Tbilisi, Georgia Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Tbilisi, Georgia

Tbilisi, Georgia 01/08/19

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No, this was our last expatriate experience! We have also lived in the USSR, Italy, Belgium, Austria, former Yugoslavia, and Turkey.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Chicago, IL. About 22-24 hours door to door. Right not there is no direct connection from Tbilisi to the States, but we're hearing rumors that may change.

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3. How long have you lived here?

We lived in Tbilisi for 2.5 years (departed last year).

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

US Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

We had a larger house than most due to husband's position, so our situation was not typical. Typical housing is either walled houses in the outer part of Tbilisi near the embassy (Dighomi 7, 8. 9) or townhouses near QSI School (Zurgovani) or apartments in Vake, more trendy and closer to the center of town (but more polluted from car exhaust). Most commutes would be 10-40 minutes in traffic (traffic is heavy during evening rush hour).

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Actually, not bad, but then again, we're not that picky, and this is a consumables post, so you can ship the deal-breakers like chocolate chips, vanilla, whole wheat flour, Karo, molasses, maple syrup, pecans, stuffing mix, canned pumpkin (although local fresh pumpkins are wonderful), and high-quality pet food. At Carrefour, you could find quite a lot. No one's going to starve in Georgia; food is plentiful and cheap. Produce tends to be seasonal, however. So you won't find certain vegetables and fruits all year long.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Nothing. Anything we needed we ordered through Amazon (not cheap, but if you need Ezekiel cereal, then you pay for it!)

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

There are some very innovative restaurants in Georgia, increasing all the time. Azarphesha, Poliphonia, Schuchmann, Keto & Keti, Cafe Littera, Baan Thai, just to name a few.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

No, thank God.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

DPO works fairly well; things can arrive in as little as one week, but one month is more typical. Haven't used local postal facilities.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Many people have housekeepers, and a few have drivers because driving is a bit crazy in Georgia. Generally fairly cheap.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Gyms are expensive by local standards. The embassy gym has some equipment.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Credit cards are mostly accepted, but small businesses often still want cash. They also don't make change. ATMs are relatively common in the center of the city and generally safe.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

We attended Sts Peter and Paul Catholic Church on the Marjanashvili side of the river. I know there is a Baptist church in town as well.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

You do need some language, but that language can also be Russian. Older people tend to speak Russian, younger speak English. Outside of the city, chances of finding English-speakers go down, but you can still find Russian speakers. Anyway, if you know any Russian, you'll be OK in most situations. Georgian is quite difficult but knowing a few phrases goes a long way.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Oh, God, yes. Terrible city for anyone in a wheelchair. Uneven pavement, potholes, sidewalks that abruptly end or don't exist at all, uneven stairs, and no elevators to get to metro or to cross highways -- it's hard for even for the able-bodied and a nightmare for the disabled. There are lobbying groups trying to pass legislation, but for now, very difficult.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Affordable, yes. Safe, no. And not very efficient if you live outside the center.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

You will want an SUV/off-road vehicle. Do not bring a sedan as once you're outside of Tbilisi (and even inside!) you'll hit unpaved, rocky dirt roads (except for the highways, which are pretty good.).

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, internet is available. The embassy helped us with that and to be honest, I don't know if they help everyone, but these days, they should, worldwide.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

I made sure I had an unlocked phone with two SIM card slots, and kept my local (Magti) Georgian card in one slot, my ATT home phone in the other. It took awhile to get the hang of the Magti online site and loading money onto the SIM. I needed to talk to others who had more experience.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

We used the veterinary clinic at the Agricultural College in Dighomi. There is also a new vet in Vake. Vets are not properly trained in Georgia. The ones at the Agricultural College have had training from the outside, and their techs are very nice. Although their clinic is cleaner than most of the other vets I've been to in Georgia, sterile surgical conditions are not standard there, unfortunately. Still, they took good care of my dog.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

There are some embassy jobs. If you're a teacher, you can often get a job at one of the international schools. Other than that, not much on the market for spouses. Plenty of volunteer opportunities where you can get really involved with locals; that has its own rewards, if you have the right attitude.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Tons. Speaking at American centers around the country. Helping on projects in local villages. Helping Dog Organization Georgia (street dogs). Volunteering at the IDP (internally displaced persons) settlements both north and south of the city. Being a member of the Friends of the Georgian Ballet.

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Suits at the embassy with some exceptions. Dressy casual for many functions, as well as cocktail attire for many functions, and definitely at least one formal outfit for Marine Ball and various charity events such as the Burns Supper (which is a ton of fun).

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

For the most part, robbery and worse crimes are not inflicted on the expat community. There have been some tragic exceptions in the past year. Traffic accidents are the most unsafe aspect of living in Georgia. Do not get into a car without a working seatbelt. Driving requires constant focus and being on the defensive at all times. Parking in the center is a challenge.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Dental care is stellar, seriously good (I went to Cedex). The American Medical Center in Tbilisi is good, too, but bills at Western prices. Lots of people went to MediClub (I think that's the name) and had mixed reviews. There's also a cardiac center. I had MRIs done at a local clinic that were of good quality and cost very little. The embassy provides basic care but for anything serious you need to go elsewhere or even out of country. Get your rabies vaccine before you come; you probably won't get bitten but there are lots of street dogs and many cats are feral.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Bad, unregulated air quality. Tons of old cars on the road with no emission control standards - that's the biggest problem. People are now getting tested for blood lead levels because of this. Air quality in Dighomi, which is outside the center of the city, is much better, because it's not as much in the "bowl" of the center. One good thing about Tbilisi is that strong winds come through every 2 weeks or so, bringing in fresh air.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

The climate is fairly dry, so allergies are probably not as bad in Tbilisi as elsewhere, but it really depends on the allergens and the person.

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5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

The CLO does a good job of bringing people together, but in this nomadic life, there are always some mental health issues, aren't there? From my perspective -- which may be slanted -- morale was good at post.

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6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Very temperate. Snowy and cold in the mountains, of course. There are something like 72 different microclimates in Georgia! Tbilisi tends to have one or two cold weeks during the winter, one or two hot weeks during the summer, and is mild the rest of the time.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

There are several schools: QSI very near the embassy; The New School, an international school above the center of town, the Georgian-American school (high school) near Lisi Lake that is mostly for elite Georgians; the British-Georgian school also near Lisi Lake, and I believe there is a French and a German school as well. I worked at QSI for a year. Nice community, wonderful place for younger kids, but high school's mastery system has pluses and minuses for high school students. Still, lots of AP courses are offered and standardized testing offered as well. Dedicated teachers.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Pretty sure people pay nannies/housekeepers.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

QSI has a ton of after-school activities for both kids and adults. The International Women's Association also have a ton of weekly activities and clubs going -- if you're a woman! :)

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Good morale. It's a beautiful country with lots to do and explore. Hundreds of people in the expat community, maybe even thousands and growing.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

If you're young, energetic and like staying up all night, the club and techno scene is supposed to be great. Even if you're not young, you'll see that Georgians of all ages tend to stay up late. It's an enormously social culture, with food, wine and song part of any good evening. As I mentioned, IWA is a good way to socialize if you're a woman; I met many women from many different countries through this organization.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Good for all. Only thing that's difficult is pushing a stroller in the city center... fugeddabboudit.

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Hmmm. While LGBT folks are starting to come out, Georgia has a long way to go in accepting them. It's a conservative Christian country and LGBT still seem to be discriminated against.

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5. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?

There are not very many people of color in Georgia. That said, if black Peace Corps volunteers can wade into rural communities and be accepted and loved, I'd say anyone can! Most Georgians are pretty friendly and hospitable. However, I am white, so I really can't speak to what it would be like to be a person of color in Georgia.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Not too much in the way of religious prejudices that we encountered. There is definitely a bit of a gender bias, as there is in so many countries. However, more and more women are now in parliament and in positions of leadership.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Georgia is stunningly beautiful. Highlights included staying up in Rooms Hotel Kazbegi, in the High Caucasus; staying in the Crown Plaza Borjomi, in the freshest air in the country; traveling back roads, driving to Svaneti and exploring there, including visiting the medieval towers and small family churches with ancient frescoes; the National Museum in Mestia (Svaneti); going to Pheasant's Tears in Sighnaghi and exploring wine country in general (Kakheti); Tsinandali (Chavchavadze House Museum); Mtskheta; Jvari: Uplitsikhe; Vardzia; Akhalsikhe; Batumi Botanic Garden. In Tbilisi itself: The Dry Bridge antiques flea market; exploring the windy streets of the Old Town; the Botanic Garden; shops such as Ornament; and artist's galleries and studios (so many good artists!). Going to the ballet, and going to the opera -- both fantastic.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

(See above) Will add the Sukhishvili Dance Troupe -- if they're in town, go see them!

