Tbilisi, Georgia Report of what it's like to live there - 05/01/16

Personal Experiences from Tbilisi, Georgia

Tbilisi, Georgia 05/01/16

Background:

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

No, previous have been Pretoria, South Africa-Catania, Sicily-Muscat, Oman and Tel Aviv, Israel.

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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?

Minnesota. 22 hours, connections via Munich and New York.-Meh.

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3. How long have you lived here?

2 years

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

Foreign Service

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Vake- Downtown, smaller apartments. Commutes can be bad, as traffic can back up. Some people commute 45 minutes. Embassy is north of downtown about 6-7km, so Dighomi is better for families, bigger homes with private yards and dedicated generators. Our commute from Dighomi is < 10 minutes. Zurgovani (known as the American Village) is a gated community fairly close to the Embassy, primarily housing American diplomats.Homes in Zurgovani are townhome style, and is very close to the International school (QSI)

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

Several major grocery chains available, Carrefour (French chain) in Dighomi is the one we use. Goodwill (German chain) is also here, but a bit pricier. LaFamily is a chain I hear others using. Costs are lower than Washington DC, but product selection is lower.You get used to it.

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

A small SUV in better condition. Local mechanics are very hit and miss here. Also 220 VAC UPS units for personal electronics. Electricity supply is unstable.

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

They just built a McDonald's across the street from the Embassy-meh. There are so many good local choices available, why fast food?

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

Some flies in the late summer, but that is about it.

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Daily Life:

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

DPO. Fast and reliable.

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

Cost is low, many seem to be available.

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

Embassy has a gym on post. Others use hotels (pricier). Hotels downtown have nice spa areas.

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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?

ATM's are available, but we prefer to cash checks at the Embassy. Be careful with credit cards outside of major chain establishments.

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

You can get by with English here for sure in the city. Out of the city it is hit and miss. Some Georgian or Russian is helpful.

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

Yes. Nothing is planned for disabled folks. Getting around could be tough.

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Transportation:

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

Taxis are everywhere, but mechanical safety of the car is all over the map. Many do not have seat belts, and Tbilisi taxi drivers are mostly anarchists in their driving. Use with caution.

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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?

Roads can be poor in and out of town. An SUV is preferred to a sedan for sure. I have ridden a big cruiser motorcycle when weather permits.

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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?

Dighomi area has high speed internet (fiber) for about US$20 a month. I get 75 MBPS consistently. People in areas closer to downtown have varied experiences. 3G and 4G is not a thing here yet.

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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?

Pay as you go with data is available and relatively cheap. There are bill paying kiosks all over, where you can top off your cards. You can certainly get by without a contract plan here.

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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 quarantine for pets, but there is a lot of official Georgian stamps on paperwork, spread between 3 different govt offices that took me all night long to navigate when my dog arrived as cargo. Large dogs have issues getting back out of Georgia. We have found several quality vets here. If you do not have a dog, but would like one, this is a great place to adopt a dog.

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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?

Some, doesn't seem to be a lot though.

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Health & Safety:

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

Pretty safe here, but a lot of people drink and drive, so roads can be hazardous.

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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?

Medical care can be marginal

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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?

Air quality is good.

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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?

Weather like Washington DC, but windier. MUCH windier.

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Schools & Children:

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

I do not know much about the international school, my kids are grown and gone. Others seem happy enough.

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Expat Life:

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

More expats than I expected, most like it here quite a bit.

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

Eating out for sure.

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

Yes to all.

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

Not sure.

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

Some I guess. Georgians tend to be religious on the conservative side.

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

Food! and wine! Georgians are also very friendly.

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

Museums downtown (I like the museum of Soviet Occupation a lot myself). Kasbegi near the Russian border to the north. Msketa wine country to the east. There is a lot of fun things to do here. We went as a group on rented Ultimate Terrain vehicles (Polaris 1000 Razor) almost 100 miles through the high desert with a local guide last year. I would love to do it again! Also skiing, parasailing, hiking, historical tours, etc....

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

Local art is unique and everywhere.

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

Touring is great, Georgia is a beautiful country with a lot of history. COL is low, so saving money is easy, but there is a lot to spend money on if you want to.

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10. Can you save money?

Absolutely.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Without a doubt.

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

Impatience. Georgians are friendly, but certainly do things their own way.

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3. But don't forget your:

High use car maintenance items.

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4. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

1-Power Trip
2-I Love You, Tbilisi
3-When Omar Left

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