Rachael is an ESL Teacher from Belfast, Northern Ireland who has been travelling and teaching in Asia and Europe for over four years. She has recently moved to Uzbekistan with her fiancé, Matt, and is teaching English at a new university in Tashkent.
Read more about expat life in Uzbekistan in our Expat Arrivals Uzbekistan country guide.
Q: Where are you originally from?
A: I'm originally from Belfast in Northern Ireland.
Q: Where are you currently living?
A: I recently moved to Tashkent in Uzbekistan.
Q: When did you move here?
A: I moved in September 2019.
Q: Is this your first expat experience?
A: No, this will be my third experience. Previously I lived in South Korea and the Czech Republic.
Q: Did you move here alone or with a spouse/family?
A: I moved with my fiancé.
Q: Why did you move; what do you do?
A: I moved here to teach English at a new university. I chose Uzbekistan because it was a country unlike any other I had been to, and I wanted something new and challenging.
Living in Tashkent
Q: What do you enjoy most about Tashkent? How would you rate the quality of life compared to your home country?
A: The best thing about the city is that it’s a large capital city. But it has so much greenery and open spaces. The quality of life here for me is much better than at home. My salary is much higher and the cost of living is very low.
Q: Any negative experiences? What do you miss most about home?
A: The language barrier here can be a problem; however, people are very friendly and will always try to help you. The thing I miss the most about home is the nightlife culture. Not just drinking, but the nightlife events like comedy nights, festivals and concerts; they’re quite unique to Northern Ireland.
Q: What’s the cost of living compared to home? Is there anything particularly expensive or particularly cheap in Uzbekistan?
A: Uzbekistan is very cheap compared to Northern Ireland for most things. For example, fruit and veg are extremely cheap and very fresh. Meat is also very cheap. Overall food is not expensive. However, some things like kitchen utensils and tools are much pricier than at home.
Q: How would you rate the public transport in Uzbekistan? What is your most memorable experience of using your city’s transport system?
A: The public transport in Uzbekistan is very cheap. The subway costs about $0.15 per ride, and it’s very reliable coming every five minutes. I don’t think I have any real memorable moments on the subway, although the subways do have small monitors on them that play ‘5-minute crafts’ all day which I find hilarious.
Q: How would you rate the healthcare in Tashkent? Have you had any particularly good/bad experiences regarding doctors and hospitals? Are there any hospitals you would recommend?
A: I haven’t had any real experience with the healthcare here, although I did have to take an AIDS test for my work permit. The experience was fine, like most in Asia, and very quick. I got my results the same day. I’m not sure about expats and hospitals here, but I know there’s an international hospital.
Q: What are the biggest safety issues facing expats living in Tashkent or Uzbekistan? Are there any areas expats should avoid?
A: Tashkent is actually extremely safe! I haven’t felt uncomfortable or scared while here, I’m sure like most capital cities there are areas with pickpockets and things, but I haven’t experienced anything like this.
Q: How do you rate the standard of housing in Tashkent? What different options are available for expats?
A: The housing here is old! And very soviet. However, once you get past the look of some of the buildings, it’s really not bad. My apartment is old, large and spacious. It has all the general things an apartment should have. There is a lot of development going on in Tashkent at the minute. Many new apartment blocks are being built. I do not pay for my own accommodation as it was part of the contract I negotiated with my employer.
Q: Any areas or suburbs you’d recommend for expats to live in?
A: I live in the Mirobod district which is very nice. It's very close to the city centre, and it’s full of cafés and restaurants.
Q: How has your fiancé adjusted to your new home? Do you think there are any specific challenges for a trailing spouse?
A: I am very lucky that my fiancé is also an ESL teacher and is happy to travel the world too. But I imagine life here could be challenging for trailing spouses, especially finding friends if they don’t speak Russian or Uzbek.
Meeting people and making friends in Tashkent
Q: How tolerant are the locals of foreigners? Is there obvious discrimination against any particular groups? Have you ever experienced discrimination in Tashkent?
A: From what I’ve seen and heard people here are extremely acceptant and friendly. The country is full of different cultures, religions and people, and everyone is tolerant of each other.
Q: Was meeting people and making friends easy? How did you go about meeting new people?
A: Tashkent doesn’t have a very big expat community, and those expats that are here are usually older with families, so making friends is not so easy. I rely on meeting new people at the gym or in a bar.
Q: Have you made friends with locals or do you mix mainly with other expats? What advice would you give to new expats looking to make friends with the locals?
A: Mostly, I would have friends who are locals and some expat from my workplace. Advice – I would say try to put yourself out there as much as possible, go to any and all events. There’s not a big community of expats here yet so you definitely need to get out there and find people.
Working in Tashkent
Q: Was getting a work permit or visa a relatively easy process? Did you tackle the visa process yourself, or did you enlist the services of an immigration consultant?
A: I was very lucky to have my employers do everything for me. I did come here on a tourist visa and had to do a visa run to Kazakhstan, but my company paid for everything. One annoying problem is when you arrive in Uzbekistan you must go and register with the police (if you stay in a hotel, they will do it for you). You need to do this every time you leave and come back into the country.
Q: What is the economic climate in Tashkent? Do you have any tips for expats looking to find a job? Which resources did you find most useful?
A: The country’s economy is definitely growing, and the need for native English teachers is just getting bigger and bigger. I think in the next few years there will be many ESL opportunities in Uzbekistan.
Q: How does the work culture differ from home? Do you have any tips for expats doing business in the city or country? Did you have any particularly difficult experiences adapting to local business culture?
A: I work for a British university here in Tashkent, so the work culture is similar to home. The Uzbek work culture doesn’t seem too different from the Western world.
Q: Is there any advice you would like to offer new expat arrivals to Uzbekistan?
A: See the country! There are plenty of interesting things to see and learn about Uzbekistan. Come with an open-minded and without judgements. And most importantly enjoy it!
►Interviewed October 2019