The New Diplomat's Wife is hosting a pro/con list of everyone's posts here
. I figured I'd jump in.
1. Winter activities. If you can handle the cold (easy when you dress warmly enough), you can easily stay busy all winter. Snowshoeing, ice skating, cross country skiing, snow fort building, all available for 6 months of the year.
2. It's a real city. Everyone seems to think central Asia is a total backwoods. We have Zara (although admittedly not Ikea). The opera is really good, haven't been to the ballet yet. Museums are few but not bad.
3. Pedestrian rights. When you walk into a crosswalk, the cars stop for you. Nevermind the car was trucking along at 30 mph 10 feet from the crosswalk. They will literally burn rubber to stop and avoid crushing you.
4. Fun architecture. Where else can you give such a direction as "head past the pyramid, and when you get to the dog bowl turn towards the bread basket." (these are nicknames of buildings). The monument near our apartment puts on a nightly light show, as do several buildings.
5. Indoor entertainment, especially for kids. The number of indoor amusement parks, restaurants with play areas, and even special treats like the indoor beach (sand imported from the maldives!) make the cold winter and hot summer much more fun.
1. Astana is like an island. The city is in the middle of the steppe, which is like an ocean of grasses. The closest anything is Borovoe, 2.5 hours away, and it's a resort-ish town. Basically you need to fly to get anywhere.
2. No cheddar cheese. In fact, no cheese of significant flavor. Food in general can be a challenge, epseically in the winter where of course nothing is fresh/local. There is a beef industry but I don't know what they do to these cows. It has taken a good deal of trial and error to find meat tender enough not to stew.
3. Traffic. There is little public transit infrastructure and all the lovely wide avenues means most things are just a bit too far away to walk. The trip from our garage to Zoltan's preschool (less than a mile away) to work (about 1.5 miles away) takes 45-60 minutes if we leave the house too late. We could almost walk it as fast.
4. Pollution. In the winter they burn coal. You can smell it in the air, and some days look foggy but it isn't fog obstructing your view of across the street.
5. The driving. This is related to, but separate from, the traffic problem. Many people drive like they just got their license (or perhaps never did). The number of ridiculous, dangerous or just stupid things I have seen on the road ... just gotta shake my head. Of course this is a problem I find in Virginia too, just not quite so bad.