decisions but rather designed for covering burning issues.

Doing Business Negotiation

Kazakh people can make any negotiation very enthusiastic, emotional, involved and lively. Kazakhs are notable for their passion for arguments and debates but it is not recommended to directly contradict a senior representative of the delegation who comes from a higher organizational level than you. It is common to exchange business cards but they should be in both English and Russian. It is impolite not to give the received business card a minute of attentive reading.

Although Russian is usually the language to conduct negotiations in, it is better to clarify this point with your partner. It is still debatable in Kazakh society whether Russian or Kazakh should be used as the official business language, so you may face people who have no preference for Russian. It is essential to keep in mind that all Kazakhs are very different in terms of ethnical and religious background as the country lies between Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Due to the phenomenon of melting pot in Kazakhstan, the majority of its citizens are tolerant, flexible and open.

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After the negotiations over a contract or deal are over, you should not expect a signed written contract (Hofstede et al, 2010). Sealing the deal often ends with a handshake as the business relationship is built on mutual trust and respect.

French people also prefer to maintain direct eye contact while negotiating just as Kazakh people do. Dealing with business matters is time-consuming but unlike Kazakh culture French people do not take their time to get to know you better (Frewen, 2010). French partners stick strictly to the agenda or protocol to make sure the procedures are flawless, so it is important to stay patient. Unlike with Kazakhstani, using pressure or too much argument may be ineffective with French businessmen who are more careful with details.  

Kazakhstani people could have impressed Frenchmen with their professional debating skills that reveal an appropriate rational grasp of the situation. However, it is not recommended to be too familiar or friendly with your French partners as business and private life are two separate parts for French businessmen. Although French may also get intense and hot during negotiations, it is more effective to use logical and sensible arguments with structured ideas demonstrating the advantages and disadvantages.

There is no special ritual of exchanging business cards, and it will be convenient of the other side of your business card is translated into French. Unlike Kazakhstani, French require a written contract to be signed with every single detail stated in a clear form.

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Individualism vs. Collectivism

Kazakhstani represent a collectivistic society where people are not expected to care about their personal and individual interests more than the interests of the group (Hofstede, 2001). Therefore, people do not usually attempt to overcome the others, and the feeling of shame may bother Kazakhstani in different life situations.

On the other hand, France is a rather individualistic society meaning that French people primarily concentrate on the benefits of their families rather than the global benefits (Hofstede, 2001). It is expected that the employees’ contributions will be appreciated by the manager. It is better to stay autonomic and focused on the task. 



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