US Expat Living in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, Interview With Stephen

Published: 25 Sep at 9 AM
Want to get involved? Become a Featured Expat and take our interview.
Become a Local Expert and contribute articles.
Get in touch today!
Filed: Interviews,Kyrgyzstan
Stephen is an American expat who moved from Louisiana to China to unrooted long-term travel. After several years of wandering, he finally decided to settle down in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan to learn about and see more of Central Asia. His writing and photography from his new home and ongoing travels can be found at Monk Bought Lunch (see listing here)

Meet Stephen - US expat in Bishkek
Meet Stephen - US expat in Bishkek

Here's the interview with Stephen...

Where are you originally from?
The US, specifically Louisiana. I moved from there to China on the path that eventually lead here.

In which country and city are you living now?
Currently based in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.

How long have you lived in Kyrgyzstan and how long are you planning to stay?
I was here for two months last year to learn some Russian, and so far I've been here about two months this time. My stay is pretty open-ended at this point, and though I'll be leaving occasionally for work elsewhere I imagine that this will be the 'base' for quite some time.

Why did you move to Kyrgyzstan and what do you do?
I decided to move to Central Asia after traveling on two big trips through the region. Bishkek, specifically, I found a well-recommended school for foreigners learning Russian and liked the city so much while I was here studying that I decided to come back. I've worked mostly in photography and writing the past few years, and the photography seems to be my biggest focus lately.

Folk singers at the Bishkek Philharmonic.
Folk singers at the Bishkek Philharmonic.
How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
When I first left the U.S. to move to China, it was a bit of a shock. Since I left there, though, I was on the road traveling for so long that settling down in Bishkek was a welcome return to a certain normality and stability. There have been a few times that language issues have become a source of frustration, but overall nothing too bad.

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
People seem generally pretty friendly in Kyrgyzstan, especially compared to other post-Soviet states that I've traveled to. I'd say at this point my socializing is maybe half expats and half Kyrgyz folks (though a lot of the Kyrgyz I know, I met through other expats).

What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
Hiking, camping, and I'm told skiing as well. Basically anything to do with the mountains that start just south of town and wind their way all through the rest of the country.

An early spring hike in Ala-Archa National Park, only 40km south of Bishkek.
An early spring hike in Ala-Archa National Park, only 40km south of Bishkek.
What do you enjoy most about living here?
See above re: mountains. I haven't gotten to do nearly enough hiking the past year or so, and I've trying to make up for it now. Aside from that, though, I also love how international Bishkek can feel. Music, art, dining, and people from surprising places seem to show up with some frequency.

How does the cost of living in Kyrgyzstan compare to the US?
Significantly cheaper, from everything I've seen. Rents in city center start around $300/ month, food is cheap, and public transport as well.

What negatives, if any, are there to living here?
I'm told winter is pretty horrendous, but haven't experienced one yet. This may be the year, though, so ask me again in March or April!

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving here, what would it be?

Blues Night at a small cafe in Bishkek's city center.
Blues Night at a small cafe in Bishkek's city center.
What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
I find the public transport system really frustrating every once in a while. Not bad enough that i've seriously considered buying a car/motorcycle/whatever, but it may come to that one day.

What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
  1. Come with an adventurous mindset. Especially in rural Kyrgyzstan, there's a lot to explore here.
  2. Shops here sell a lot of foodstuffs from Turkey and Korea in addition to the typical Russian/Kyrgyz, but if you want anything specific from the west (spices especially) consider bringing a bit with you.
  3. In Bishkek you'll find plenty of English, but outside of the capitol be prepared with some Russian or Kyrgyz.
  4. Take advantages of performances going on in town. There are often really interesting programs at the Philharmonic, Opera, Drama Theaters, etc; and prices are generally very low.
  5. Get out of town every once in a while. Kyrgyz historically have strong connections to nomadic traditions, and lots of families will go out every once in a while to visit family in the mountain pastures. You should do the same, to really get a feel for the country's mindset.

'Plov' cooked in the style of Osh, Kyrgyzstan's second-city.
'Plov' cooked in the style of Osh, Kyrgyzstan's second-city.
Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
It started as a general travel blog, but as I've evolved as a traveler it has mostly come with me. I spend a lot more time these days posting photography with some small captions, and of course with being in Kyrgyzstan so much recently I've started to focus on here more as well.

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
Either via my blog or on twitter (see links below). Feel free to message, and I'll respond with as much help as I can!

About the author

Expat Blog ListingStephen is an American expat living in Kyrgyzstan. Blog description: A look at a life of travel, and the people and places that make this world great. Based now in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan in the heart of Central Asia.
Please share:

Grab a featured expat badge that links to this interview!

Copy and paste code to display the Featured Expat Badge:

Comments » There is 1 comment

Eric wrote 9 years ago:

Hi, am planning to go and visit Kyrgyztan on July this year, i am alone and my first time to go there, could you be able to help me settle for only 6 days only, I am a filipino but i'll just spend my time for holidays there, since I am working in Saudi Arabia. I hope to hear from you soon. thanks.

Tell us Your Thoughts On This Piece:

Your Name *
Email * (not published, needs verification one time only)
  • Facebook
  • Follow us on Twitter
  • RSS feed
  • Facebook

Articles by Category

Now featuring 633 expat interviews


Latest Headlines