Learning the Social Customs of Georgia

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Georgians are very hospitable people, and they treat foreigners as guests. It is common for foreigners to be invited into a Georgian home for a meal, so if this happens to you, you should try to accept the offer. You will likely attend a supra, which is a huge dinner party which is full of many toasts. They will likely pass a huge horn of wine around the table to be consumed by everyone. Do not toast with beer! That is reserved for toasting to your enemy. Georgians love drinking and toasting brandy.

Georgian society has a respected hierarchy, in which age, position and power are taken seriously. Elders are treated with respect, and you will likely be introduced to an old person before anyone else.

When you meet other Georgians, they will probably greet you with a handshake and say “gamarjoba,” which means “hello.” When they get to know you better, they may start to kiss on the cheek. First names are usually reserved for family and friends. Sometimes people address others by saying the other’s first name, followed by “Batono” after a male name, or “Kalbatono” after a female name (meaning “sir” and “madam,” respectively).

In terms of gift giving, the appropriate occasions include birthdays, Christmas and name days, the birth dates of whatever saint people were named after. Gifts can be modest and not fancily wrapped up; you do not have to go out of your way for anything.

If you are invited to a Georgian home, it is appropriate to bring along flowers, imported candy or chocolates. If you bring flowers, they should be in an odd number, because people give even numbers of flowers to funerals.

If you find yourself at a Georgian dinner table, know that table manners are not too strict, and people go to dinner to enjoy themselves and the company. The host will probably ask you a bunch of questions and offer you several items, to make sure you are well-fed and comfortable. There will be a multitude of dishes, so you should try your best to taste them all. You will probably be offered additional helpings when you finish your food, so take small portions. You should keep your hands visible and elbows off the table. Usually, the most elderly or honored guest will be served first at dinner. Finish all the food on your plate. The Georgians will probably get energetic and lively during dinner, so be prepared!

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