May be because of small nation mentality Georgians are always very interested in others’ opinion about their country. Foreigners appreciation is used as a strong argument in a dispute, alien’s critic is accepted with special resentment.
In these turbulent times we asked not tourists but foreigners living here about their view on life in Georgia during last 5 years. We have conducted small but diverse survey among expats who have already spent particular period of time living in Georgia. Society.ge contacted people of different origins, professions, reasons for living here, type of income and age.
Middle age of questioned is about 41, they have spent from 6 month up to 14 years in the country, male and female ratio is 50/50. 60% of those stayed in Georgia for personal reasons; 55% earn all living money locally, and others have diverse income from abroad and local activities.
Vast majority of expats mentions that life is getting harder since 2010, somebody points out on less security, others – on currency inflation and high prices. Some of comments sounds very frankly and realistic: “Cost of living has risen significantly with the $ exchange rate hike. It is disturbing that prices are often arbitrarily set, independently of any logic and based on the seller’s personal opinion. By far not all items depend on $ rate, however, everything has risen in price.” (female, 36 years old)
Attitude towards foreigners
While general attitude seems to be positive as tourism is one of the substantial source of income for the country budget, distinction and some level of intolerance are visible for expats as well:
Attitude towards people of Middle Eastern and black African origin is very disturbing, especially coming from the Church, which has huge influence over public opinion. (female, 36 years old)
“Very welcoming towards me – I’m white European, less friendly towards black and Asian people” (36 old male, 3 years in the country)
Georgians way of leaving looks conservative for foreigners. Some of them points on current changes: “I see changes in general population lifestyle in the sense that even more people have lost their jobs and businesses, therefore, more people are idle and unhappy in the streets, which leads to more criminality.”
But many see more entertainment opportunities available around then before – “Better than a year ago as I know more places to go”.
Country political life
Many of expats do not follow political developments in the country, but some have made particular conclusions: “Politics in this country are everywhere. Society is strongly divided and any topic eventually comes down to political situation, which in my personal opinion is not good. People who are considered the political elite right now are unprofessional and inexperienced, with the aim to serve only their personal material interests.” (female, 36 years old).
Not surprisingly but entertainment opportunities for foreigners especially those who came from Europe or Americas, look poor and kind of boring.
“Due to terrible lack of time for entertainment, I am not up to date with these opportunities. However, I often talk to tourists and foreigners living here and they note significant lack of good lounges, clubs, not to mention poor theater and opera opportunities. For kids, there is very little to offer apart from the bad-serviced kids’ birthday centers.” (male, 33)
76% of questioned mentioned that in spite of definite degradation and visible criminal activity the overall impression of security stay positive, they obviously observe tendency to worse situation then years ago. “Good – despite talk of rising crime, I feel much safer here than anywhere else I lived” (46 years old, male), “Decreasing, during previous government I didn’t even heat something like now” (female, 35).
But surprisingly we found the topic almost all foreigners are speaking about – road safety.
“Safety on Georgian roads is THE issue that needs to be addressed on all levels – political and social. I believe that only high and ruthless road violation charges may help stop road killers. This problem is out of hand. Clearly, patrol police “does not notice” smaller (in their opinion) violations such as never letting pedestrians pass on zebra. I also feel that the police in general have become more relaxed in the last 2-3 years, which has led to more relaxed state of criminal elements. Obviously the feeling of security has declined. Reports of theft and robberies have become too frequent.” (female, 36 years old)
“Improve public transport, especially the Tbilisi metro, to reduce traffic in the city” (46 years old, male)
If the taxi had meters it would be a great plus for the expats that are not sure of new locations; Majority of signage are only in Georgian. This avoid expats to notice and recognize good Georgian restaurants & entertainment areas. Therefor they can’t recommend them to their friends, tourists and other expats. (male, 35, 6 month in Georgia)
“I cannot understand why police is not able to make people drive properly. (female, 43, 14 years living in Georgia)
“Traffic violations are on the increase and the police are not responding to it. Sidewalks and pedestrian subways are in very bad repair and it would have negative image on tourism. Taxis from the airport are cheating the tourists and it is very bad first impression about a country.” (male, 53 years old).
One special and very deep comment heard from young man (33) who moved to Georgia by personal reasons and does not plan to leave it in foreseeable future: “The biggest problem in Georgia from my prospective is extremely low level of education that’s the reason why it’s very easy to manipulate people from one side and that is why economy is not growing from another side.