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Favorite shop: Ornament, for gorgeous Georgian enamelware. Cool little fashion boutiques with one-of-a-kind apparel, in both the center and in Vake. Handicrafts in shops in the center (especially in the basement of the Tbilisi City Museum) and at the Dry Bridge Market. Really cool international stuff to buy at the annual IWA Winter Bazaar (usually first Saturday in December). Some antiques and fun shops in the Marjanashvili section of town, both in the newly restored and pretty pedestrian street, and also a few blocks further up from the river. Crafts boutiques at Fabrika. (Also, breakfast at Fabrika!)

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Art, music, culture, generous people, ancient history and traditions. Christianity was founded here at the same time it was started in Rome, in the early 4th century. There is always some surprise around the corner here. Georgians really like Americans -- that's something you don't find in every country on earth!

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

Nothing! I came with no expectations, and ended up falling in love. It's got some serious flaws that need to be fixed. But it's just such a wonderful place in so many surprising ways.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

In a heartbeat.

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Wine. Try the plentiful, exotic and interesting Georgian wines, and go to the wineries to learn more about the grapes.
Art: It's fun to find new artists here.
Pride in your language ability: Georgian is hard and you may be humbled.

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4. But don't forget your:

Dog supplies. Because, even if you don't have a dog now, you will have one by the time you leave. So many need homes and somehow, they find you and "adopt" you before you have a chance to defend yourself.



Hiking equipment and boots, skiing equipment (although rentals are very cheap, but you might prefer your own skis).



Camera. You're going to want to take pictures. Lots and lots of pictures.


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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Just the usual guidebooks.

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Tbilisi, Georgia 04/10/17

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Yes.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Western PA - Approximately 26 hours door-to-door. We fly either through Istanbul or Munich (with an nine hour layover on the return)- flights out of Tbilisi are limited. Also, they often depart/arrive between 3:30 and 5:30 am. It's a rough trip.

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3. How long have you lived here?

A year and a half.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Husband is with the US embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

There are three housing areas - Dighomi, Zurgovani, and Vake. We live in an apartment in Vake (we don't have kids or pets). The apartment is sort of a weird layout (most of the Vake apartments are), but it's really nice--three bedrooms, two balconies (we had a phenomenal view for NYE fireworks). We didn't have enough storage space initially, but the embassy asked our landlord to built some large wardrobes in the three rooms.



The embassy community in Vake is pretty spread out, and most of the people here don't have kids. The commute is about 15-20 minutes in the morning and 30-40 minutes in the evening (although it's more like 25 minutes in the summer time). My husband really doesn't like the commute, but we both really love the location. We're able to walk to Vake Park, the grocery store, a ton of fruit/veggie markets, and downtown.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

This is a consumables post, so we shipped most of the household stuff that we thought we would need. The local quality (though not actually local) is poor and can be expensive. There are two main groceries stores: Carrefour and Goodwill. There's a Goodwill in Vake, so that's where I typically buy most of my groceries. Because we shipped a lot of canned goods/dry good products, I don't typically buy them, although I think in generally, those types of things are a little more expensive here. Goodwill has a lot of German products that are fine quality, but a little pricey. The milk is all the ultra-hot treated stuff, which I don't mind, but my husband really doesn't like. Goodwill has really good chicken, pork, and trout.



There's also a fancy butcher in Tbilisi where we buy all of our beef and sausages. I don't like Georgian cheese, and the grocery store's selection of cheese is very limited (there's one sharp cheddar that I buy every time I see it, and there is sometimes mozzarella cheese, although it's sort of expensive). Georgians have their own yogurt (which is good, but much more watery than Greek yogurt) and cottage cheese (which is NOT good). Very hard to find good coffee locally. Oh also, there are a ton of spices available for way less money than in the US.



One of the best parts of living here are all the fruit and vegetables stands that are all over. We got here in May and had a continual supply of local produce through...November. Strawberries, cherries, nectarines, lettuce, spinach, figs, tangerines, oranges--they're all incredibly cheap and incredibly good. During the winter, there was still a consistent supply of peppers, onions, mushrooms, potatoes, green apples, and pears. There's one spicy pepper that I've found.



I cook comfortably here, but it just takes more time. There are no pre-cut butternut squashes or cans of chicken broth.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

We did a good job with our shipment, if I do say so myself. But I'm glad that I shipped: paper products, garbage bags, personal hygiene things (again, available, but pricey), Clorox wipes, granola bars, snack foods, refried beans and tortilla shells, crackers, beef boullion, mac and cheese. We forgot pizza sauce.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

There's an online food delivery service (Food Panda) that's really popular. Georgian food is delicious, but unfortunately, most of the restaurants are really smoky. We eat out way more in the summer, because we can sit outside. Non-smoking restaurants are definitely becoming more popular, thankfully.



There's one good Thai place and one good pizza place. There are some fancy Georgian restaurants that are smoke free. Our favorite place is a hole-in-the-wall shawarma place (that also sells all other Georgian food, depending on who the cook is that day). It's really cheap and everyone is incredibly friendly. You just have to shower as soon as you get home. Georgian wine is really popular and usually really good (the house wine, which you can buy by the liter, is always hit or miss--it's been both the best and the worst wine I've had). There are a couple of new non-smoking bars (!!!) and just a couple weeks ago, a new brewery (!!!!!) opened. Restaurants do tend to come and go.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

No.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

We do DPO through the embassy (the time varies immensely--between 1 week and 4 months). A friend did send us a Christmas card from the states that did make it through the local post office.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Widely available. We pay 50 lari for a cleaning lady once a week (approximately $20 for 7 hours of work). She's fantastic.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

The embassy has a nice gym. There's a Snap Fitness in Vake, but it's apparently expensive. There are also many inexpensive yoga classes in Vake, although the quality is a little different than in the US (at the one I used to go to (until it unexpectedly moved) the instructor kept telling me (in English) "You must straighten your knees!" My knees just don't straighten...).

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

No, this is a very cash-based economy (and frustratingly, one where you can only use very small bills, because no one every has change). There are ATMs everywhere (although we get money from the embassy cashier for the best exchange rate) and they're safe the use. We use our credit card and the grocery store and that's about it.

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5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Most people get by without any Georgian, because it's a pain to learn and useless anywhere else in the world. Most older Georgians speak Russian and most younger Georgians speak English. I do take Georgian twice a week through the embassy, and I'm really glad I have it. I think it's be impossible to navigate in a taxi in English (another benefit of Taxify - you can enter your destination without having to speak to the driver). It's also nice to be able to read signs. Georgian people also LOVE it when foreigners speak Georgian, so my day-to-day is just filled with more positivity than if I didn't speak the language at all. I think having a little would go a long way.

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6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

It would be nearly impossible.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Affordable? Yes. Safe? Eh. Buses are like...$.40, but they're routes are a little hard to figure out. We usually taxi everywhere, and it almost never costs more than 5 lari (10 to get to the embassy). Most taxis don't have seat belts in the back (they're required to have them in the front), and they're usually in rough shape (bumpers missing, headlights missing, etc. The driving here is really (REALLY) chaotic. There's an app called Taxify that's like Uber and those taxis are usually non-smoking and have seat belts. Taxify is also usually a better deal than just hailing a cab. However, they're not always available.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

We have a small SUV, and it's great. It's nice to have four-wheel drive for driving around the country (and to the ski resort), and having some height on the city streets makes me feel safer. The little taxis tend to give me some space. Most people have cars like ours (or even larger). The driving is insane (think: backing up on the highway, passing someone who is passing someone around a blind curve), so I really appreciate having a car that actually works right (accelerates, has brakes) among all the little terrible falling apart Georgian cars.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Our social sponsors had it working for us when we arrived. We get 70 Mbps for....to be honest, we're not actually sure how much it costs. We only know to pay our bill when the internet suddenly stops working, and then I just go put 100 lari on our account, and we're good for another....while. I'd say maybe $40/month? However, our colleague (also in Vake) had super slow internet, and it took him about 6 months to get Fiber installed (although he did and now it's working great).

