Something unforgettable about the country...
Kyrgyz hospitality, the way they try to make you feel home is amazing to experience. Altough the lengths they are willing to go to comfort you in Bishkek and the countryside differ, you being a guest will be a big deal everywhere.
Guests are usually offered kymyz (fermented milk of the female horse, the mare), green or black tea and bread. Depending on the financial situation of the host and the region you stay in, you also might find some melon, honey, jam and borsok (fried dough) on the table.
Drinking tea is an important part of the act of hospitality. Poured by the host –usually the housewife- tea is filled up to half of the cup, leaving the option open for more tea later on. Refusing food or beverages might come across as rude so treat their gesture with respect and at least try what they are offering you.
In the villages and towns of the South, where the traditional values are present in everyday life you might find some extreme examples of this phenomenon. Our group experienced it for sure. The whole family from granny to toddler waiting up until dawn for us to arrive, an other family killing a goat in our respect, yet another inviting us to stay in their yurt. Personally I was invited for dinner by a family, when I walked by them in a national park. It can randomly happen anywhere to you. Altough the families of Bishkek and Osh might not go to that lengths, they will still prepare food for you any time of the day, invite and pay for you at a café, and generally look out for your every need.
You might wonder where all this kindness comes from. In the era, where the Kyrgyz lifestyle was predominantly nomadic, the living conditions in this mountanious territory were very harsh. Families invited every nomad that wandered near their yurt, knowing that they might have been through some hardships during their travels to find a new meadow for their sheep. It was an act of protecting a fellow nomad and during the centuries it became a cultural norm for Kyrgyz people to treat a guest with the utmost kindness, respect and hospitability.
Today these traditions still live on, Kyrgyz people inviting each other to their homes. In the case of foreigners this cultural reflex is the same, but just as they are kind they are also very curious. Kyrgyzstan is a fairly remote country, so for everybody out of the capital seeing a foreigner is a new and interesting opportunity to learn more about the world. Also hosting them is a huge prestige in the local community.
Altough sometimes it might feel odd to have a whole family treating you this way, the general feeling that our group had after being hosted by these amazing locals, is being honored. Something that we wouldn’t forget.