Please note that these ‘England V Georgia’ things I’ve started doing are purely my observations and thoughts, and sometimes will be considered controversial. It’s mostly my way of assembling my opinions while I’m here to look back on, as well as giving you all some insight into my impressions of Georgia. So if anything seems harsh, scatty or offensive then you just have to deal with it!
That being said, I’m trying to be open-minded about these things, and doing my best not to allow my nationality and upbringing affect my opinion too much. I’m not here to say how great the UK is, not at all, just I’m observing some interesting contrasts here that I find either really impressive or really hard to come to terms with.
I deliberately chose to not name this ‘hospitality’ since it doesn’t actually cover everything I want to mention. Ask anyone and they’ll tell you how amazing Georgians are at hosting. I was first told by a Russian man in Ukraine airport once on a 20 hour connection (long story).
Hosting and tending to guests is probably the most prominent aspect of Georgian culture, especially when the food and wine is so significant too. I know I wrote quite a… heated post about the Georgian Supra so won’t dwell on details too much, but noone can deny the effort, attention and patience that goes into them.
The linked post explains better, but basically you have a lot of toasts executed by a tamada, men get raging drunk, women are constantly piling up the plates, songs will be sung, people will dance, etc etc.
I’m always in awe of the women behind the supra, who make masses and masses of dishes ready for the guests. They seem so proud too, although the lack of recognition for these ladies is what upsets me. As a foreigner, and especially since I’m in a relationship with a Georgian, there will always be a toast dedicated to me (which is nice) to the point where my Supra Georgian is almost fluent.
Coming home for Christmas last year was quite a shock for me, as we spent 30 minutes on Christmas dinner. Each with our own plate, one glass of wine, polite chit-chat… Shota and I were like fish out of water, as much as we loved the roast. Brits sometimes can’t show how they care, or express their emotions at all, compared to Georgians who are a very animated and emotional bunch.
This is where I compare with the British equivalent. Firstly, a dinner party/supra would be organised well in advance, usually with quite a wide variety of dishes for the guests to have each, although on special occasions you might choose from shared dishes in the center. People may get a bit rowdy over their drink, but nothing on the scale of Georgians.
I feel the Georgian supras can get quite repetitive, especially as the toasts tend to be the same and therefore dictate the conversation topics. What I enjoy about the British dinner party is (generally, in my experience) no topic is taboo, since you’d usually only be at such events with friends. Rarely friends-of-friends or formal dinners. However, in a British dinner, I feel there’s not so much attention on the food or drink, which I feel somewhat reflects appreciation and being ‘in the moment’, hence why we always opt for the second-cheapest wine from Tesco, and some icecream for dessert.
Oh! Of course, the lack of dessert at Supras upsets me, but this round has to be for Georgians for the pure effort, attention and appreciation they show for each other and their country during Supras. As much as I love everything about the food, friends, conversation etc in British dinner parties, if I was an outsider (like I kind of am at supras) it would be awkward and harder to gel/ impress than it is at Supras.
On the other hand, I miss the quick-paced attitudes of home when you could catch up with someone over a cup of tea and biscuits then head off again half an hour later. People understand you have stuff to do, and most people have their own little routines they like to get back to.
I think a cup of tea is enough, for a quick catch up, but in Georgia anything as simple as stopping by to say hello can turn into a 6 hour long supra where you’re not allowed to leave until the 4th jug of wine has emptied. This makes me feel so guilty, and it’s quite hard for me to wrap my head around how I go about portraying my huge appreciation for them, their efforts, the food, how nice they are, but then also how irritated I am at them for not regarding how busy and tired we are, how bored I am (they never speak in English and I end up mostly ignored, selfish but whatever), how long it will take us to get home etc etc.
I’m yet to experience a ‘catch up’ that lasts less than 3 hours. 3 hours is my limit, and it’s not that I don’t like Georgians, I just prefer not to be around so many people talking loudly over each other for any longer than that. No matter who or where, it’s when I miss just cuddling my dog in silence. Britain definitely wins catch-up hosting, since there’s always biscuits involved.
