Exploring everyday life in Georgia

As I twisted my ankle a few weeks back I’m still in Georgia, waiting for my foot to heal and spending my time learning Russian in Tbilisi. Fortunately, a friend of mine had offered that I could stay at his brother’s lovely appartment since he’s currently abroad and not using it. So instead of traveling around I have had the chance to explore Georgian everyday life, and its challenges, for a change.

For example, the other day I wanted to pay the bills for the running costs of the appartment which I’d found on my doorstep one morning (apparently the mailboxes aren’t being used). I thought that maybe one needed a Georgian bank account to do so, but my friend explained I could just go to any bank in town. Sounds easy enough, right? Unfortunately, all banks in the area were having problems with their internet connection that afternoon – no payments possible.

I spent about two hours watching the staff at different banks turn off and reboot their computers before giving up. But as I was walking home I remembered that I had seen people with what looked like bills in their hands standing in front of those telephone-booth-like machines that one finds at every corner in Tbilisi.

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Et voilá, just five minutes later the bills were paid, much quicker and paying fewer fees than at the bank!

I’ve often found that things that work differently abroad are quite okay (sometimes better) to live with, once you’ve managed to figure out just how they work. Actually, I just remembered another set of bills upon arriving in Switzerland and my surprise at being told I had to go to the post office to pay them. (Seriously, how weird is that!?)

But I also admit that there are some things I find very difficult to get used to – and life without a washing machine is definitely one of those! My friend Mikheil told me that only about every second household here has a washing machine. I’m among the other half, and since I haven’t yet found a laundromat in town I’m doing my laundry by hand in a plastic tub.

As I was looking for washing powder, somebody recommended a local brand to me specifically meant for hand washing. I autmatically associated “meant for hand washing” with “gentle” detergent… My formerly blue pyjamas are now sporting a lovely pattern of greenish bleach stains:

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Fortunately I found out the right dosage quickly so that the rest of my clothes remain (relatively) unscathed. Unfortunately, that doesn’t change the fact that washing evereything by hand takes an aweful lot of time. In retrospect I am very, very grateful for always having had access to a washing machine in the past!

Neither am I enjoying hanging out the laundry too much, given that the line is fixed to the balcony in the fifths floor. Let’s just say that my fear of hights and my fear of accidentally letting something drop don’t work together too well. Especially on a balcony that is ever so slightly sloping downwards. Okay, maybe it’s just my imgination.

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Something I really do enjoy is the food shopping. Of course, there are some big, modern supermarkets with an impressive range of products similar to what one’s used to in countries like Switzerland or Germany. Actually, a lot of the products are German, and even labelled in German, which I find somewhat curious.

The three most common languages in a Georgian supermarket: German, Russian, Georgian. Yes, if ranked by importance it would be the other way around.

The three most common languages in a Georgian supermarket: German, Russian, Georgian. Yes, if ranked by importance it would be the other way around.

But a lot more common than the big supermarkets are small corner shops and kiosks. There’s also small “souterrain shops” which sell their product (usually they specialize in just one, like cheese, or bread, or photocopies) through a window level with the feet of passersby.

Vegetables and fruits are usually sold in special shops and stands which remind me a lot of famer’s markets at home. Some of those are quite big and well-assorted, but sometimes a ‘stand’ is just a box on the sidewalk from which elderly ladies sell some herbs and other greens.

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There’s many more examples of the little differences and challenges that make everyday life here so interesting for me as a foreigner: occasional water and electricity shortages (fortunately never very long), the somewhat confusing but fun minibus system (I have yet to find out how exactly people living in Tbilisi know which bus goes where), cats as living tripping hazards in the staircase…

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But I don’t want to bore you too badly 😉
So I just close with a final photo: my much beloved ‘coffee machine’:

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This post is also available in Deutsch.

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