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

We brought unlocked cell phones and used the SIM cards the embassy provided. For unlimited date, it's 60 lari/month. (~$25)

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

This is a hard question. I think most spouses try to work at the embassy (some telecommute). Not many work locally, although there are some schools that need English speakers, so if you have a teacher certification, you could look there. When I first got here, I applied for an embassy job and got it right away (but then got stuck in the security clearance/hiring freeze limbo), but I've heard now that spouses are competing for embassy jobs, so I'm not really sure.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Some, but not a ton. I volunteer with a local dog shelter, a friend volunteers with an orphanage. I think at most places, you have to speak Georgian.

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Business at the embassy (suits and ties). Older Georgian women tend to be more conservative in the dress (long black skirts and head scarves, regardless of the time of year/temperature), but younger people wear whatever. They're very into fashionable (and outrageous) footwear. I tried to wear dresses/skirts when I first got here, then it got super hot, and I switched into Old Navy jean shorts. Nobody seemed to care.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

No, not really. Periodically, there will be a protest or something that RSO will tell us to avoid, but generally, it's incredibly safe. I walk everywhere, usually by myself, and have never had the least bit of a problem. I do keep my purse close/zipped when I walking in busy areas, but that's just common sense. Being hit by a car is by far the biggest danger here.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

No particular health concerns. The embassy medical care is fine, although people do get medically evacuated out for serious stuff (and pregnancy). Georgian dentists are good.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Good, I think. There are definitely some days when it seems hazy and smells gross, but in general, Tbilisi is pretty breezy, and that helps keep the pollution away. I usually keep my windows rolled up while I'm driving, but I also go running outside all the time. As long as I stay off the main streets, it's fine. It's worse in the winter when people burn things for heat. There are cities in America with worse pollution.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

It's nice, similar to D.C. It snowed a few times this year, and people told us that was unusual (typically it only snows once). Summers get hot (high 90s), but only for a few weeks. I think the weather here is great, but I'm from Buffalo--my standards are a little off.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Pretty large. Morale among those who tend to live downtown = very high. People who live in Zurgovani/Dighomi have a really different lifestyle than I do, so it's sort of hard to say how they feel. There are things that make me really happy (for example, my fruit market having spinach for the first time all year, and the Georgian fruit seller laughing at my excitement and then teaching me the Georgian word) that just don't happen to people in Dighomi/Zurgovani, because they buy all their produce from the grocery store. I think though, that everyone is pretty happy here.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

The CLO does a lot of events that are family-oriented. In Vake, we tend to socialize independently of embassy events.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Yes, yes, and yes.

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Episodes of outright hostility are rare, but there aren't many opportunities to meet other LGBT people. It's a religiously conservative society.

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5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

The huge majoritiy of Georgians belong to the Georgian Orthodox Church. Minority religious groups are tolerated, but they're a very small part of of the population.

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6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

I love exploring Vake, downtown, and Old Tbilisi. There are so many streets tucked away that are fun to wander around. Outside of the city, going up to Stepantsminda (and staying at Rooms hotel) is definitely worth a couple of weekends and skiing in Gudauri is fantastic. We're looking forward to traveling more in the country this summer (last summer, we didn't have our car yet). The Tbilisi ballet is lovely. Hiking in the Caucusus is amazing.

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7. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

No, not really. Lots of wine. Hand-knitted (and itchy) wool socks. Some people buy local art. It's inexpensive and easy to get things framed, so we've picked up some posters and pictures.

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8. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Cheap, fresh fruits and vegetables. (Oh and bread! Delicious bread.)

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

Georgian cheese = too salty.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Absolutely! Are you kidding? I love it here.

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Desire for things to be like America.

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4. But don't forget your:

Skis. Extra clothes to change into after you go to a smoky restaurant. Walking shoes. Hiking boots/camping gear.

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Bread and Ashes

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Tbilisi is beautiful and chaotic and busy and never boring.

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Tbilisi, Georgia 02/14/17

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No. Amman and Baghdad.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

California - 24 hours plus of travel.

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3. How long have you lived here?

2 years.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

US Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

We chose to live in Digomi, the suburbs north of Tbilisi and close to the Embassy location. Our house was very large - about 3,000 or 3,500 sq ft. It was in a neighborhood where all of the houses were walled off and the street were not paved (and therefore muddy and rutted most of the year). Our house had several fruit trees and grass. We commuted about 6 or 7 minutes to the embassy. Most families lived in houses near the Embassy and singles and married couples with no kids often opted for living downtown. For those who lived downtown, it is apartment living, it would be smaller - maybe 1500 to 2000 sq ft and you'd have a much longer commute depending on traffic - 30 min up to an hour.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Almost all local and regional produce and meat is very cheap. There's a Carrefour and a German-based supermarket called Goodwill where most families shop. If you don't care about name brand items, you can get most groceries cheaply. But for paper goods- plates, napkins, plastic cutlery, paper towels, toilet paper, etc - you are much better off ordering through the DPO. The local options for paper goods are very poor quality.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

We shipped paper towels, toilet paper, Mexican food and some cheese.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Lots of great Georgian food and restaurants.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

The Embassy does a pretty good just of dousing your house (internally and externally) with poison to get rid of ants if you complain.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

DPO. Mail can take anywhere from 2 weeks to 8 weeks.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

House help can be very cheap - $4 to $5 an hour.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

This is not a very sporty country and there aren't many gym options. Luckily, there is a pretty decent gym at the embassy.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

We mostly used cash everywhere. But, credit cards can be used at the malls, grocery store and most restaurants.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

There are a few local, small Christian "churches" run by expats that cater to the English-speaking expat community. But, most church services are in Russian or Georgian and are Orthodox Christian.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

The embassy offers several language classes. Some Georgian or Russian would be extremely helpful to get around and read menus.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

This would not be an easy city to live in for someone with a disability. Nearly impossible.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Taxis are very safe and cheap, but the drivers probably only understand Georgian and Russian. And they have a hard time reading a map. If you want to take a taxi, know where you are going or have someone write down where you want to go in Georgian.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

An SUV is needed for in-country travel.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes. It can take 1 day to 2 months. You can talk to the person living in the house before you and try to keep the service turned on.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

We used unlocked iPhones and signed up for the local service. It was cheap.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Most spouses sought employment at the embassy. Local jobs are very low paying.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

More casual than DC.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Medical care at the Embassy is fine. But, for anything remotely serious, expect to get medically evacuated.

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2. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Air quality downtown is not very good due to the car exhaust - there are lots of very old cars on the road. But, north of the city where the embassy is, it generally didn't suffer from air quality issues.

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3. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

Georgians don't know how to cater to food allergies. You would need to manage it all yourself.

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4. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

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5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Four real seasons.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

We sent our kids to an international preschool, but the QSI school (which accepts money from the Embassy) was pretty well regarded. It had small classes, decent instruction and good after-school options.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

The family would need to make their own accommodation for a special needs child. With creativity, it has been done. Reach out to post to ask if this is something you need to know about.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

There are preschools that start at age 2.5 and 3. They are not that expensive. Plus, most families have full or part time nannies. These nannies are often very well educated and are paid $4 - $5 an hour, because being a nanny for an expat family is one of the best paying jobs they can get. (With an average monthly salary for a nurse right at $350, being a nanny pays way better.) While QSI does have a good offering of after school activities, most kids go home and the nanny is usually at home.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes. Though, if you are interested in serious sports, this is not the post for you.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Overall morale is really good. Most people like the embassy and there are a good number of things to do around the country if you are willing to get out and about.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

The CLO does a really good job of organizing events for the embassy. There are weekend excursions, day outings, restaurant nights and shopping trips. There is also an international womens club that is quite active.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Ok for singles. Good for couples and families.

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4. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

There are great weekend trips to Batumi and Bakuriani. There is cheap skiing in Gudauri, only a 45 minute car ride away.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

The people are friendly and like Americans. This can go a long way to make up for a lack of Georgian and/or Russian language. Also, it can get VERY windy. Wind storms are relatively common, meaning outdoor furniture needs to be bolted to the ground or not left outside.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes. It was a great place for us to live with your kids.

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3. But don't forget your:

Skis.

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Tbilisi, Georgia 05/01/16

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No, previous have been Pretoria, South Africa-Catania, Sicily-Muscat, Oman and Tel Aviv, Israel.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Minnesota. 22 hours, connections via Munich and New York.-Meh.

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3. How long have you lived here?

