The Republic of Georgia: Random Observations


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Asia » Georgia » Tbilisi District
September 20th 2021
Published: November 8th 2021
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Whenever you explore a new land, you cannot help but make observations about the culture, the people, the geography and the general way in which things are done. Some of the observations can be insightful, rooted in history, a reflection of cultural norms or a product of the nation’s geography. Most of my observations are none of this, they are just random and sometimes very off the wall idiosyncrasies that cannot go unmentioned.



I guess what I am saying is, I don’t take myself too seriously most of the time so I am not going to start now. Here is what I noticed while traveling through Georgia.



* Georgians love their cigarettes. They are big into smoking and smoking is accepted most places. The non-smoking sections of restaurants are simply a formality. If smoke bothers you, choose your seats carefully especially at outdoor venues. Some taxi drivers smoke in the car, but most are respectful of your wishes.



* In the realm of etiquette, you only need to know one thing about Georgians. They hate Russia and all that is Russian. So, steer clear of complimenting Russians or clumping Georgians into anything Russian.



* As you travel through the countryside and through the small villages scattered about, it is very common to see small groups, maybe 4 or 5 men or women, sitting together chatting and enjoying the day. It may be leaning on a fence, alongside the road, in front of a small store or leaning against a pole. There was something so comforting about it. It made me smile as I watched out the window of our car.



* Before we left for this adventure, I did not brush up on Georgian laws, but I am pretty sure that somewhere there is a law that any man over the age of 60 who happens to be sitting on his balcony is forbidden from wearing a shirt. Georgian men, no matter the age or physique, seem pretty comfortable leaving the house without a shirt.



* In vehicles, the steering wheel may be found on either side of the car.



* Lunch is typically served around 2 or 3 pm and dinner is served late into the night.



* Georgians love their wine. Let me say that one more time. Georgians LOVE their wine. And by that, I mean they love Georgian wine. The country’s loyalty to Georgian wine is fierce to the point of respect. Please don’t go to the market or a high end restaurant and think that you can order wine from other countries. It’s not going to happen.



* English is not abundant in Georgia. In the cities and especially with the younger generations, English speakers could be found if you are willing to look. However, when you get into the countryside, it becomes much more difficult to find. None of our drivers spoke English and the taxi drivers within the city were hit and miss. We did not take the time to learn Georgian before we left, so we took it all in stride. To manage, we got creative as is common on foreign trips. We pointed at maps, Googled what we needed and then showed the poor person who was unlucky enough to agree to help us. We used WhatsApp to call an English speaker at our hotel who then relayed messages, particularly for our drivers. We charmed bell men into practicing their English. And we simply did a lot of nodding, smiling and tactful pointing. Most importantly, we gave up a lot control and accepted whatever came of the moment.



* Georgia is a decently large country. Not overwhelmingly large like India, but we spent two weeks in the country and did not experience nearly enough of it. There are plans to return, indeed.



* The country is full of gorgeous buildings that exist in a somewhat, or sometimes not-so-somewhat, dilapidated state. The potential and historical beauty is there, it just longs for some love and refreshing. This is true in the cities and the countryside. The culture seems to be accepting of imperfections in the form of crumbling buildings, chipping paint and complete abandonment.



* You do not need a fat bank account to enjoy Georgia to the fullest. The prices are shocking low for very high quality. A five star hotel ran around $240/night. A cab ride in Tbilisi was around $2-3. Hiring a driver for a full day in wine country was less than $100. Nice hotels outside of Tbilisi may run $25/night. A great bottle of Georgian wine could be purchased in a restaurant for $5. Lunch in a cloth napkin restaurant might only be $10.



* Georgians do not waste their time on worrying about the latest fashions or what happens to be on the runway. This is not to say that they are sloppy in their attire. The men and the women are quite casual in their fashion approach. The men seem to follow a strict fashion formula: jeans + black t-shirt, only mixing it up with the occasional white t-shirt.



* In Georgia, we tried black radish for the first time. That was pretty cool since I didn’t even know they existed.



* Tbilisi is a city that can bring you whatever you wish when it comes to architecture. The capital city offers the ultra modern alongside Moorish and French Renaissance all within a stone’s throw of each other. Georgia was less European in style than expected and that turned out to be a good thing as Georgia was a place all it’s own.



* In my brief time in Georgia and in my untrained opinion, I would say Georgians seemed to be somewhat guarded people. Don’t get me wrong, there are very many tremendously friendly Georgians, especially if you take the time to engage. Georgians seem to exist in a fog of aloofness.



* Dogs can be found wandering all over Georgia. Some are pets, but most are homeless and simply roaming. They all look healthy and none of them seemed to be begging for food. Most were friendly and wanted to spend some time cuddling, but they also seemed very independent. In the cities, many of the dogs had ear tags that looked like the ones you might use for a calf to indicate they had their shots, had been spayed or neutered and were friendly.



* American music turned into Muzak was in abundance in public spaces such as restaurants and hotels.



* Service in Georgia looks a little different than service in many other countries. It is not bad, just different. The bottom line is that customer service is something you must seek out and request. There are no assumptions. An empty glass does not mean you want a refill. Being seated at a table does not automatically mean you will get a menu or be greeted by your waiter. Completing one course does not mean you would like your plates removed and to order the next course. All of these things can happen, but you must request them. It was awkward for us because we felt like we were being bossy or we were interrupting, but it is almost necessary to revert back to primary school where you would raise your hand when you needed something or wanted to talk to someone. When the waiter comes to your table, order everything you might possibly want…drinks, food, dessert…as you may not see that waiter again for a long time.



* Filed under the title “quirky facts about Georgia” you will be surprised to know they really admire George W. Bush. About 3 minutes after departing the airport, you will inevitably find yourself driving on George W. Bush Highway. On one of his visits to Georgia, someone threw a grenade at him, but other than that the people of Georgia seem to have great respect for him.



* Georgian wine is as delicious as it is cheap and it is difficult to find back in the States, so your natural inclination is to buy a case or two and have the vineyard ship it home, right? Wrong. There is no established infrastructure to ship the wine back home and this seems to be the norm across all vineyards. We were able to pack strategically enough to safely bring home 12 bottles, but it wasn’t easy. The first week after we returned, we promptly purchased a wine suitcase and some wine bottle bubble wrap bags. I recommend doing this before you leave for Georgia.



* When you travel Georgia, you quickly discover that you have stepped into the ambiguous world of gratuity. Do you leave tips? Do the service industry employees expect tips? Can you ever get a straight answer? Who the hell knows. We solved this ambiguity by definitely tipping. It was met with mixed reviews. Some recipients were thrilled, some played it cool, some actually refused the gratuity and some, especially our drivers, acted completely shocked and pleased. I have no idea what the correct or proper thing is to do in this situation, but we wanted to err on the side of generosity and respect.


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8th November 2021

MORE PLEASE!
SOLD!!! I sooooo want to go there. I absolutely looooove the personality you put into your blogs and photos!
24th December 2021

Thank you for your kind words ?
8th November 2021

Summary
What a great overview of the country and its people and customs. Good practical advice to keep in the file for any international "foreign" travel.
8th November 2021

Tips...
In Tokyo we made the mistake of giving a tip to the housekeeping staff. They were mortified and broke out in tears. Anyway, thanks for your observations!
14th November 2021

Georgia that is Georgia
When we toured Armenia we often wished we had time to cross the border into neighbouring Georgia. But the best experiences are when you spend sufficient time to absorb the clime. Georgia is still on our radar and as your blogs seems to profess...give a generous portion of time to Georgia or 'tis those special moments that you will probably miss.

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