11 Years of Living in Georgia: The Good and the Bad

The unexamined life is not worth living”  Socrates

I moved to Georgia in September 2009, the year after their short war with Russia. Every  September, I reflect on my living in Georgia, the country not the US state (it needs qualifying every time). I am often asked if I like Georgia. Well, my answer is “Yes and no”. Everywhere I have lived (England, Wales, Australia, France and Georgia) has had positive and negative aspects.   Some things I like, and some I don’t (as with any country, I’m sure there will be the inevitable few, who will repeat the tired old chestnut “if you don’t like it go back to where you came from!“). On balance I’d say I’m very happy here and have no plans to move. This is my own very personal viewpoint, I realise others will have different likes and dislikes, particularly with regards to the Khachapuri (cheese-bread)! I have also lived exclusively in the capital, Tbilisi, which I appreciate is very different to living in a Georgian village.

scales

Coronavirus

2020, has been a very unusual year because of Coronavirus. The figures for Georgia currently look very good compared to her neighbours. Up to the 1st September, Georgia had seen 1,487 cases and witnessed 19 deaths. Armenia, by contrast has seen 43,781 cases and sadly  879 deaths and Azerbaijan had 36,435 cases and 534 deaths. The Pandemic is far from over but I’m glad I am living in Georgia at this difficult time. (Update 26 September: sadly the number of cases in Georgia shot up in September now there are 4,664 cases and 27 deaths reported).

“The main difference between us (Georgia) and other countries of the region is the isolation measures that we have taken. Compared to other countries, Georgia acted earlier and ‘more aggressively.’ This has led to a relatively low number of infections and, consequently, to fewer deaths,” said Vakhtang Kaloyan.

Update: since writing this the cases of coronavirus in Georgia have sadly risen dramatically.

Light

I love the fantastic light. Lots of clear sunny days make for good photos. Coming from England, where sunny days are rarer, this is a great blessing.

light in the stairwell
light in a stairwell in Varketili

Mountains

The mountains are spectacular, some are higher than any in the Alps (Mont Blanc is 4810m, Mount Shkhara in Svaneti is 5193m). As a draw-card, I think this is what would  really attract tourists to Georgia.

Khevsureti
Khevsureti

In Gomismta, a mountain resort in Western Georgia, you can look down on the clouds : Above the Clouds at Gomismta

Women

I might get into trouble for the next observation; but I find Georgian women are very pleasing on the eye, strangely many Georgian men seem to fantasize about Ukrainian women. I have been married to a wonderful Georgian woman for many years now.

P1320600
Georgian model in Old Tbilisi

Georgian Cuisine

Georgians rave about their cuisine, one list places Georgian Cuisine as 4th out of 48 European Cuisines ranked behind only Italy, France and Spain. This may be sacrilegious to state but I am not so impressed and miss English roast dinners and puddings (UK cuisine was ranked 13th) . I don’t really like khachapuri, their signature dish, a cheese filled pastry, I find it too salty. I do like khinkali and churchkhela. Georgian meals are important events and most birthdays and holidays are marked with a feast or “supra”. Georgians are also proud of their wine and claim to have been the nation which invented wine back in the mists of time, some  8000 years ago, a claim for which there is substantial archaeological support in the region. Georgian Wine

P1780934
Chakapuli a Georgian stew flavoured with Tkemali (sour plum)

The Georgian Language (დედა ენა)

The language is a real nightmare for me, using a different and unique alphabet and having long words with tricky consonant clusters. I lived in France for six years and can get by reasonably well in French, but Georgian is a different story. I explore this in a separate blog :  The Georgian Language is one of the most Difficult to Learn detailing my travails with the language. Maybe it is just my brain isn’t as malleable as it once was.

P1630272
Georgian Signs

Rubbish

One thing that saddens me is despite the Georgians singing so much that they are proud of their country, so many of them litter with abandon.

rubbish

Cars

I’m crazy about cars, though strangely I don’t drive here (see traffic later in the post). I love seeing the old Soviet cars around.