2 years

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Foreign Service

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Vake- Downtown, smaller apartments. Commutes can be bad, as traffic can back up. Some people commute 45 minutes. Embassy is north of downtown about 6-7km, so Dighomi is better for families, bigger homes with private yards and dedicated generators. Our commute from Dighomi is < 10 minutes. Zurgovani (known as the American Village) is a gated community fairly close to the Embassy, primarily housing American diplomats.Homes in Zurgovani are townhome style, and is very close to the International school (QSI)

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Several major grocery chains available, Carrefour (French chain) in Dighomi is the one we use. Goodwill (German chain) is also here, but a bit pricier. LaFamily is a chain I hear others using. Costs are lower than Washington DC, but product selection is lower.You get used to it.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

A small SUV in better condition. Local mechanics are very hit and miss here. Also 220 VAC UPS units for personal electronics. Electricity supply is unstable.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

They just built a McDonald's across the street from the Embassy-meh. There are so many good local choices available, why fast food?

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Some flies in the late summer, but that is about it.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

DPO. Fast and reliable.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Cost is low, many seem to be available.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Embassy has a gym on post. Others use hotels (pricier). Hotels downtown have nice spa areas.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

ATM's are available, but we prefer to cash checks at the Embassy. Be careful with credit cards outside of major chain establishments.

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5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

You can get by with English here for sure in the city. Out of the city it is hit and miss. Some Georgian or Russian is helpful.

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6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Yes. Nothing is planned for disabled folks. Getting around could be tough.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Taxis are everywhere, but mechanical safety of the car is all over the map. Many do not have seat belts, and Tbilisi taxi drivers are mostly anarchists in their driving. Use with caution.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Roads can be poor in and out of town. An SUV is preferred to a sedan for sure. I have ridden a big cruiser motorcycle when weather permits.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Dighomi area has high speed internet (fiber) for about US$20 a month. I get 75 MBPS consistently. People in areas closer to downtown have varied experiences. 3G and 4G is not a thing here yet.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Pay as you go with data is available and relatively cheap. There are bill paying kiosks all over, where you can top off your cards. You can certainly get by without a contract plan here.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No quarantine for pets, but there is a lot of official Georgian stamps on paperwork, spread between 3 different govt offices that took me all night long to navigate when my dog arrived as cargo. Large dogs have issues getting back out of Georgia. We have found several quality vets here. If you do not have a dog, but would like one, this is a great place to adopt a dog.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Some, doesn't seem to be a lot though.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Pretty safe here, but a lot of people drink and drive, so roads can be hazardous.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Medical care can be marginal

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Air quality is good.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Weather like Washington DC, but windier. MUCH windier.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

I do not know much about the international school, my kids are grown and gone. Others seem happy enough.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

More expats than I expected, most like it here quite a bit.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Eating out for sure.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Yes to all.

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Not sure.

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5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Some I guess. Georgians tend to be religious on the conservative side.

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6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Food! and wine! Georgians are also very friendly.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Museums downtown (I like the museum of Soviet Occupation a lot myself). Kasbegi near the Russian border to the north. Msketa wine country to the east. There is a lot of fun things to do here. We went as a group on rented Ultimate Terrain vehicles (Polaris 1000 Razor) almost 100 miles through the high desert with a local guide last year. I would love to do it again! Also skiing, parasailing, hiking, historical tours, etc....

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Local art is unique and everywhere.

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9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Touring is great, Georgia is a beautiful country with a lot of history. COL is low, so saving money is easy, but there is a lot to spend money on if you want to.

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10. Can you save money?

Absolutely.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Without a doubt.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Impatience. Georgians are friendly, but certainly do things their own way.

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3. But don't forget your:

High use car maintenance items.

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4. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

1-Power Trip
2-I Love You, Tbilisi
3-When Omar Left

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Tbilisi, Georgia 07/17/14

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

This was our second overseas adventure. Our previous post was Dushanbe.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Hometown - Williamsburg, Virginia. 15 hour travel time. Dulles to Frankfurt to Tbilisi.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Aug. 2011 - June 2013

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

U.S. Government

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

The Embassy dealt with four different neighborhoods. Downtown, Saburtalo, Digomi, and Zurgovani. Singles and couples with no kids typically choose the first two and families were in the later two. Most we're very pleased with their housing. Commute times depending on the location weren't more than 15 to 20 minutes to as little as 5 minutes depending on which neighborhood you got. Shorter commutes for some meant longer trips to the city center.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Groceries were reasonably priced. We went to Goodwill and Carefore for staples and the Guldani outdoor market for our vegetables.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Zip locks, good trash bags, and American popcorn.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Georgian food was fabulous. Khinghali, chatchapuri, Georgian salad, shashlik, and kebabs. Our favorites spots were the Mill, Tartine, Pregos, and sadly my boys liked McDonalds.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

None at all.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

There is a pouch for the Embassy folks.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

The cost of domestic help was quite low.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

The Embassy had a gym and some people went to the Raddison. The Embassy was free and the Raddison was pretty expensive.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Georgia is still a cash economy, but you could use a credit card at some places. We just chose not not.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

There is a Catholic service and a universal service.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

You could probably do without it, but a little goes a long way. Garmajobat!

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

It's getting better, but there are still many sidewalks where a wheelchair would have problems and most businesses didn't accommodate.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Taxis are fine, but pay the difference get one with seat belts. The drivers in Georgia are very bad.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

You could get by with a sedan, but we wanted to travel, so a AWD in our eyes was the best choice. You wouldn't make it over some of the mountain passes in winter without an AWD and chains. Toyota was king when it came to parts. There are no restrictions on any vehicles coming in to Georgia. We hear that the pass is now paved but you still have to deal with the snow.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Internet was pretty good where we were, but I think it depended on your neighborhood.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

There are lots of companies to choose from.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No quarantine is required and there are a few decent vets.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

There are some.

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Shirt and tie.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

None at all. The only issues that ever happened occurred in a bar at 2:00 AM.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

None. The hospitals are decent.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

The air quality is fine. Normally I have seasonal allergies, but I had no problems whatsoever in Georgia.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

The climate is very similar to Washington, DC. Four seasons. The only thing that was a shock was the wind. Saying that Tbilisi is a Windy City is an understatement. In the hills, you might need to tie the little ones down.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

QSI and the Georgian British Academy. We had two boys at the QSI and we were pretty happy with the teachers. We had friends that worked at the Georgian British Academy, which was becoming an up and coming choice. By the time we left, there was shift starting towards GBA.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

None that we were aware of.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

There were several preschools to choose from when we were there.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Basketball, Track, Cross Country - all through QSI.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

The size of the expat community was smaller than we had expected. Morale was generally very good.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

There is always something to do in Tbilisi.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

It's a great city for families, singles, and couples. The morale at Post and in the general expat community was quite high. My family and I loved it there.

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

We had a number of good friends that were gay and they loved it there.

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5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

It's a conservative country. Gay pride events always attracted trouble, but overall I'd say that it was a very accepting country.

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6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Stomping grapes in Sighnaghi, swimming in the Black Sea, and experiencing Svaneti and Ushguli. They should be on everyone's bucket list.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

We loved to walk around downtown, visit the dry bridge for art and antiques, go to the Turkish baths, eat out, and visit one of the many local ice cream shops.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Wine, great food, sheeps skins, cool hats, wooden spoons, Svan salt, and cool paintings

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9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Georgia was an awesome Post. It's easy to travel throughout the country. From Tbilisi to Batumi at the Black Sea to Sighnaghi to Svaneti. The food was amazing, the wine was fantastic (500 different grapes.) Inexpensive skiing to Gudauri and Bakuriani.

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10. Can you save money?

You can if you want.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

The driving is seriously bad there.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

We would go there in an instant.

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3. But don't forget your:

Sense of adventure and maybe a wine opener.

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4. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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5. Do you have any other comments?

Don't miss the opportunity to drive to Yerevan, Ushguli, Batumi, and, if you're up to it, Baku. You also need to eat a dozen Khinghali in one sitting and chase it down with a little cha cha!

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Tbilisi, Georgia 10/31/11

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Eighth expat experience (previous: Nicaragua, Canada, Spain, England, Mexico, Indonesia, South Korea).

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Washington, DC. . .14-28 hours through Amsterdam, London+Baku, Munich, or Vienna.

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3. How long have you lived here?

