Tbilisi’s Union Jack Obsession

One of the biggest cigarette brands here advertises with heavy UK imagery… Hilarious

‘English Clothes’…


Maybe this post will seem a little strange but it’s something that always amuses me. Everywhere I go in Tbilisi I see people wearing the Union Jack. On everything. These photos were collected over the course of two days, and that’s not counting the times my phone was buried in my bag where I missed a picture.

It makes me wonder because in the UK most people wouldn’t be caught dead wearing a flag, especially a Union Jack. It’s so cheesy. My dad’s generation maybe, he has his own Union Jack mug, but that would lead me in to a rant about Jeremy Clarkson-esque patriotism. Russell Brand sort of explained what I mean by that here. So you can see why it amuses me, even more so when the clothes are generally made in Turkey and yet you can smell the unintentional Imperialism.

I met a friend-of-a-friend at a party here back in August who was so excited to tell me how much his wife loved the UK. It’s nice to hear, except then he said how she’d never traveled there or even outside of Georgia. He told me how they bought a phone with the Union Jack on and how they have some black and white canvases of Westminster on their living room wall where the bus is still red. You know what I mean. I cringed but tried my hardest not to burst any bubbles. He then called his wife and told her that he was speaking to a real English person and then passed the phone to me to just say something. It was beyond awkward and I just couldn’t wrap my head around it. Of course places get romanticised and people want to travel there, but really?

One thing I’ve noticed about Georgians is that they can be surprisingly snobby. Everyone wants to look like they’re spending a lot of money, even though people don’t have money. It’s common to go to a supra (you remember I told you, a typical Georgian feast) and order everything so plates are piling up (the average supra tends to have atleast 4 layers of plates) and gallons and gallons of wine. Then they’ll finish after 8 hours or so and just leave it. It’s ridiculous since it must cost several hundred lari and on average people are earning about 600GEL/month. So they’ll splash out, wear fake Chanel, have the latest iPhone and biggest Jeep but not afford food that month and be massively in debt. It sounds extreme but I’m not exaggerating, that’s the sad part.

I’m trying to remain objective here and sort of take context into consideration, otherwise I’m finding I get so overwhelmed and stressed with so much negative energy. Maybe it’s me and I’m only picking up on the negative aspects like I just described, but I’m very quick to smile at a waving baby or stop and admire a busker, so I dunno. Of course not everyone is like how I’m describing but you can safely assume atleast 80% of the population have their priorities like this. This explains the idolisation of London and the UK since it’s advertised seemingly internationally as the land of wealth and luxury. Hilarious for me having lived near Aldgate East. I had a perfect view of the poor communities of London when I turned my head left, and the City of London when I turned my head right. Slums and the City, if you will.

Of course I know London is a rich city (I too have scoffed at £15 for a Jack and Coke) and that the UK is a First World country but really, more than anything I’m dumbfounded that people take things so literally. Maybe I’m cynical but people aren’t questioning the things I find painfully obvious, like the blatant propaganda on the news channels, or the fact that neon clothes with real fur are never ever going to be a good idea. I know, I know, I’m privileged and naïve but I’m allowed to be bewildered at such things. Even more so when my experience of the UK is from the perspective of a working class upbringing. I feel like this snobbery is something I’m allowed to be upset by though, since it seems to be that competitive attitude here which is grinding everyone down, not just me. You always have to one-up each other and it’s exhausting. I don’t bother, hence the incessent staring everywhere I go.

In the UK if you dress like you have money with massive gold watches and Gucci plastered over your loo roll then people will just think you look like a dick, simple. I come from a small town where you will see more people wandering around in their haute couture pyjamas. Or brown-stained knickers, whatever. You think I’m exaggerating… So you can imagine my confusion when I provoked the reaction I did last summer wearing a plain black vest top and knee-length shorts with flip flops. Not that the ladies cover up here but I just looked way too casual, you know, as if I just wanted to do the shopping or something… It was exactly with arms full of veg on my way between bazaars when the police stopped me. I freaked out that I’d done something wrong or they were gonna ask about my visa or something (I was within my 90 days anyway) and he hit on me. A policeman on duty took the time to check me out and propose marriage. Thankfully the neighbour was nearby and explained in very angry Georgian that I’m taken but Jesus. Christ.

Anyway, in short everyone wants to wear a Union Jack and look European, but not so many are keen to learn English or adopt a European mentality regarding the big issues here. Then if you are a European and you do look foreign then expect lots of resentful/ judgmental stares. I’ve been assured they’re just curious but they look like they want to fight me everytime I step onto the metro, so what’s a girl supposed to think?

Amused, bewildered, psychotic, you decide. I’d love to hear what you think of this sort of thing, maybe you’re from another country that’s being romantised to the extreme or you’re on the receiving end of such ridiculous fashion trends?


6 thoughts on “Tbilisi’s Union Jack Obsession

  1. Chewie says:

    Hello and thanks for the follow!
    Interesting stuff here. What you wrote reminds me of the rampant consumerism and conspicuous consumption I saw in South Korea.


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