Prime Soviet Shite GAZ Chaika M14
Zil: The Soviet Cadillac

Work

As a native English speaking teacher with many years experience teaching English, I can find plenty of students here, many people want to learn English and there are not a lot of native English speakers with whom I need to compete. I have taught English since 1994, first in France, then England and now Georgia. The cost of living is relatively cheap, particularly public transport and accommodation, which are much cheaper in Tbilisi than in London, but wages are also much lower. During these Covid-19 times I have moved most of my lessons onto Zoom.

Safety

Tbilisi feels a safe city, I have had no troubles, apparently it hasn’t always been like this, in the 1990s there was a lot of street crime. Walking around late at night in an English city on a Friday or Saturday night is far more intimidating than walking around Tbilisi at night.

Public Transport

The public transport, though cheap can be very overcrowded. The newer buses are better with air conditioning and less pollution. There are just two metro lines. Masks are required but not everyone wears them correctly.

metro masks
masks n the metro

Traffic

The traffic is scary at times, the drivers have little respect for pedestrians and won’t necessarily stop just because you are on a pedestrian crossing. When asked by Georgians what I don’t like I usually say “the traffic !” and they nod in agreement, though apparently it is even worse in Iran.

crossing the road
the traffic won’t necessarily stop if you are walking across a pedestrian crossing

Another gripe I have with the traffic, is seeing far too many drivers using their mobile phones with seeming impunity.

driving and using phone

Religion

Religion is important here, despite the Bolsheviks trying to stamp out religion in the past, there are many new churches and most Georgians identify themselves as Orthodox Christians. I have been baptised into the Orthodox church but I find their intolerance of other denominations rather un-Christian, I feel I maybe losing my religion. For example: Georgian Orthodox church takes aim at Armenian Church. My wife is quite devout and prays twice a day, every day.

sameba cross

Smoking

Smoking is very common here, it is cheap compared to Western Europe and many smokers seem oblivious to those around them, it pains me to see people smoking around children. Smoking has recently been banned in public buildings which is good, although it often means smokers congregating around the exit, puffing away.

passive smoking

So there you have it, my personal pros and cons of living in Georgia. I’ve been here 11 years now,  so I think on balance the positive aspects of living here far outweigh the negative.

14 thoughts on “11 Years of Living in Georgia: The Good and the Bad

  1. Deon du Plessis

    Well written and true. I have been married to a Georgian for nearly 13 years. I am a citizen of Georgia and very happy to live here having been a South African citizen. Language is my problem too. All the points raised are valid. No bias. I have lived and worked in many countries, France include (which I found to be very racist, even between their own citizens), and it is not easy to adapt. Still so happy to be here.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The language is a big struggle. I learn words each day with the Memrise app. Now, I know a lot of words but putting them together in meaningful sentences or understanding general conversation is still beyond me. I am happy beng here, particularly with this pandemic raging across the globe leaving Georgia relatively unharmed. I am not yet a citizen but I have permanent residency. Thanks for your comment, Deon.

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  2. Mike

    I’m leaving Saudi Arabia next month and hope to settle in Turkey or Georgia (the country, not the state). Where do you recommend an American expat settle if Georgia is my decision?

    Thank you in advance,

    Mike

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Mike

        yeah, those are the two areas I’ve been exploring. In your experience, are dogs welcome? I have a German Shepherd I plan to bring with me.

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  5. NanaGSmith

    Hello, I am Georgian and married to American man. I had been living in America for the past 21 years. Now we are thinking of moving in Georgia to retire.
    I do not know whom to ask, but if you have any information in regards of citizenship, or work permits please share.
    Also cost of living is an interesting topic to cover. Any information will help me.
    Thank you, Nana

    Like

    1. There is a Facebook group “Georgian Wanderers” where ex pats living in Georgia congregate, if you join you can ask questions. The cost of living is much cheaper than in the US for most things like accommodation and food. There are elections coming up in October, so things may change. Being married to a Georgian helps with things like residency.

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