One year.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Embassy employees live in four neighborhoods: Zurgovani (cookie-cutter Western-style houses near the embassy--good for families with kids but dismally boring for singles), Digomi (large houseswith poor roads near the embassy; the quality of homes here varies), Saburtalo (townhouses and single family homes closer to the city center; popular with singles with pets and couples), Vake (downtown living in high rise apartment buildings; generally the top choice of singles and active couples. Many things are walking distance from Vake (restaurants, parks, etc). Commute times are 5 mins from Zurgovani or Digomi; 20-30 mins from Saburtalo, and 30-40 mins from Vake; traffic is often several to the latter two neighborhoods in the evening and a bit less so in the mornings as Georgians tend to go to work quite late.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Groceries cost slightly more than in the U. S. at the major supermarkets (Goodwill and Populi). Goodwill has a good selection of foreign products, though most are Russian and German so it can sometimes be difficult to figure out what cleaning products, etc, are for. Shampoo, sunscreen, razors, and other toiletries tend to be expensive with poor selection; these are best brought from home. The bazroba [bazaar] has excellent-quality fruits and vegetables; the produce in Georgia is the best I've ever tasted, though it's very seasonal and winter offers little selection; many people freeze fruit and veggies during the summer for use in winter.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

If you have access to DPO mail, it's better to wait until arrival at post to see what is available locally as availability is expanding all the time; almost anything you need can be purchased online, which is a great option if you have access to DPO. The exception is liquids, as the quantity the mail service accepts is limited, so bring plenty of sunscreen, shampoo, and any other toiletries that you may need. Olive oil is expensive here, so it's a good idea to bring some though other types of cooking oils are readily available and affordable. I brought many spices, but found that I can purchase most fresh spices here inexpensively, and they are delicious and easily dried.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Georgians tend to eat Georgian food at home, so when they go out, they want something different. This translates to little in the way of good Georgian restaurant options, and generally mediocre and somewhat overpriced foreign food. Vake has the best selection of restaurants (including Thai, Chinese, Italian, and Vietnamese), where dinner runs USD$20-30 per meal). There are two McDonalds in Tbilisi with prices similar to the U. S. There are quite a few places serving inexpensive khachapuri (cheese pie) in storefronts on the street, though in general Georgia does not have much in the way of street food. Excellent, inexpensive gelato is availabe at Luca Polare, with locations on U.N. Circle and in the Old City. There is a new American restaurant, Loft, in Vake, that serves good-value, authentic burgers for around USD$11.

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

Much of the produce at the bazaar is organic. Most of the meat sold in Georgia is cut oddly and includes pieces of tendon, etc, so I tend to only eat meat at restaurants rather than attempting to struggle to cook it myself. Goodwill has Western-style meat, though it's a bit pricey. Many Georgians fast for religious regions, so vegetarians don't have too much difficulty, and many Georgian specialties are vegetarian.

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6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Insects are not really an issue in Tbilisi.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

I use DPO exclusively as the Georgian mail system is not reliable. Packages shipped through DPO tend to take less than two weeks to arrive.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Not particularly inexpensive, but available. Domestic help needs to be told explicitly what you would like done and how; initiative is severely lacking, so be sure to be clear on your expectations.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes, though local facilities tend to be very expensive. The U. S. Embassy has a nice gym for employees.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

I don't tend to use credit cards here, though I've not had any difficulty using ATMs, including at the airport. Georgia is still very cash-based, and most shopkeepers and taxi drivers don't have (or, more often, say they don't have) change on hand, so carrying small denominations of coins is crucial.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Two English-language newspapers are available, most easily located at hotels, though the quality of journalism in Georgia is low. AFN boxes can be purchased, though I tend to borrow DVDs from the embassy rather than watch TV.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Many educated Georgians speak English, so for work purposes Georgian is not needed, though always appreciated. Most everyone over the age of 30 speaks Russian and people are generally quite amenable to using Russian. Learning the Georgian alphabet at minimum the alphabet, vocabulary for taxis, and the numbers is very helpful and will make your life easier. Georgian is a very difficult language.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Very difficult. . .while some minor efforts have been made to accommodate wheelchairs these accommodations are rather misguides (ramps too steep to be utilized, etc). Sidewalks are more often than not broken and uneven, and there is little in the way of accommodation for visual or audio disabilities.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Taxis are affordable, though drivers almost never speak English. Fares should be agreed upon in advance. Very few taxis have seatbelts. The embassy recommends a taxi company that does have meters and seatbelts and can be phoned in advance, but this company is more expensive and I've found they rip off customers even more than taxis hailed on the street. Few foreigners take local buses, but I've found this to be a very convenient, inexpensive, and safe option in the center part of the city. There is also a subway system, though its extent is limited and almost all information is in Georgian. Public transportation takes a bit of effort to figure out, but I've found doing so to be well worth it and much less stressful than driving.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Most foreigners prefer SUVs due to the poor quality of roads outside of Tbilisi and the erratic driving everywhere in the country.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, though I've found the customer service to be terrible and the Internet frequently goes down (or gets cut off by the provider due to errors to users' accounts). Internet costs approximately USD$45 per month, which is expensive given the poor and unreliable service. However, when the Internet is working, it's fairly speedy. There are very few Internet cafes, though quite a few restaurants in Vake and the Old City offer free wireless.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

SIM cards can be purchased very inexpensively, though I use a phone provided by the embassy, on which I can make calls to the U. S. for 10 cents per minute.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

There is a dog walker that is frequently used by embassy employees; he also occasionally boards dogs. The local dog shelter boards pet dogs for a reasonable fee, though facilities are basic. Vets get mixed reviews; ask around for recommendations.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

NGO representation is fairly high here, and the U. S. Embassy makes a definite effort to provide opportunities for employment. Many spouses find it takes several months to find employment, often at a level lower than they are accustomed to.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Business casual. Georgia tends to be quite clean, and I tend to wear exactly what I do in Washington, DC, as the climate and expectations are very similar. Georgians tend to primarily wear black. Clothing is expensive here, and there is not a lot of variety, so purchasing clothing online and on R&R is generally preferred.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

The careless and dangerous driving is the only serious concern. In terms of public safety, as a young single woman I feel very safe walking in the center part of the city alone, even at night. Drunk men can be an issue, though more in terms of accidental proximity (testosterone-driven fights between intoxicated men can be a problem here) rather than intentionally directing violence toward foreigners.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Health care is quite poor in Georgia in general, though the U. S. Embassy had a good med unit. There are no significant health concerns, though it makes sense to get routine things taken care of prior to coming to Georgia to avoid the local health care system (dental fillings, etc).

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Usually good, though construction and the burning of trash sometimes degrade the air quality.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

For the most part summers are quite pleasant minus a couple of weeks of very hot weather (occasionally over 100F) with variable springs and falls and fairly mild winters, though the wind can be severe.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

Most American families send their kids to QSI in Zurgovani; the New School (which offers IB), and theFrench and British schools are also options.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

Very little in the way of accommodations or services; this is not a good post for children with special needs. There is not a good understanding of special needs in Georgia.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Fairly large for a country the size of Georgia, though it gets a bit claustrophobic at times. The expat community tends to be active and inclusive of Georgians.

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2. Morale among expats:

Good! The traffic and periodic frustrations of post-Soviet life sometimes put a damper on morale, but in general expats enjoy living in Georgia. The fact that flights tend to depart and arrive in the middle of the night make getting away for weekends virtually impossible unfortunately.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Social life revolves largely around restaurants and dinner parties, though the growing number of singles at post are diversifying the social life. Many people take weekend trips in groups, and hiking is a popular weekend activity, as is visiting wineries.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Great for families and active couples, decent for singles. Single women have very limited dating options, though single men tend to be a bit happier in this respect. In recent years this post has been shifting from almost exclusively families to a more mixed group of employees.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Homosexuality isn't really accepted in Georgia, but I haven't heard of any particular problems occurring; gay expats tend to keep a fairly low profile in general, though they are very accepted in the expat community.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

It is rare to see minorities in Georgia, so stares are not unusual, but it's generally not malicious. In general, Georgians like foreigners very much and while often shy to use English, people are typically friendly to foreigners.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Visiting mountainous areas around the country and getting to know Georgians, who tend to be friendly and hospitable. Being invited to the homes of local friends is a warm and welcoming experience as extended families tend to live together; hospitality is highly valued here.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Weekend day or overnight trips (many interesting locales are located within a few hours' drive of Tbilisi), and visiting local historical sights in Tbilisi(the fortress, historic churches, etc). In summer, Tbilisi Sea (a large lake on the edge of the city) is popular for swimming.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Exploring the rural areas of Georgia! Travel is the best way to spend money here. There is little of interest to buy, though there are some interesting antiques and artwork at the Dry Bridge Market. Sampling the many varieties of wine is also a good option; many people in villages make their own wine, some of which is very good.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Wonderful scenery and good outdoor opportunities (hiking and camping). For a small country, Georgia has a lot to explore, including many historic ruins. Tourism is a growing sector, though still in its infancy, so while hotels tend to be overpriced with poor service, it's well worth getting out and exploring this beautiful country.

