Tbilisi, Georgia Report of what it's like to live there - 02/14/17

Personal Experiences from Tbilisi, Georgia

Tbilisi, Georgia 02/14/17

Background:

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

No. Amman and Baghdad.

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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?

California - 24 hours plus of travel.

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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.)?

US Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

We chose to live in Digomi, the suburbs north of Tbilisi and close to the Embassy location. Our house was very large - about 3,000 or 3,500 sq ft. It was in a neighborhood where all of the houses were walled off and the street were not paved (and therefore muddy and rutted most of the year). Our house had several fruit trees and grass. We commuted about 6 or 7 minutes to the embassy. Most families lived in houses near the Embassy and singles and married couples with no kids often opted for living downtown. For those who lived downtown, it is apartment living, it would be smaller - maybe 1500 to 2000 sq ft and you'd have a much longer commute depending on traffic - 30 min up to an hour.

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

Almost all local and regional produce and meat is very cheap. There's a Carrefour and a German-based supermarket called Goodwill where most families shop. If you don't care about name brand items, you can get most groceries cheaply. But for paper goods- plates, napkins, plastic cutlery, paper towels, toilet paper, etc - you are much better off ordering through the DPO. The local options for paper goods are very poor quality.

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

We shipped paper towels, toilet paper, Mexican food and some cheese.

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

Lots of great Georgian food and restaurants.

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

The Embassy does a pretty good just of dousing your house (internally and externally) with poison to get rid of ants if you complain.

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Daily Life:

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

DPO. Mail can take anywhere from 2 weeks to 8 weeks.

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

House help can be very cheap - $4 to $5 an hour.

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

This is not a very sporty country and there aren't many gym options. Luckily, there is a pretty decent gym at the embassy.

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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?

We mostly used cash everywhere. But, credit cards can be used at the malls, grocery store and most restaurants.

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

There are a few local, small Christian "churches" run by expats that cater to the English-speaking expat community. But, most church services are in Russian or Georgian and are Orthodox Christian.

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

The embassy offers several language classes. Some Georgian or Russian would be extremely helpful to get around and read menus.

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

This would not be an easy city to live in for someone with a disability. Nearly impossible.

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Transportation:

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

Taxis are very safe and cheap, but the drivers probably only understand Georgian and Russian. And they have a hard time reading a map. If you want to take a taxi, know where you are going or have someone write down where you want to go in Georgian.

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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?

An SUV is needed for in-country travel.

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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. It can take 1 day to 2 months. You can talk to the person living in the house before you and try to keep the service turned on.

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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?

We used unlocked iPhones and signed up for the local service. It was cheap.

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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?

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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?

Most spouses sought employment at the embassy. Local jobs are very low paying.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

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

More casual than DC.

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Health & Safety:

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

Medical care at the Embassy is fine. But, for anything remotely serious, expect to get medically evacuated.

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2. 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 downtown is not very good due to the car exhaust - there are lots of very old cars on the road. But, north of the city where the embassy is, it generally didn't suffer from air quality issues.

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3. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

Georgians don't know how to cater to food allergies. You would need to manage it all yourself.

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4. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

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

Four real seasons.

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Schools & Children:

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

We sent our kids to an international preschool, but the QSI school (which accepts money from the Embassy) was pretty well regarded. It had small classes, decent instruction and good after-school options.

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

The family would need to make their own accommodation for a special needs child. With creativity, it has been done. Reach out to post to ask if this is something you need to know about.

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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?

There are preschools that start at age 2.5 and 3. They are not that expensive. Plus, most families have full or part time nannies. These nannies are often very well educated and are paid $4 - $5 an hour, because being a nanny for an expat family is one of the best paying jobs they can get. (With an average monthly salary for a nurse right at $350, being a nanny pays way better.) While QSI does have a good offering of after school activities, most kids go home and the nanny is usually at home.

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

Yes. Though, if you are interested in serious sports, this is not the post for you.

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Expat Life:

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

Overall morale is really good. Most people like the embassy and there are a good number of things to do around the country if you are willing to get out and about.

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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?

The CLO does a really good job of organizing events for the embassy. There are weekend excursions, day outings, restaurant nights and shopping trips. There is also an international womens club that is quite active.

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

Ok for singles. Good for couples and families.

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

There are great weekend trips to Batumi and Bakuriani. There is cheap skiing in Gudauri, only a 45 minute car ride away.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

The people are friendly and like Americans. This can go a long way to make up for a lack of Georgian and/or Russian language. Also, it can get VERY windy. Wind storms are relatively common, meaning outdoor furniture needs to be bolted to the ground or not left outside.

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

Yes. It was a great place for us to live with your kids.

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3. But don't forget your:

Skis.

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