Tbilisi, Georgia Report of what it's like to live there - 04/27/11

Personal Experiences from Tbilisi, Georgia

Tbilisi, Georgia 04/27/11

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Mexico City, Madrid, Cairo & London

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Miami. 15 hours

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3. How long have you lived here?

1 year

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

My own business and my wife.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Housing is of low standard compared to Yerevan and Baku and any place in Latin America. I live in Vake, the most prestigious district of Tbilisi, but there is nothing prestigious about it. Georgians are very bad neighbors in terms of hygienic standards. I have smelled urine in the lift on a couple of occasions, and graffiti is all over my building, inside and out. It looks like a crack-house apartment building in DC, and yet the most affluent Georgians live here.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Goodwill is a good supermarket and is quite reliable. Most products are German,Turkish or Russian.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Most everything is available, unless you want very specific things.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

McDonald's and Texas Chicken at USA prices. Georgian restaurants are all over and are very good and cheap. I like the restaurants from the restaurant group MGROUP, particularly Two Side.

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

Excellent vegetables and fruits. Have not seen such good anywhere. Pork and chicken meat is excellent too. Seafood is very expensive and not fresh. Beef and veal is not good.

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6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

wasps and bees

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

FEDEX OR DHL. The mail system is awful.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Readily available and very cheap.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

My wife goes to Curves, the American fitness franchise for women, and really enjoys it. There are 2 Curves in Tbilisi. I go for walks in Kustba Lake park which is 15-minutes from the center by car.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Most decent restaurants accept credit cards, as do the nice shops and pharmacies. I would recommend to always keep cash handy for the fruit markets. ATMs are all over the city.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Yes, the catholic church and protestant churches. Have not heard of any english orthodox christian church masses.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

There are free english-language newspapers at hotels and nice cafes. Good cable cost 40usd per month.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Learn Russian. Everybody knows it, and you will be able to use it in over 15 countries. Georgian is the most widely spoken language in Tbilisi, but it is a worthless language to learn, as their is no relation to Russian and has just a few more speakers than Basque in Spain.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

There are about 5km of good sidewalks in all of the city, so don't come here if you are disabled.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Very cheap and very safe except for bad driving.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

The roads are generally bad except for the main avenues. I recommend buying a 4x4 SUV here. Parking is getting worse, but it is still easier than most places in Europe.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, and it is very cheap. 30 USD, and it is faster than in my home in the U.S.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

GEOCELL is the most reliable company.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Yes, everywhere.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

No. Only teaching english.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

semi-formal.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

I have been in more than 50 countries and never witnessed such crazy drivers and pedestrians. Even Cairo was safer in that sense. Real security issues? None whatsoever. I feel safer than back in Orlando. The police are efficient. The travel warnings for Georgia are outdated. This is a safe country.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Healthcare is of a pathetic standard and expensive. Doctors are generally awful and not up to date. GO TO ISTANBUL FOR CHECK UPS.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Moderate. The city is very dusty due to bankrupt abandoned real estate projects.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

North Carolina or Madrid. Winters are mild with real snow for 2-3 days. Summers are awful with extreme heat.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

None yet, but most people recommend the French school, the German school, or QSI (the American school). QSI is so expensive that almost no Georgians go there, so it's probably best to send your children to the French school where they learn French, English and Georgian, and also have your kids mingle with other Georgians as well as foreigners.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

The Russian kindergarten in Vake has very good reviews, although it is not appealing in terms of design.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

soccer,rugby

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

good sized.

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2. Morale among expats:

high.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

There is a very good social and theatre scene. Nightclubs on the weekends only.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Yes, definitely. Good for all.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

I don't think so.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Georgians, due to past war and current poverty, have become very religious -- to the point where it is probably dangerous for the country. Many religious zealots abound in the Orthodox Christian Church, and they are calling for the banning of Harry Potter, nightclubs, and Georgians going abroad for studies -- because they will pollute their minds. There is a disdain for other religions here, but without any sort of violence or overt discrimination. Never criticize the orthodox church here, as that is taboo.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

The people are very generous and hospitable. Visiting ancient historical sites without a single tourist nearby is something great..

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Visiting historical sites, mountains and rivers. Georgia has an interesting culture and cuisine. The wine is mostly awful, apart from 2 or 3 Moldovan wines. Wine from the Balkans is much better and suitable for western tastes.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Nothing here is unique.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

The outdoors are amazing. The mountain scenery they say is like the alps 100 years ago. You can save money. Having a maid costs 12usd per day and we pay our daughters nanny 250USD per month for 12 hour days including Saturday. Everyday is a new adventure in Georgia, and that's what I like the most.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes, definitely. We love it -- for the most part.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

closed mind,

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3. But don't forget your:

open mind.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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