Cultural tips

Here I would like to publish verious short readings which may be useful for the interaction with locals. It is a motley of things we heard from reputable sources as well as of those we learned ourselves

Some hikers, who already experienced destinations such as Nepal are coming with great expectations. And then are disappointed by “low level of service”. So it´s good to clarify some things beforehand - in Georgia, there isn´t developed industry focused on tour groups. Local people are proud and see themselves as your companions, not your servants.
Georgian guide will never carry your backpack - that´s what horses are for. Porters, so widespread in Himalayas or Andes are here virtually non-existent. Don´t expect your Georgian guide to wake you up in the morning with a cup of hot chocolate (ok, he may come with cha-cha, but that´s different).
There is no point in complaining about this lack of service, rather accept it as a local specifics. And it has also it´s positives - it feels much better to have “a local companion” than a servant, at least to me.
If your only info about Georgia comes from travel brochures, you may get quite a distorted view of the country. According to many PR articles, Georgians are true “jigits”, fearless mountain men, whose greatest joy is to lure travellers into their mountain homes, hold endless feasts and drink a lots of wine while toasting about friendship and honor. And then I hear tourists complaining:"Georgian hospitability is a myth. I spent whole week (!) in the country and noone invited me for a supra".
What to say? Before complaining, just remember the last time when you invited a stranger to your home. Georgians are overall pretty hospitable, but this behaviour can’t be taken for granted. It greatly depends on the circumstances. I was hosted several times and treasure each of these experiences, but would never use “how many times I was invited” number as a benchmark of a succesful trip. The best thing about these encounters is their spontaneity. Some things simply can’t be planned and this is one of them. So it's recommended to not expect anything at all and be (maybe) pleasantly surprised than the other way around. And if you get lucky, always try (at least when it’s appropiate) to somehow repay the hospitability you get, even if your hosts refuse money (food, drinks, send them your photos etc.).
Drinking in Georgia is not only a way to get wasted, but also an important part of Georgian culture. Especially during celebrations, it’s heavily ritualized. I will not repeat here all that “who is tamada” stuff, just want to mention one thing. Take it seriously. And if you are given a chance to propose a toast, stay in line and don’t try to be funny at all costs. If the previous toasts were to the motherland and the ancestors, don’t come up with something like “to the beauty of your horses and the speed of your women”
OK, this will be tricky one. I don’t want to offend my Georgian friends - in fact, behaviour described below related only to the minority of the population. However, for the obvious reasons, female tourists will encounter this minority relatively often. So I think it belongs here.
So what is this all about? In Slovakia, we jokingly say “only the third ‘no’ counts”. Unfortunately, in Georgia, foreign woman’s “no” is often not taken for an answer at all. What’s the reason? In Georgia, by tradition, the woman entering the marriage is expected to be a virgin. However, no such demand is placed on men. Quite the opposite - they are expected to to be the ones who know what to do. This, logically, creates a huge disparity between the number of women and men willing to exchange their bodily fluids. As result, some Georgians go for foreigners, especially since they have a reputation of being "easy".
These advances are often very direct. Why? Let´s show it on the example of traditional Georgian dances. The woman is always that etheric, seemingly disinterested entity floating around while the man is working his ass off trying to impress her, jumping, spinning etc. Same in the real life - rejected man often feels that "he just didn´t try hard enough" and this brings misunderstandings.
How to avoid it? That´s hard. First of all, you can´t go wrong if you are careful around new acqintances. If you are not interested in the relationship/sex, don´t give the men any reason to think so. Unnecessary flirting, no matter how harmless in your country is seen differently there. Define your limits and if someone tries to break them, be very resolute.
Many single girls, especially travelling in a group, sometimes create fake stories they present to Georgians they meet - about some of their companions being their brother/boyfriend etc. So the girl seems to be “taken” and noone bothers her. We did it earlier, too, but I am not sure if I would recommend it. Because in such situation you are lying to someone you don’t know yet and assume that he is that “wrong kind of a guy”. And that’s not too fair...
Georgian people tend to resolve difficulties at the pitch of constant assertiveness and argument. If you prefer quiet negotiations, you may feel a bit intimidated. You need to fight it. Don’t be afraid to go beyond your comfort zone in insisting about what you want, even if you feel that you are being very offensive (in your own cultural position). It’s extremely hard to actually offend Georgian people just by being assertive. In fact, sad to say, the harder you push the greater is the sense of the authenticity of your desires.
Of course, this has also limits - be resolute and loud, but not aggresive. I know, sometimes it’s hard to estimate what is OK and what is not, that’s up to you. So don’t send me your hospital bill if something goes wrong :)

Copyright © 2016 Jozef Antala. All rights reserved

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