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11. Can you save money?

Not really. Western products are expensive here, and there is not much variety in terms of products on the local economy so almost everything is imported (Georgia has very little manufacturing).

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Definitely. Georgia is an undiscovered gem.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Using transformers is a bit of a pain, so purchasing small appliances upon arrival makes sense (coffee maker, alarm clock, etc). Transformers disrupt digital clock functioning, so leave digital clocks at home unless they are dual voltage; I use battery-operated clocks with rechargeable batteries instead.

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3. But don't forget your:

Liquid toiletries, outdoor gear, and patience. Georgia is known as "The Land of Not Quite Right" for a reason. . .things get done slowly and often illogically.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Ali and Nino (Zurban Said)

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Since Otar Left

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Despite a few frustrations, Tbilisi is a great place to live, particularly for people who enjoy nature.

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Tbilisi, Georgia 09/24/11

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

NO.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

14 hours via Amsterdam to Minneapolis.

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3. How long have you lived here?

3 years.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

US Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Embassy housing in four areas - There are townhouses, single family homes and apartments. All have backup generators except for apartments.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

You can find like American items from German and French stores here.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Recommend any brand named item that you simply can't do without - you can find substitutes for nearly everything here.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Ronnys Pizza, New York Burgers, Texas Chicken, McDonald's. Plenty of ethnic restaurants. You won't go hungry here!!!!

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

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6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

I notice a few ants in the spring and some more in the fall. There are some mosquitoes in the Summer.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Through Embassy DPO/Pouch.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Not cheap, but available.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes, and the Embassy offers one as well.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Recommend you don't use them.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Yes, I think so.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Bring your AFN decoder box - there are cable packages available.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Some would be great, but honestly can get away without any.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

LOTS, streets are all uneven and very few ramps.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Taxis are abundant and inexpensive. The Embassy has a couple companies that they recommend.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Sedans are ok, but high profile vehicles/SUVs are better for some of the unpaved/rough roads.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, but sometimes there are outages. Costs about US$50-$100 per month.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Nope, easy to find and inexpensive. Everyone has them here.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

NOT quality, but there is pet care available. Locals are not as patient-friendly as they are in the USA -- very rough manner with animals.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Some.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Similar to Washington, DC.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Just use good common sense. Nothing special.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

The Embassy has a full-time direct-hire nurse practitioner and a local doctor. There are medical facilities around the city.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Good in Tbilisi, there is some dust from constant construction and roads. You can feel the grit inside your house.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Four seasons, very mild winters in Tbilisi -- some snow and can be very windy at times. Beautiful springs and falls. Couple weeks of very hot days in August.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

There are a couple schools to choose from, Quality School International, French School & New School.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Yes, but I don't subscribe.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Pretty big.

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2. Morale among expats:

Seem as though most everyone is happy here.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Plenty of nightclubs and shows/theater events. Home parties are popular.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

I think families and couples enjoy it far more than singles.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

No problems of which I am aware.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

I'm sure there are, but I don't see it.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Visiting archeological site D'manisi and the Uphultsikhe cave remains, and the Stalin Museum in Gori.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Site seeing, visiting museums, watching Georgian dance troupes, going to movies (some offered in English), hiking, and skiing.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Nothing great to buy here.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Can save some money. There is not much really to buy in the way of souvenirs. Countryside is mountainous and beautiful.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Quest for the logical.....

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3. But don't forget your:

Sense of humor and sense of adventure.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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Tbilisi, Georgia 04/27/11

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Mexico City, Madrid, Cairo & London

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Miami. 15 hours

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3. How long have you lived here?

1 year

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

My own business and my wife.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Housing is of low standard compared to Yerevan and Baku and any place in Latin America. I live in Vake, the most prestigious district of Tbilisi, but there is nothing prestigious about it. Georgians are very bad neighbors in terms of hygienic standards. I have smelled urine in the lift on a couple of occasions, and graffiti is all over my building, inside and out. It looks like a crack-house apartment building in DC, and yet the most affluent Georgians live here.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Goodwill is a good supermarket and is quite reliable. Most products are German,Turkish or Russian.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Most everything is available, unless you want very specific things.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

McDonald's and Texas Chicken at USA prices. Georgian restaurants are all over and are very good and cheap. I like the restaurants from the restaurant group MGROUP, particularly Two Side.

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

Excellent vegetables and fruits. Have not seen such good anywhere. Pork and chicken meat is excellent too. Seafood is very expensive and not fresh. Beef and veal is not good.

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6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

wasps and bees

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

FEDEX OR DHL. The mail system is awful.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Readily available and very cheap.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

My wife goes to Curves, the American fitness franchise for women, and really enjoys it. There are 2 Curves in Tbilisi. I go for walks in Kustba Lake park which is 15-minutes from the center by car.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Most decent restaurants accept credit cards, as do the nice shops and pharmacies. I would recommend to always keep cash handy for the fruit markets. ATMs are all over the city.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Yes, the catholic church and protestant churches. Have not heard of any english orthodox christian church masses.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

There are free english-language newspapers at hotels and nice cafes. Good cable cost 40usd per month.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Learn Russian. Everybody knows it, and you will be able to use it in over 15 countries. Georgian is the most widely spoken language in Tbilisi, but it is a worthless language to learn, as their is no relation to Russian and has just a few more speakers than Basque in Spain.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

There are about 5km of good sidewalks in all of the city, so don't come here if you are disabled.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Very cheap and very safe except for bad driving.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

The roads are generally bad except for the main avenues. I recommend buying a 4x4 SUV here. Parking is getting worse, but it is still easier than most places in Europe.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, and it is very cheap. 30 USD, and it is faster than in my home in the U.S.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

GEOCELL is the most reliable company.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Yes, everywhere.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

No. Only teaching english.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

semi-formal.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

I have been in more than 50 countries and never witnessed such crazy drivers and pedestrians. Even Cairo was safer in that sense. Real security issues? None whatsoever. I feel safer than back in Orlando. The police are efficient. The travel warnings for Georgia are outdated. This is a safe country.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Healthcare is of a pathetic standard and expensive. Doctors are generally awful and not up to date. GO TO ISTANBUL FOR CHECK UPS.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Moderate. The city is very dusty due to bankrupt abandoned real estate projects.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

North Carolina or Madrid. Winters are mild with real snow for 2-3 days. Summers are awful with extreme heat.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

None yet, but most people recommend the French school, the German school, or QSI (the American school). QSI is so expensive that almost no Georgians go there, so it's probably best to send your children to the French school where they learn French, English and Georgian, and also have your kids mingle with other Georgians as well as foreigners.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

The Russian kindergarten in Vake has very good reviews, although it is not appealing in terms of design.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

soccer,rugby

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

good sized.

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2. Morale among expats:

high.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

There is a very good social and theatre scene. Nightclubs on the weekends only.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Yes, definitely. Good for all.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

I don't think so.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Georgians, due to past war and current poverty, have become very religious -- to the point where it is probably dangerous for the country. Many religious zealots abound in the Orthodox Christian Church, and they are calling for the banning of Harry Potter, nightclubs, and Georgians going abroad for studies -- because they will pollute their minds. There is a disdain for other religions here, but without any sort of violence or overt discrimination. Never criticize the orthodox church here, as that is taboo.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

The people are very generous and hospitable. Visiting ancient historical sites without a single tourist nearby is something great..

