Zarina Begesheva is a pharmaceutical specialist from Kazakhstan who traveled around Europe, before landing a job as a medical director in the leading international biotechnology and pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca.
She has lived abroad for over 7 years, spending six of those years in Sweden. Initially residing in Stockholm, she moved to Gothenburg to work at AstraZeneca in 2018. QazMonitor talked with Zarina about her work, how her blog became her creative outlet, and what she thinks of the reserved nature of the Swedes.
Tell us what you do for a living.
I conduct medical analysis on the side effects of drugs. I previously worked on two projects: one on diabetes and the other on asthma. In addition, I monitor medications throughout the clinical process. My current project is still unknown since I started a new position only a couple of days ago. But I think there will be a lot of different projects related to oncology and vaccines.
As a foreigner, how did you adapt to working with your Swedish colleagues?
When you are a foreigner in a new country, you need to consider the social norms of the country and what questions are appropriate to ask.
In Sweden, if someone talks about their personal life and they’ve been together with someone for over 10 years, it would still be inappropriate to ask ‘when are you getting married?’ In Kazakhstan, people might find it intrusive, too, but we have people ask anyway.
This questions is considered inappropriate [In Sweden] because many people do not get married at all.
It’s quite a challenge to get close to someone here. Of course, people are kind and willing to help, but that's it. Nobody will invite colleagues to spend time together after work. I also think about whether it's appropriate or not to suggest something like this - but, in the end, I don't say anything.
In Kazakhstan, people are much more open.
A Creative Outlet
A job in a large medical company is not Zarina’s only endeavor. Over the course of two years, her Instagram page gradually transformed from a personal page into a business platform. It has become a professional travel blog, featuring photos of luxury hotels and brand collaborations.
How did you start your blog?
After I moved to Gothenburg, I grew a bit bored and decided on learning something new. Over time, I discovered that you can collaborate with brands and hotels, so I took a course on that. That was two years ago. Until then, I had been doing something similar as a hobby because I love traveling.
I asked myself: ‘why don’t I create content for hotels or brands?’ The rest is history. And I've really enjoyed the experience so far (laughs). This is something that I want to get better at.
It suits me and I like it. It just helps to add that little bit of creativity to life, since my work is scientific and there I have to base everything on facts.
What brands and hotels have you worked with?
Well - right now it's the Marriott network. I’ve also worked with Hayatt and Hilton. These are probably among the biggest global brands. I collaborated with a lot of local brands, or ones better known in Europe. Scandic and NH hotels, if we are talking about Swedish brands. Daniel Wellington and Ideal of Sweden are big here too - and also Hunkemöller.
On what terms do you work with them?
In the case of hotels, they offer free accommodation or access to some facilities they have, like spas - anything they want me to promote. In return, I make a post or video and show my audience what the hotel looks like.
Tell us about your very first collaboration.
My first collaboration was in Germany with 25hours Hotel. I had to go to Düsseldorf and Cologne; it took me three or four months to find the first collaboration.
At some point, the hotel wrote back telling me they would be happy to meet up. They couldn't offer much at the time because I had no experience. They offered one night free in Düsseldorf and in Cologne, and a €180 discount per night if I planned to stay longer. I think that was very worthwhile.
The hotel was very pleasant. I truly enjoyed shooting the content for them because the design was very creative with so many intricate details. I have to say that I was very lucky. Later, there were hotels that had little for me to work with. Everything looked quite plain: a bed, white walls, a few photos and that's it.
A Kindred Soul
Despite being busy, managing her job, and maintaining a blog, Zarina managed to find a kindred soul amid the Scandinavian fjords.
At the beginning of the year, you had a wedding. Can you talk a little about it?
In January, I got married to a Norwegian man. I dated him for three years. At some point, we decided that we wanted to get married and create a future together. I don't know what else to tell you, honestly (laughs).
Did you meet through common interests or maybe work?
At the time, I had already lived in Sweden for almost three years, and I wanted to find a partner. I tried to date, but it was very challenging because, for me, [Swedes] have very different views when it comes to relationships. Even after two years [of dating], they may not know what kind of future they want with their partner and that's normal for them.
When I met my spouse, he was coming to Gothenburg for work. We had matched on Tinder. I guess we were just similar in many ways.
Again, Scandinavians don't have the same concept of dating, so when we met I immediately noticed that he was different. Over time, we have come to share mutual goals in life and now have quite similar values and attitude towards life. That is to say, we see the future in the same way.