Tbilisi, Georgia Report of what it's like to live there - 06/23/20

Personal Experiences from Tbilisi, Georgia

Tbilisi, Georgia 06/23/20

Background:

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

No. We have been overseas for 12 years, living in Albania, Ghana, Kazakhstan, and now Georgia.

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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?

From Wisconsin, it is a 30+ hour trip. The most difficult part is the time difference. Basically, you arrive two days after leaving the US.

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3. How long have you lived here?

One year.

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

Embassy work.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Downtown has lots of nice apartments within walking distance of shops and parks. Further out there are suburbs where families tend to live. They are close to the international school, but not necessarily close to bars, cafes, and most restaurants.

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

Good availability of lots of groceries at a reasonable price. Local fruits and vegetables are fantastic as is the wine. Fish is a bit more expensive. You have more limited choices of Asian, Indian, or Mexican ingredients/ spices.

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

Quick meals and special snacks that my kids like, a taste of home. Any ingredients for ethnic dishes you want to make.

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

Georgian food is fantastic! There is easy and reliable internet apps to order food (wolt, for example).

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

We have had lots of issues with ants and I wish we had brought ant traps.

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Daily Life:

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

I get mail through the Embassy.

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

You can get good household help, although you pay a bit more for someone who speaks good English. I had a difficult time finding someone who both cooked and cleaned.

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

Yes. Credit cards are widely accepted and ATMs have been reliable.

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

Local language would be wonderful, sadly, I don't have any. It is possible to get around with English, many younger Georgians speak English. Older Georgians often speak Russian. Most restaurants and signs are in both English and Georgian. As you get into less touristic places, language gets more difficult.

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

There are very few accommodations for people with physical disabilities.

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Transportation:

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

There is an Uber-like service (bolt) that is quite useful and affordable.

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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?

SUV with high clearance for exploring the country.

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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?

Internet is quite good and fairly reliable for a developing country.

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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?

Cell phones with data are affordable. We use MAGTI.

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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?

We have a dog at post. Vets are good and you can get a groomer. Import and export can be a pain.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

Georgians are stylish and very European in their dress.

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Health & Safety:

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

We have felt quite safe at this post. The health system is not particularly strong so if something big happens, expect to be medically-evacuated. Minor issues can be handled in country. We have had luck buying eyeglasses.

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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?

The health system is not particularly strong so if something big happens, expect to be medically evacuated. Minor issues can be handled in Country. We have had luck buying eye glasses.

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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 okay.

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

My summer allergies have been quite bad just because everything blooms here. Also, it is very windy which really disperses pollen and dust in the air.

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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?

Nice four seasons. The summer is quite hot while winter is manageable. There is skiing close to the capital. The wind is amazing.

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Schools & Children:

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

Our children attend the QSI international school. Class sizes are quite small and at the younger grades we have been happy.

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

The school tries, but has limited resources. I suggest reaching out to the school directly if you have concerns.

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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?

Yes. We have not used them yet.

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

Yes. People take martial arts, horse back riding lessons, tennis, music and art classes.

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Expat Life:

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

This is a medium-size expat community. There are lots of places to go so you can be as plugged into the expat scene as you want to be. There are also events around children and hiking.

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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?

Restaurants, cafes, and bars were popular pre-COVID. Now people are spending time exploring the outdoors. Georgia has amazing historic and nature places to visit.

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

This is a great post for both singles and families.

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

Georgia is not progressive on LGBT issues. There are several local organizations who are fighting for LGBT rights and a small community that you can get plugged into. As a foreigner, you will most likely be left alone. However, be ready for people to make rude comments about LGBT issues in general. PDAs would not be advisable.

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5. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?

Georgians are extremely friendly and open to westerners. It is possible to make local friends particularly if you take interest in the country, culture, and find common interests.

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

Georgia struggles internally with tolerance of minority communities. In addition, there are some strong gender roles that are traditionally followed. That said, Tbilisi is more cosmopolitan and open.

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

Travel the country and eat the food! Take a local cooking class.

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

Hiking, food, and exploration.

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

Lots of neat Georgian products and crafts, but I wouldn't say its a huge shopping post.

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

Currently, Georgia has done a really good job of managing COVID-19. It means that we are living under strict restrictions, however, we also are less concerned about our safety.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Be prepared to gain 10 lbs. The food is so good.

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

Yes. We love it here.

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

Wine; the local stuff is great.

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4. But don't forget your:

Hiking and camping gear, a sense of adventure, and a willingness to try new things.

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