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Visiting historical sites, mountains and rivers. Georgia has an interesting culture and cuisine. The wine is mostly awful, apart from 2 or 3 Moldovan wines. Wine from the Balkans is much better and suitable for western tastes.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Nothing here is unique.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

The outdoors are amazing. The mountain scenery they say is like the alps 100 years ago. You can save money. Having a maid costs 12usd per day and we pay our daughters nanny 250USD per month for 12 hour days including Saturday. Everyday is a new adventure in Georgia, and that's what I like the most.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes, definitely. We love it -- for the most part.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

closed mind,

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3. But don't forget your:

open mind.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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Tbilisi, Georgia 06/09/10

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Yes.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Washington DC, 15-24 hours through Amsterdam, Munich, London.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Two years.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

US Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Single-family homes with yards in Zurgovani and Digomi. In Zurgovani, you are living with your co-workers. Not a lot of privacy. Digomi is nice, but streets are bad and really muddy when it rains. Digomi and Zurgovani are within 5 minutes of the US Embassy. Saburtalo has townhome style and single houses. Is typical city housing, but if you love being in the city it's perfect. In Vake you will live in an apartment. It's the closest to living in a European city. Lots of great restraunts, park, close to the Old City.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Groceries are widely available at Goodwill Hypermarket (think small Walmart) and Populi. In the city there are small markets along every street. Fruits and Vegetables are available all year long, but especially fresh and tasty from May-Sept. The US Embassy commisary has gotten much better and has improved morale!

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Pancake syrup and bisquick. Sunscreen, children's medicines (tylenol, motrin) Adult motrin, Advil, Excedrine, immodium

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

McDonald's is here. They also have Georgian "fast food". They have some great restaurants in the Old City and Vake.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

The same as you find in the US

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Available and very affordable.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

There is a great gym at the US Embassy and there are private workout facilities on the economy.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Use the same care that you would in the US then you should have no problems.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Yes, all denominations

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

No

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

You should know the basic phrases in Georgian. Definitely learn the Georgian alphabet. Although many of the older people speak Russian, they prefer not to. A lot of the younger people are now learning English rather than Russian.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Tremendous difficulties. I would not recommend that anyone with physical disabilities live here.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Taxis are safe and affordable. Trains are safe and affordable. A great way to travel to the west coast/Black Sea. Subway is ok. Buses and marshutkas are definitely not recommended. Travel on these at your own risk.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Any type of car is fine, however, make sure that it is not new and that you are prepared for it to get hit in an accident. Most people drive 10-15 year old SUVs. The roads are slowly improving, but many remain filled with potholes. Georgian drivers are horrible. There are no rules of the road. Although the police are very good, they are lacking in their policing of the roadways. Many Georgians drive carelessly fast. There are many fatal accidents, however, none have involved expats during my time here. The driving is the one thing that makes every expat here crazy!There are also no street signs so a GPS is a must.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, $50-70.00 US monthly

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Cell phone service here is not a problem. Two different carriers with good service.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No, you will need a certificate within 30 days of your arrival in Tbilisi showing that all shots are up to date, especially rabies.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Adequate pet care is available. It certainly is not as pristine as you will find in more advanced countries. There are no kennels. Bring dog/cat treats and dog/cat food. Although they have limited amounts here, the quality is not known. Most people order their food and treats online.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

No

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Business dress at work. The Georgians are still stuck dressing as they did in their Soviet past because they don't have much money, nor do they have easy access to quality clothing, but that is changing. You will now see men in shorts and women in capris, but it's the exception rather than the rule.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

None.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

You will get Tbilisi tummy. The Health Unit at the embassy is GREAT!

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Air quality varies with the weather. When it's cloudy, the air is stagnant and polluted. When it rains or is windy, the air cleans up. Asthma sufferers should be aware that it can cause problems.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Hot in summer, Beautiful and warm in fall. Winter and spring are cold and rainy. The wind can be very bad, but not often.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

QSI is the school attended by many embassy kids. Education and management are good. It's closest to the embassy. The New School is attended by those who don't want to follow the crowd. New School is certified in the International Baccalaureate program and costs significantly less than QSI.I prefer New School for my child.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

It would be on a case by case basis and limited at best.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

It is available. I have not had personal experience with it, but know people who have. I have not heard any complaints.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

The US Embassy has been very good about providing sports opportunities for kids. Kids can also play sports locally.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Fairly large for such a small country

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2. Morale among expats:

Morale is good, but can definitely be affected by taking a short drive. Embassy community is friendly. Many families with kids.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Food, wine, clubs. Many in the embassy community often get together on the weekends.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Great for all.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Georgians do not acknowledge the gay lifestyle. That said, there is a closeted gay community.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

I have never encountered any.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

The people, the food, and of course the wine!

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Supras, wine tasting, touring the varied regions of Georgia. If you sit home every weekend, then you are not experiencing Georgia. It's great for those who love the outdoors.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Carpets from the North and South Caucasus. Wine, jewelry and art.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

The country of Georgia is absolutely beautiful. If you love the outdoors, then this is your place. There are lots of unexcavated historical sites where you can walk right up to the site. The Lari is weak against the dollar, so you are able to save money. It is also easy to get to Western Europe, Istanbul, Dubai and other Eastern European locations via air. Tbilisi airport is new and in good condition, however, most flights leave in the middle of the night.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes, if you don't want to have any fun.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Absolutely.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

brand new car.

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3. But don't forget your:

camping and hiking gear, mountain bike, sun screen, sense of humor.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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Tbilisi, Georgia 10/12/09

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Yes.

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2. How long have you lived here?

Aug 2007-2009.

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3. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

From US it's generally 16-24 hours depending on layovers. Munich or Amsterdam are probably the better lay over points, but most major European hubs are covered. (No budget carriers.) Kayak.com and travelocity can now help you find flights. (Not true in 2007.) E-tickets were new in 2007, but were working fairly smoothly by 2008.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

US Gov't.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Sabartalo took about 20-40 minutes to get to the embassy, and 10-20 minutes to get to most parts downtown.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Groceries and household supplies are fairly easily available at the "Goodwill" store. (Think super-Walmart from Germany.) Fruits & vegetables in season are cheaper and better on the street: 2 bags of the best tomatoes I've ever had cost $3.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Skis, mountain bike, UPS. (Power is semi-reliable at best. It usually comes back in a few minutes to an hour, but it blips fairly often.)

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Only 3 McDonald's fast food restaurants. But other restaurants are pretty decent. There is at least one restaurant of every variety I can think of that was decent -- except Mexican and Indian. Thai and Chinese were also very good and pretty cheap.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Grasshopers while hiking, aphids on the rose bushes. That's about it.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Difficult if you don't have access to APO. APO took 3-4 weeks to arrive. You can get 2-night shipping from FedEx for documents and other items, but you pay a price for that.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Fairly available and not TOO pricey, but not as cheap as some other places. Hired help generally lacks training, though, and you will need to be VERY explicit about what you want. Expecting domestic help to see and take care of a problem with their own ambition will probably lead to disappointment.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes, though they run around $100/month.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

This is generally a cash-only economy. Credit cards are sometimes taken (and sometimes literally "taken". ATMs are all over the place.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Yes. I'm aware of Catholic and Methodist services, but I think others were out there.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

AFN and Orbit are available.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Most locals speak either Russian (only) or also English to various degrees. Learn some Georgian. You can get away without much.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Many. Sidewalks are in poor condition in the few places where they do exist. It's not a very walking-friendly city.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Cabs are generally safe and readily available. The embassy advises against using them, but local buses and trains were safe for my wife during the two years she used them.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Roads are better than they were 5 years ago, but they are still a little rough. A sedan would be ok in town, but once you leave town a car with better clearance would probably be a good idea. If you are going skiing or camping, a four-wheel-drive vehicle is advised. Most major auto manufacturers exist, but parts may be hard to find or take a while to get there. Bring your own parts if you can. Traffic is becoming a problem. People drive at high speeds (80 mph in residential areas sometimes) and recklessly. Common courtesy is sometimes hard to find on the roads, even though people are generally very nice in person. Drunk driving after 8pm is fairly common, so be careful.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Depends on your specific location. DSL is available in some homes for $50/mo. I had to use 3G/HSDPA off of the cell networks ($45 / month).

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

You can buy phones/SIMs there without too much trouble.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No, but they must be registered to leave the country.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Yes. Some well-trained vets really do care about dogs, and you can get high quality food in town. It may or may not be authentic, though.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

I think so. The high volume of foreign aid coming into the country has created a large number of NGO-type jobs around.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

I wore khakis and a button-down shirt most days to work. But flip-flops, running shorts and a t-shirt after a run didn't get me gawked at any more than it would in the U.S.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Moderate/decent during warm months. Winter has some bad days if a weather system holds the smoke from people's fires in the city.

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2. What immunizations are required each year?

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3. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

No worse than in any other major city. If you're drunk, by yourself at 3am in a dark alley, you might get mugged. Just like in every major city in the U.S.

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4. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Medical care is a little sketchy, but apparently dentistry is good. Come prepared for your own special needs, though, as most major problems will get you medevac'd.

