Op-ed: Nine things that might surprise a foreigner in Georgia
What is it that a foreigner may find most eye-catching in Georgia? Felix Weiss shares his experiences of living in the country.
It’s a little bit surprising for a foreigner that police cars always drive with a flashing blue light. I’m used to police using it only when something is up and they have to cross fast. In Georgia it’s normal – even if nothing is happening. If something urgent comes up the police will additionally use their siren or their microphone to tell everybody to get out of their way.
Steering wheels in cars
Why are the steering wheels in some cars on the right side? In countries where cars drive on the left, the steering wheel is on the right side and vice-versa in countries where cars drive on the right side. In Georgia you drive on the right side, but you have both sorts of cars.
It’s a very pleasant experience when Georgians act hospitably to a stranger. This is something that isn’t to this extent in my home country. Whether it is an old lady in a village who gives you homemade cheese and wine before starting a hiking trip, or a taxi driver who wants to give you a ride from the airport to the city for 35 Lari and decides after some talking and sharing cigarettes to take you for 20 Lari and gives you his phone number, just in case you want to taste some of his homemade wine.
Every nation that has its own national drink and some customs related to drinking should be proud of them. Georgians have wine and Chacha. I really like the Georgian way of making toasts and connecting with others. But there are also customs I can’t understand: how drunk do you have to be to come up with the idea of grabbing a table with your teeth?
It is incredible how many plastic bags are used in Georgia. I have the impression I’m the only one in a supermarket who puts the products in a bag which I have brought from home with me. Of course, it’s nice to get a bag for free if you forget your bag, but sometimes there’s just way too many. Why do you need a plastic bag if you purchase only one item? If you carry the item in your hands or a plastic bag with the item inside, it’s pretty much the same thing.
I have the impression that in Georgia not many people care about the environment. Even outside the city in a beautiful landscape you can find so much waste. And the city of Tbilisi is so polluted, because everybody goes by car or bus. Why was the tram line stopped? Trams are a cheap and environmentally friendly way of transport compared to busses. Why don’t people use more bikes, which would be not only environmentally friendly, but also healthy?
Even during hot days (and there are a lot of them in Georgia) men wear long trousers and jeans. Why don’t they prefer to wear shorts in the sun?
Doing the sign of the cross
The majority of the Georgian society is very religious. It’s quite normal for people to go to church, pray and fast before important religious holidays. But I was astonished that people do the sign of the cross twice when they pass a church or a monastery, even if they’re sitting on a bus and the church is far away.
Germans are supposed to be hard and disciplined workers, but I think they are lazy. That’s why they try to work efficiently in order to work less in the end. With this thought in mind, it’s incomprehensible why in Georgia most of the broomsticks are small and short. It takes longer to clean and you will destroy your back in the longterm.