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Expat Exchange - Culture Shock in Georgia
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Tbilisi, Georgia


Culture Shock in Georgia

By Betsy Burlingame

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Allianz Care

Summary: If you're planning a move to Georgia, or have recently settled there, it's natural to encounter some culture shock as you adjust to your new surroundings. Our insightful article is designed to help you navigate this transition smoothly. It offers practical tips and draws on the experiences of fellow expats who have successfully embraced the cultural nuances of Georgia.

Welcome to the vibrant and diverse cultural landscape of Georgia! As you prepare for your move, it's natural to anticipate the excitement and challenges that come with adapting to a new environment. Georgia is a country rich in history, tradition, and hospitality, but like any move abroad, it comes with its own set of cultural nuances that can lead to a bit of shock for newcomers. Whether you're just starting to consider the move or have already packed your bags, understanding the phases of culture shock and the local customs can help you transition smoothly into your new life in Georgia.

1. Understanding Culture Shock in Georgia

When you first arrive in Georgia, you'll likely go through various stages of culture shock. Initially, the honeymoon phase will have you enamored with the picturesque landscapes and the warmth of Georgian hospitality. However, as the novelty wears off, you might encounter frustration or confusion as you navigate the social norms and daily life. It's important to remember that this is a natural part of the acclimatization process. Over time, you'll move towards gradual adjustment and, eventually, feel at home in your new surroundings. Patience and an open mind are key to overcoming these hurdles.

2. Language Barrier Challenges

Georgian, known as Kartuli, is the official language of Georgia and can be quite challenging for newcomers. Its unique alphabet and linguistic structure make it distinct from other languages. While many Georgians, especially the younger population and those in urban areas, speak English or Russian, not knowing the local language can limit your interactions in rural areas and with older generations. Immersing yourself in the language through classes or language exchange meetups can greatly enhance your experience and show respect for the local culture.

3. Top Cultural Faux Pas in Georgia

  1. Refusing Hospitality: Georgians are known for their generous hospitality. Declining an offer for food or drink can be seen as rude. It's polite to at least accept a small portion as a gesture of goodwill.
  2. Not Toasting Properly: The Georgian 'supra' (feast) is filled with toasts. It's important to wait for the 'tamada' (toastmaster) to initiate and never raise your glass out of turn.
  3. Disregarding Religious Customs: Georgia is predominantly Orthodox Christian, and showing respect in religious settings is crucial. Dress modestly in churches and always follow the local customs for behavior and interaction.
  4. Overlooking Personal Space: Georgians are warm and may stand closer than what you're accustomed to. However, it's important to respect personal space and follow their lead in social situations.
  5. Misunderstanding Direct Communication: Georgians are often direct in their communication, which can be mistaken for bluntness. It's a cultural trait and not meant to be taken as rudeness.

4. Expat Advice on Navigating Culture Shock

Long-term expats in Georgia often have a wealth of advice for newcomers. They recommend embracing the local culture by participating in traditional events and trying the wide array of Georgian cuisines. Building a local support network can also be invaluable. Expats suggest finding a local friend or colleague who can help you understand the subtleties of Georgian etiquette and language. Additionally, keeping a sense of humor about the misunderstandings that will inevitably occur can go a long way. Remember, every expat in Georgia has been in your shoes and most are more than willing to help you adjust to your new life.

As you embark on your journey to Georgia, be prepared for a rich tapestry of experiences that will shape your time in this beautiful country. From mastering the art of the Georgian toast to navigating the complexities of the local language, each day will bring new opportunities for growth and understanding. With an open heart and a willingness to learn, you'll find that the culture shock you experience will soon give way to a deep appreciation for the unique culture of Georgia.

About the Author

Betsy Burlingame Betsy Burlingame is the Founder and President of Expat Exchange and is one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. She launched Expat Exchange in 1997 as her Master's thesis project at NYU. Prior to Expat Exchange, Betsy worked at AT&T in International and Mass Market Marketing. She graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with a BA in International Business and German.

Some of Betsy's articles include 12 Best Places to Live in Portugal, 7 Best Places to Live in Panama and 12 Things to Know Before Moving to the Dominican Republic. Betsy loves to travel and spend time with her family. Connect with Betsy on LinkedIn.


Allianz Care
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Tbilisi, Georgia

SJB Global
SJB Global

SJB Global is a top-rated financial advisory firm specializing in expat financial advice worldwide, offering retirement planning & tax-efficient solutions with a regressive fee model.
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SJB GlobalSJB Global

SJB Global is a top-rated financial advisory firm specializing in expat financial advice worldwide, offering retirement planning & tax-efficient solutions with a regressive fee model.
Learn More

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