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5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Summers can be warm/hot in town (80F-100F). But hiking on the ridges can help reduce the heat a bit. Winters are mild in town, generally (30-40F), but a few days will be in 10-15F. Once you leave the city, temps can drop 10-20F in the altitude pretty easily.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

QSI is a decent school but pretty small. Good student-to-teacher ratio, but recruiting maybe a challenge for them, so some teachers are better than others.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

Don't know. Probably not much due to school size.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

I know some people had private nannies for reasonably decent prices.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Through the schools, yes.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Fairly small, but not too bad.

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2. Morale among expats:

High. Lots of stuff to do. Friendly folks.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Post is getting to be EXTREMELY family oriented. Singles can be fine, but dating locals has its hazards. (Green card hunters, etc.)

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Marginally good. It's a pretty conservative culture, so you would probably have to be careful where that information was shared.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Locals are very friendly with Americans. African-Americans are gawked at quite a bit, but I don't think due to hostility --- we're just exotic. Proselytizing is frowned upon and may be a problem, but people are generally tolerant of other religions. There are a few churches/synagogues/mosques of most types in town.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Skiing is cheap and only 2 hours away. Good stuff, too. Austrians installed a new lift (#7) in 2008. Hiking/trail running/camping is pretty decent and generally safe if you keep an eye out for the dogs. Lots of history available in the country. Castles and ancient history are accessible downtown and throughout the country. Stalin was born in Georgia, where there are some interesting things to do. The Black Sea has a pretty decent resort. The tallest mountain of Europe (famous for the 7-summits) is on the Russian side of the border in the Caucasus Mountains. Other mountaineering options exist in Georgia to get you over 16,000 ft. Many guides are available.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Georgian wine is good, artwork isn't too bad.

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9. Can you save money?

Absolutely.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Absolutely. We loved our 2 years there and would love to go back.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Road bike. Liver (or plan on needing a replacement when you're done.)

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3. But don't forget your:

Skis, tent, and sense of humor. (Driving can be frustrating.)

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Ali and Nino, by Kurban Said. (# ISBN-10: 0385720408# ISBN-13: 978-0385720403)

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Ali and Nino, by Kurban Said. (# ISBN-10: 0385720408# ISBN-13: 978-0385720403)

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

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Tbilisi, Georgia 01/27/09

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Second expat experience--first as a missionary elsewhere.

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2. How long have you lived here?

2005-2007.

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3. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

About 15 hours total--going through Amsterdam, Munich and Istanbul from DC.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Assigned to the Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

We lived near the Embassy and so had a wonderful, enviable commute of about five minutes that we will never see again. Sigh.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

We brought almost all our own household supplies--two year supply of TP (available but a little pricier), dishwasher (available but PRICEY) and laundry detergent (same), but didn't need to bring dish and hand soap (widely available and not pricey).We ate granola from Goodwill that wasn't too expensive and we made our own pancakes all the time. We brought most of our own pantry items in our consumables shipment. Cheese at Goodwill was pretty decent, too, but a bit pricey. We actually had someone send us Costco bulk pepper jack cheese and it made the trip just fine.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Same things I shipped before--real maple syrup, baking supplies, chocolate chips (though you can always chop up a chocolate bar), grains for grinding, feminine products, diapers (though locally sold Pampers are only slightly more expensive than Huggies via Amazon.com), nice fabric for tailoring. I wish I'd known how cheap it was to get things custom framed (circa US$20-50). I would have brought every last thing in my house I wanted framed.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

McDonald's had two stores and was opening a few more. I ate there about three times. Disgusting. Cabbage on my Big Mac?!?! Reasonable cost. There were a few good pizza places but the quality was never consistent. It was like pulling teeth to get them to deliver out by the Embassy.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Sugar ants in the kitchen in summer.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

APO. The ONE time I tried to receive a package sent to us via USPS directly to the Embassy, it never arrived.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

About US$15/day. Another poster suggested getting someone new rather than an "expat retread."I disagree. It all depends. There is something to be said for getting someone who has already been trained in U.S. ways of doing things, knows expectations, etc. If they are lazy, then fire them. We did.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Bring a treadmill. I ran at the Hippodrome on Saturdays with friends. The Embassy has a "gym" and Vake fitness club is decent.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

I used an ATM at the Marriott a couple of times because my bank reimbursed the fee. Generally I got cash from the Embassy cashier. I used my credit card once or twice in town. At the time, it was a cash economy.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Yes--there is an international non-denominational church, Catholic, Baptist, Jewish, and LDS (with an interpreter).

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Some but as another poster said, biased and silly most of the time. If you have Internet access why is this even an issue?

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Depends on what your life is like. If you're working in the Embassy you will be speaking English all the time. But no matter what, please learn how to say and understand basic greetings and questions. Knowing how to read at least the alphabet so you can sound out words is also helpful. That way you can read what signage exists. Russian is spoken by some but not preferred. Most under 25 don't even know Russian at all.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

I think I saw two wheelchairs on the street the whole time I was there.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

I never got on the subway, I rode a city bus a few times without incident. The Red Cab service is what I generally took or made personal acquaintance with cabbies who I would call on at other times. Generally I drove myself without a problem. The key is to drive with a purpose and don't go fast until you identify a problem.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

We had an SUV with killer tires. Make sure you have good shocks and brakes. We never had an accident and consider ourselves very very lucky. We almost had several, though, because of the craziness of the driving."You don't need to wear a seatbelt inside the city." "Driving after I drink? Why wouldn't I?" "I just missed my road--never mind making a massive U-turn, I'll just fly backwards on the highway at top speed."

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

We paid about US$70/month for Telenet--TERRIBLE management but decent service.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

I had one from the Embassy--nobody uses voicemail which took some getting used to. Apparently if you have Magticom and your phone number starts with a "6" you can't have voicemail. Strange. You might consider purchasing a CDMA phone you like in the States, getting it unlocked, and bringing it with you.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

None to speak of.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Business casual to business. The Georgian women somehow got away with outfits most American women could never pull off at work--not skimpy but just interesting. The women generally always seemed to take care and pride in how they dressed. People were generally clean.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

It's all relative--in the winter people burn tires to keep warm. The smell is toxic.

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2. What immunizations are required each year?

Everything except probably malaria.

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3. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Plenty. Use your head like you would in South Philly. Don't drive outside the city at night without a good plan. Carry a knife.

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4. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Um, yeah. Just pray you or your family members don't get sick.

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5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

I saw the new QSI school being built--decent construction standards.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

A few hundred or so.

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2. Morale among expats:

Depends on your attitude. The Embassy had a toxic morale problem when we arrived. But the country as a whole was improving and the changes were visible on the street--people were not wearing as much black, streets were cleaner, etc. I don't know what it's like after the war in August 2008.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Dinner/game parties at home. Make friends with some Georgians and have them become part of your life. It will make all the difference.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

As other posters have said, if you want to grow closer as a family and are willing to try to grow closer, this might be the post that does it. Not so good for singles unless you develop a good network of friends. It's all what you make it.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Probably not.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

The Georgians are suspicious of the Chinese so Asians might have a tough time.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Get out of Tbilisi and just start driving. Drive anywhere. Talk to villagers. Ask them to show you their city.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

If you like oil paintings you can find some gems. Just start looking at the beginning of your tour to determine your taste. You can even have some pieces commissioned. Rugs are decent but aren't as cheap as in Baku, Istanbul. You can spend money on flights out of the city as they are pricey. Travel, travel, travel as much as possible.

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9. Can you save money?

Absolutely.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Depends--if there were other options, no. If it was a forced move, sure--it's a known entity now.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Bad attitude, rollerblades, skis (unless you have special ones you like--local rentals are cheap).

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3. But don't forget your:

Wii, Uninterrupted Power Supplies, surge protectors, exercise equipment, consumables, winter clothing, bed linens, pillows, towels, and even your bed if you really like it. Embassy beds aren't that comfortable.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Power Trip.

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7. Do you have any other comments?

The hardest thing to get used to was the lingering Soviet mentality, especially among the older generations. They preferred being taken care of. The younger generation is trying to make their country a better place and runs into obstacles at every turn. Really frustrating is trying to buy things not sold in grocery stores. When we first arrived we wanted to buy a TV. We finally bought through Peter Justesen because every shop owner we visited had a mean look on his face like, "I dare you to try to buy something from me. You should feel honored I even let you in my store." Capitalism, the entrepreneurial spirit, etc., are hard to come by.

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