I would suggest discussing neutral, as opposed to personal topics (family, religion, politics), upon first meeting, unless the person with whom you are discussing initiates.Sports, general interest topics, or expressing an interest in learning more about the culture (language, arts, theatre), can be a way to share and get to know people better.Many people have had difficult pasts; for example, many women one meets through work are single mothers and many people’s families have been forced to relocate to Astana for work.
Although people will respond to inquiries, I would suggest leaving discussions of a personal nature until subsequent meetings.
I found humour was well received; I would often joke with people/or slightly mock life or work situations and people responded well to this.
Kazakhstany sense of space is somewhat different than in the West.
There are more than 100 ethnic groups in Kazakhstan, the biggest groups being Kazakhs and Russians. Only after these preliminaries it is considered to be a good time to discuss the business at hand.
Others include Ukrainians, Germans, Koreans, Tatars, and Chechens. In big cities life is more hectic and therefore some or even all of the preliminaries can be easily avoided, especially in cases you are meeting a non-Kazakh person.
During Soviet times, the Communist Party tried to create a new Soviet person with a Soviet culture and ideology. Offensive topics for Kazakstanies would be asking about one’s ethnicity.
They succeeded a lot on this road but not completely; the result being a creation of a more or less homogenic society with both Russian (since Russian was a dominant culture) customs and traditions and Kazakh (oriental) traditions. It is almost never a good idea for any culture and it is very true for Kazakhstan because the people of Kazakhstan were brought up (especially during the Soviet times) as a united nation and united people based on the ideas of internationalism.
According to oriental (Kazakh) traditions you are expected to ask questions not related to business first. Kazakhstanies have a fine sense of humour and they like cracking jokes and telling anecdotes all the time.
Two or three questions along these lines are normally sufficient.