Georgian culture and people
Everything in Georgia speaks about its greatness and cultural wealth of ancient people. Numerous monuments – cult structures of the early Christianity, ancient churches and monasteries hiding in the Caucasian Mountains are silent witnesses to its rich history. Over the last years the country has seen a major transformation and this can be seen in the difference between older and younger generations. Generally speaking, older generations don’t speak English and almost everyone speaks Russian as a second language. The younger generations are very sensible and most of them know English. About 85% of Georgians are Christians and there are dozens of beautiful churches in Tbilisi. However, there are also people of many different faiths living in Tbilisi, Synagogues and mosques can been seen literally side by side.
A country’s customs are formed over many years and passed down from generation to generation. There is one custom you really should know about, that is the concept of hospitality that is shared among all Georgians. The people of Georgia really are very hospitable, they even have a saying that goes; “guests are gifts from God”. Georgians are quick to trust others and will often host complete strangers at home with their family members and offer them food to eat and wine to drink.
Behaving in public
To be honest it’s not difficult to find a common language with Georgian people. Once they know each other well they will become more direct in their communications and will be happy to discuss many different topics. If you try to learn a few Georgian words or phrases you will definitely feel more confident and local people will respect you for making an effort to learn their language.
Georgians, like other nationalities, have some ‘rules’ that govern meeting people in public and these are different depending on whether you’re meeting a man or a woman. Men usually shake hands and close friends and relatives will also kiss and hug to express their deep respect and love for one another. In most cases women kiss each other on the cheeks but if they are meeting for the very first time they usually nod their heads and shake hands. When men and women meet they usually shake hands and the man will often wait for the woman to extend her hand first.
What about an eye contact
You might think that making eye contact can be rude but, by all means, Georgians tend to make eye contact with everyone. During conversation people often stand very close to one another. They believe that if you are a genuine and honest person eye contact is an important requirement as it shows that you aren’t pretending. It also shows your respect and trust towards the person you are speaking to.
If you don’t know yet, feasts in Georgia are called “Supra”. During feasts women usually drink less and generally they don’t smoke in public but, of course, this isn’t true for everybody. If you are ever in this situation you should follow some basic guidelines. Be ready! There tends to be a great deal of pressure to drink. Toasts are very important and every Georgian knows the order in which these toasts usually come. The head, or host, of the Supra is called the ‘Tamada’. They usually force everyone to drink in a series of toasts until the end of the evening. This is a traditional Georgian activity and the tradition has been passed down over many generations.
Some advice about giving presents
Georgians like to receive presents but at the same time they are very modest when it comes to accepting gifts from others. Be sure not to fall into an awkward situation and give overly expensive gifts. A box of chocolates or a bottle of wine is an acceptable gift in almost any situation. Indeed, if your Georgian friend invites you to their home you should take a good bottle of wine with you. They will be very grateful as it is a sign of respect.
Clothes and fashion
You can see Georgians in the streets dressed in dark colors. Georgians don’t usually like colorful clothes, they prefer to dress in dark colors and they usually wear black. Men wear jeans. If they go to a meeting they will also wear a jacket and tie. Their shoes are always cleaned and looked after. People will most likely look down on you and judge you if your shoes are old and dirty.
Women try to follow fashionable trends and dress in designer clothes. Similar to men women often dress in dark colors. Women like to look attractive and attract the attention of men. You will rarely see an unkempt person on the streets . Adults have their own, unique fashion sense. They don’t like to imitate others. They prefer to create something unique and you can easily guess how they feel on any given day because they often dress according to their mood.
Don’t hesitate to ask
Hospitality is an integral part of Georgian culture. With a smile on your face and the magic word “gamarjoba” (hello) you can get help anytime. Georgians love tourists, so don’t be afraid to ask if there is anything you need. Even if there is a language barrier, if you use gestures and body language people will try to help, or call someone who is fluent in your language to help you.