A Decade of Living in Georgia: the Good and the Bad…

I moved to Georgia in September 2009, the year after their short war with Russia. Ten years on, I reflect on living in Georgia, the country not the US state (it needs qualifying every time). I am often asked do 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, there will be the inevitable few, who will say the tired “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.

So let me look at those likes and dislikes in more detail:

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, one of many scenic mountainous regions in Georgia

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.

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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

mtsvadi
Mtsvadi (მწვადი), Georgian Barbecue, a popular dish at supras (Georgian feasts)

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.

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signs in Georgian

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
litter near the roadside

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.

GAZ Volga 24 with crates
GAZ Volga 24

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.

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 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.

on the bus blog

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 by Drybridge Market
Traffic won’t necessarily stop if you are on 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
driving and using the 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.

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Svaneti Museum Crosses

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.

smoking and kids
You can poison your own lungs, but do you really need to poison the children around you?

The 1966 Italian epic Spaghetti Western film directed by Sergio Leone was entitled “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly“…. for ugly, we have in Tbilisi the Biltmore Hotel.

Biltmore Hotel
The Biltmore Hotel

Zufa Jafaridze commented: “The ugliest building right in the center of Tbilisi, where it shouldn’t be, ruining the view and the beauty of the city, but wait, it gets even worse at night when the giant ad monitor flashes into your eyes when you go outside, it never should have been built there and I hope it will be removed.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

 

Eight years in Georgia: The Good, the Bad and the მახინჯი

I moved to Georgia eight years ago, the country not the US state (it needs qualifying every time). I am often asked do I like Georgia? Well, my answer is “Yes and no”. Some things I like, some I don’t (as with any country).

I love the 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 the stairwell of the block where I live in Varketili

The mountains are spectacular, some are higher than any in the Alps (Mont Blanc is 4810m, Mount Shkhara in Svaneti is 5193m).

Khevsureti
Abudelauri Lake (Blue)

Georgian women are very pleasing on the eye, strangely Georgian men seem to fantasise about Ukrainian women.

Georgians rave about their cuisine, I am not so impressed and miss English roast dinners and puddings. I don’t really like khachapuri, their signature dish, a cheese filled pastry, I find it too salty. 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 8 000 years ago, a claim for which there is some archaeological support in the region. Georgian wine

adjaruli khachapuri 3
Adjaruli Khachapuri close up

 

The language is a nightmare for me, using a different alphabet and having long words with tricky consonant clusters. I have started a separate blog : The Reluctant Georgian Learner to detail my travails with the language.

 

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the Georgian alphabet is unique

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
rubbish in nature

I like seeing old Soviet cars still around.

AS GAZ Volga 24
GAZ Volga 24-02

I can work here quite easily as an English teacher, many people want to learn English and there are not a lot of native English speakers. The cost of living is relatively cheap particularly things like public transport are much cheaper in Tbilisi than in London, but wages are much lower.

Georgian people don’t smile much but they do have a tradition of hospitality.

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 more intimidating than walking around Tbilisi at night.

The public transport, though cheap can be very overcrowded.

on the bus blog
On the bus

The traffic is scary at times, the drivers have little respect for pedestrians and won’t stop just because you are at 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 by Drybridge Market
cars won’t stop necessarily at a pedestrian crossing

 

Religion is important here, despite the Bolsheviks trying to stamp out religion in the past, there are many new churches and most Georgians are Orthodox Christians. I have been baptised into the Orthodox church but I find their intolerance of other denominations rather un-Christian. My wife is quite devout and prays twice a day, every day.

 

church
church

 

…and the ugly (მახინჯი)…

Smoking is very common here, it is cheap and many smokers seem oblivious to those around them, it pains me to see people smoking around children.

The new Biltmore Hotel doesn’t fit in with the Tbilisi City Scape.

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Biltmore Hotel, showing the UAE flag

There are many other pluses and minuses to living in Georgia, my home for the foreseeable future. I might add to this post later.