I want to resist from letting this post get too long, despite having a lot more to say, so this final note will be on trust and honesty.
Trust is a big deal for most people, although I’m noticing more and more that it means different things to different people also. In simple terms, Georgians consider each other as family, and they would therefore do anything for these people. If you break that, then it’s hard to get it back. However, this is often abused and people end up pressuring and guilt-tripping each other with the assumption that it’s family so it’s okay. Say for example you lend your friend money, in no way should you ask for it back, and you should be nonchalant about accepting it later, because it’s assumed that helping someone shouldn’t be owed or in debt.
Fine, and a nice idea, except that means certain people with more money or connections or whatever end up losing out, and there seems to be a lack of understanding that people have their own issues to work through. This is where trust falls short for Georgians. From what I’ve seen, a lot of ‘family’ friends wouldn’t be someone you’d want to tell your secrets too. There’s a constant fear of judgement, even if nothing is said, it’s there.
Of course people judge each other in the UK, but you can guarantee the same thing that when you’re friends, you’re friends. That’s it, simple. However everyone understands or is more empathetic of each other, so asking a friend for money would be a task in itself, since you’d feel guilty and troublesome. It’s completely okay for you to remind your friend to pay you back, and to talk about the elephant in the room without causing issues with your relationship. One thing Georgians do is talk a lot, but rarely about significant issues that should be addressed.
Brits are lazy when it comes to doing anything for their friends, mostly because everyone plans what they’re doing subconsciously. If someone knocked on my door unexpectedly, I would most likely ignore it if it wasn’t one of 4 very special people, even if I consider them a friend. Harsh? Sure, but I’ve got things to do. This is also why I rarely answer my phone, it’s nothing personal, but I need time to mentally prepare myself!
Even if you have plans or you’re exhausted, when Georgian friends turn up you have to go with them. They want to see you so you should be there, as simple as that. They’ll be quite offended if they drive there and you’re unwilling, although probably won’t hold it against you. In a way, I like this attitude where you just do as expected, but it’s hard to enjoy a night on the town when you were already in your PJs.
As for honesty, this is probably my most controversial point. This was actually first highlighted to me by a Georgian, so give me a chance. The thing is, with Georgians, they will say how much they love you, how welcome you are, how much they want to see you, but then will follow through halfheartedly. If you really love someone, it doesn’t have to be proven in grand gestures for the world to observe and approve. There should be depth, contentment and understanding, which seems to lack for most Georgians I’ve spoken to.
For Brits and I think most Western cultures (generally speaking again here), those you consider your friends are real, true friends. So much so that you can fart in front of each other, weep over films together, ask for their genuine advice and criticism, all without judgement. That’s the biggest thing, that everyone is comfortable. Yet more often than not I find Georgians tend to judge and hold grudges when people don’t act accordingly.
Also my point about repetitive Supra conversation ties this all together where there should be depth and honesty. Nothing should be off-topic, everything should be allowed and respected. I can’t even imagine what would be thought of me if I could speak Georgian well enough to lead the conversation my way and express my opinions!
This is all probably quite biased of me, but has been confirmed by others also so it’s not just my ego talking here, but I find Georgians are caring too much about what others think and less about how happy everyone actually is. Even Supras, they’re used to celebrate, sure, but equally as much to show off wealth and stamina.
That, and their customer service is awful. The body language (they don’t talk to me) I see as a foreign girl in supermarkets or cafes is shocking. To the point where it seems over-dramatic. Haven’t worked out if it’s because I’m foreign or female yet though. I just had to mention because the contrast between Supra Georgians and strangers on the street is huge. If they don’t have to be nice, they won’t be. I think this goes past just my naive understanding of cultural differences, there’s definite intended rudeness there…
This round goes to England, for being understanding and brutally-honest. You could take a few pointers from Georgia when it comes to effort and attention though.
I hope this wasn’t too brutal, it was just my thoughts and there’s no way I covered everything I wanted to in this post. I’m not here to write a book (yet) though, so it’ll do for now! I’d love to know what you think, if you agree, if you think I’m bigoted, if you’ve had similar experiences… Write me a comment!