Last week I took one of the new teachers to Артем (Artyom), a large, crowded mall that I enjoy going to, although sometimes it can give me a headache! The ground floor is mostly full of vendors selling food, and sometimes teachers like to come here for fruits, vegetables, spices, etc. The second floor has home items as well as souvenirs, pharmacies, and other odds and ends, and the next few floors have clothing and shoes. The top floor has two cheap restaurants, cheap hair places, and cheap tailors.
When I shop at the fancy, modern malls such as Mega or Khan Shatyr, I hear so many foreign voices and often run into someone I know. When I shop at Artyom, I never hear foreign voices and the vendors seem surprised and happy to see me.
Some foreigners don't like Atyom so much--it's crowed and dirty (and the clothes aren't cheaper than Khan Shatyr!) but the new teacher loved it. She found quite a few items she needed, and said it would be a good place to come to practice speaking Kazakh.
She has lived the past several years in China and said it reminded her a lot of China.
A few days later we took a walk through Central Park. It was around 9 pm, the sun was starting to set, and it wasn't too crowded. There were still some vendors out--selling corn, ice cream, buttons with names on them--and there were still rides and games. My co-worker said that this also reminded her a lot of China.
Per her experience so far, Astana is a lot like China, only smaller, less crowed, and cleaner, with much sunnier weather.
Sounds like a great place to live!