A slightly more ambiguous comparison for today, but something I’ve felt the need to tackle for a while now as I prepare for going home in a few weeks… This probably won’t be so structured, so bear with me.
If you’re reading this to compare a First world country with a Third world country then you’re going to be disappointed. I’m going to be comparing standard of living according to my values, not necessarily what you might expect.
Let’s start with time. The main thing I’ve found difficult to adjust to. It’s no secret that the East and West have different approaches when it comes to time management, which I’ve mentioned before. However, the mentality towards time is really interesting in Georgia.
A lot of people live without needing to look at the clock, which I envy. If you’ve lived your whole life like that then good for you, but it’s so hard to adopt that if you haven’t before. I’ve seen that working individuals in Georgia with government or even any kind of office job have a really hard time, from what I’ve seen, and there’s no in between.
In the UK, you can generally assume that if your working day is supposed to finish at 6, you leave at 6. Here, a meeting could be arranged to start at 6 and you just have to deal with it. Structure is harder and more spontaneous even in the workplace, which leads to higher levels of stress, especially compared to the shepards who seemingly have all the time in the world.
Not only is it likely you’ll leave later, but actual time spent travelling around Tbilisi is quite grueling. I use public transport which is suitably deafening and slow, but if you drive you’ll spend most of your time stuck in traffic or avoiding crashes which stresses you out just as much.
Considering time is something seemingly in abundance for the people who block the escalators, or stop to chat with old friends for hours in the street, there seems to be very little time to actually enjoy life. Sure, maybe an odd supra now and then, but no time to really go out and do something.
I hope it doesn’t sound pretentious or something, but as someone who has had access to more stimulating things culturally and mentally, I just can’t find using my spare time to go shopping in Station Square satisfying. I wish I could, but I need Al Alvarez lectures and pop-up theatre.
Another important aspect for me is food, which I’ve definitely talked about before. I miss the never-ending ingredients and produce available to me in the UK, but in terms of understanding the land and having access to cheap, natural and quite simply, good tasting food, it’s surprisingly difficult.
In a way, food is much more complicated in the UK, so I’m thankful for the awareness Georgia has given to me. However, I miss the luxury of being able to just head to my local shop and find more obscure ingredients, or atleast ingredients that are good quality and not just Russian knock-offs.
Also, just plain old restaurants where you’re actually excited to see what your options are, not nervous that you’ll end up with the same old mayonnaise-covered pizza. Yeah, I miss good food, but I know that if I live in the UK again I’m going to miss cheap buckwheat and all-natural fruit and veg.
This applies to nature also. I love the British countryside like anyone, but for pure, raw nature it’s hard to find in the UK. Georgia has that, and it’s incredible, but the people living there are in severe poverty (especially compared to countryside folk in the UK) and there’s very little in place to protect national land, wildlife and nature which I have serious problems with.
To resist making this post too long, I’ll end with one last point. Cost. So, of course London and the UK is known for being expensive, and it is. Opportunities are difficult especially if you’re not from a rich family, which leads people very easily to a life of routine and misery. Sad but true.
In Georgia I have the luxury of being an asset. I could find a job tomorrow just for being a native English speaker, and a British girl at that (I’m a perfect teacher for kids apparently). I happen to be working with an American company who also value my British accent enough that for minimal hours work, I’m fortunate enough to earn more than double what the average Georgian earns. It’s sort of shameful, but makes sense considering current economic and political issues here.
If my priorities were different, I could live what would be considered a life of luxury in Georgia, like other foreigners I’ve met. However, I care more about being able to visit my family every so often (not easy when everything is in pound…), moving into a flat with my boyfriend, and investing in things for the future, not just things for now.
I have the opportunity to fully give myself over to Georgia, and indulge in the small things and redirect my focus to kids and clothes. I’m too young for that though, and I’ve seen too much, so now I have a conflict of interests of where I want to be for the next few years. There are plenty of other things whirring around in the back of my mind, such as education, friends and family, healthcare etc etc, but I’m only 21 so I guess I shouldn’t worry too much about that just yet.
I feel like this is half-finished, but I’m going to stop here for now. Let’s call this part 1. Maybe I’ll make a bullet point list at some point to visualise these things too but I’d love to hear what those of you who have also lived abroad (or still do) think?
I just had to get some points down since I’m travelling the week after next and I’m nervous about a potential culture shock, or getting used to being back home and struggling when I return to Georgia again!