Since early 1990 Kazakhstan has been open to foreign and international companies and investors. Nowadays, the Kazakhstan market consists of local, foreign and international companies. Despite this, the management style is still mostly hierarchical. All innovations, decisions are imposed from the top and fulfilled by employees. Senior, middle and low-level managers get used to subordinating and making executive orders. While negotiating, be ready for a comparatively long process particularly in cases involving government structures. Direct access to the highest-ranking person, personal connections and loyalties will help to shorten negotiations.
Business meetings are rather formal. A handshake is a common greeting and negotiators shake hands with all men at the beginning and end of a meeting. For women, nodding is more common. If women shake hands, they usually initiate the handshake themselves. During a first meeting, people address formally using titles and usually move quickly to communication without titles. Business cards exchange is an important part of meetings. While negotiating, expressing personal opinions and standing your ground is normal. However, arguing and contradicting someone who is senior by age or position is considered unacceptable and disrespectful.
Doing business is attached to interpersonal relationships. In Kazakhstan, to cooperate and work, people should first feel comfortable with, and respectful of, future partners. Therefore, to build partnerships with Kazakh business contacts, one should be ready for small introductory talks and meetings to establish a connection.
Dress code in Kazakhstan may vary from conservative official to smart casual. Banks and government bodies’ employees wear conservative official attire; private companies and foundations smart casual clothes. Dress code requirements are set in organisations’ internal regulation documents. When it comes to business meetings, local people take clothing etiquette quite seriously and business attire is conservative official. Wearing casual clothes for business meetings is interpreted by Kazakh businesspeople as not taking the situation seriously.
In general, Kazakhs are considered not to be punctual and it is true for different celebrations, weddings, anniversaries, and birthdays etc. However, in business people stick to a schedule and try not to be late. If, for any reason, someone is late s/he informs immediately the other part.
Although Kazakh is the official language, business is also done in Russian and English. Russian is widespread because of the Soviet history of the country and close ties with post-soviet countries. The country is often doing business with Russia, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, Belarus and etc. The English language is also important as Kazakhstan has plenty of partners, foreign companies, international organisations and investors from all over the world.