Georgia

Georgia flag

Living Conditions

Communications

Mail

Family and friends can send mail and packages during training and service, though it will take longer to reach you than in the U.S. We recommend numbering all letters, so you can track if something has gone astray. Don’t send valuables through the mail and packages are subject to customs inspections. Once you are at your permanent site, you can give your family and friends your address. 

Telephones

All Volunteers in Georgia have cell phones and are expected to have your cell phone near you and turned on at all times. Calls to Peace Corps/Georgia staff and Volunteers are free, as are incoming calls. You can buy credit for texts and calls to phones outside of the Peace Corps’ plan. Calls to the U.S. cost approximately 10 cents/minute on the cell phone plan Peace Corps provides. If you have an unlocked smartphone, you may also bring it; data plans cost about $10/month.

Internet

Internet access in Georgia is growing but still limited due to occasional power interruptions and a lack of phone and internet cables. Most Volunteers’ host families do not have internet, but host organizations and schools may provide it. There are internet cafes in larger towns and portable modems are available from cellphone service providers. It is highly recommended that trainees consider bringing a laptop. The Peace Corps office in Tbilisi has a Volunteer workspace with computers with internet access and printers.

Housing and Site Location

During training and for the first three months of service, Volunteers serving in our two-year projects will live with Georgian host families. After this initial period, Volunteers may consider moving into independent housing where it is available. Most Volunteers will be placed in villages and towns that have no independent housing options and roughly 85 percent of Volunteers live with host families throughout their service. In most areas of Georgia, continuous electricity, running water, and gas are not guaranteed, and outages are common particularly during winter. Bathroom facilities are seldom what most Americans are used to and may be detached from the main house. As buildings generally don’t have central heating systems, Volunteers should be prepared to tolerate cold in the winter, especially at schools. Georgia has type C electrical outlets (two round-prong plugs) and electricity that is provided via 220/240 volts, 50 cycles. Adapters are readily available and inexpensive. Most Volunteers live and work in small rural communities or former industrial towns with populations ranging between 1,200–60,000 people, frequently one or two hours from another Volunteer. A few Volunteers are assigned to district centers, but two-year Volunteers are not placed in the capital, Tbilisi. Some sites required a day of travel to reach the Peace Corps/Georgia offices in Tbilisi.

Living Allowance and Money Management

Volunteers receive a monthly allowance in local currency that is sufficient to live at the level of people in their host community. The allowance covers food, housing, household supplies, clothing, transportation to and from work, utilities, recreation and entertainment, and incidental expenses. Volunteers are expected to live at a level that is comparable with that of their host country counterparts. Peace Corps discourages Volunteers from supplementing their living allowance with funds from home. However, Volunteers may wish to have access to funds from home for vacation travel to other countries. For security reasons, credit/debit or ATM cards are preferable to cash. There is no reason to bring large quantities of cash or travelers checks. ATMs are plentiful in Georgia and easily access American bank accounts and many dispense U.S. Dollars if you desire. The Peace Corps office does not provide safekeeping for Volunteers' valuables. Using your U.S. credit or debit card to access funds is relatively inexpensive and simple. Note: travelers checks will be difficult, if not impossible, to cash or use in Georgia.

Food and Diet

Georgian food is an important expression of Georgian culture. Eating, hospitality, toasts, and the supra (feast) bind family, friends, and visitors into long, table-bound interludes. Georgians are justifiably proud of their delicious and varied cuisine. 

Standard Diet: The basic Georgian diet consists of bread, meat, cheese, vegetables, fruit, and nuts. Seasonal, fresh, and locally grown produce is available throughout the year, but vegetables are generally limited to potatoes, beans, cabbage, eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, and cucumbers. Seasonal fresh fruit is also readily available but is limited in variety and quantity during winter. During these months, cabbage, potatoes, pasta, carrots, beans, bread, and meat are the mainstays of the diet. However, canned or jarred fruits and vegetables are available. Volunteers in smaller villages may not have access to as wide a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables as those closer to district centers. In addition, many host families have extensive gardens and make their own wine, cheese, preserves, and honey.

Vegetarians: While meat is important in the Georgian diet, vegetarians can maintain a meatless diet throughout service, especially considering the relatively higher cost of meat. However, be aware that fresh produce is not as readily available during winter, and you may need to preserve or purchase produce in Tbilisi or regional centers. The most difficult aspect of being a vegetarian in-country may be explaining it to your host family. Many families prepare meat frequently in the first few months to show your importance as a guest. It is easiest to tell your family about your diet preferences as soon as possible.

Transportation

Georgia has an extensive transportation system. The most common modes of transportation are bus, minivan, train, taxi, and metro (only available in Tbilisi). The capital is connected by rail with Batumi on the Black Sea, Baku on the Caspian Sea, and Yerevan in Armenia. Most people travel by bus or minivan between cities and fares are relatively inexpensive. Taxis are widely available but tend to be much more expensive. Georgia’s main international airport is in Tbilisi. Batumi and Kutaisi also have limited international flights. Riding a bicycle is not a common practice in Georgia and, for safety reasons, Peace Corps/Georgia does not recommend them. Volunteers and trainees are prohibited from owning or operating motor vehicles (e.g., automobiles, motorcycles) or riding on motorcycles, in motorcycle sidecars, or on motorized scooters. Violation of these policies may result in the termination of your Volunteer service.

Social Activities

Georgians are very social and hospitable people and will welcome you into their social circle. Social activities vary depending on where you are located and may include taking part in festivals, weddings, funerals, parties, excursions, sports, local concerts, and celebrations. Many regional centers have cinemas, theaters, and culture houses. The geography of Georgia is varied and breathtaking and you will have opportunities to hike and explore mountains and national parks. The supra (feast) is a mainstay of Georgian culture. It is a gathering of family and friends to celebrate a special occasion and it follows a standard format of toasts followed by drinking alcohol. If you don’t drink alcohol and you don’t want to offend your host, it is best to let your host know that you can’t drink because you have health problems or you are busy with Peace Corps-related work. Men in particular will face pressure to drink, and will need to develop strategies to handle these situations. Strategies for handling social and drinking situations will be discussed during training.

Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior

Service in the Peace Corps is a full-time job and Volunteers are expected to meet Volunteer core expectations, behave and perform as professionals, and be respectful of Georgians and Georgian cultures at all times.

One challenge of succeeding as a Peace Corps Volunteer is learning how to fit into Georgian society while maintaining your own cultural identity. Additionally, you are expected to be a professional and to adjust to norms within the Georgian workplace. In general, Georgians tend to dress more formally and conservatively than Americans. Professional dress for Volunteers will be clean and conservative. For women, this means dresses, skirts, and dress pants; for men, this means pants and collared shirts. Very casual or revealing clothing is not appropriate for the workplace or other public settings. Few Georgian men have long hair, dreadlocks, or shaved-in patterns in their hair, and some may consider it inappropriate for the workplace. Beards are uncommon, except among members of the clergy and, unless short and neatly trimmed, not generally accepted. Body piercing and tattoos for both men and women may carry negative connotations in parts of Georgian society and should be kept discrete or hidden. Volunteers working in schools follow Ministry of Education guidelines that state “teachers should have orderly hairstyle, appropriate to the school environment. School employees ‘may be subject to disciplinary action if they wear inappropriate hairstyle, lack personal hygiene, wear inappropriate accessories (piercing), or tattoos.”

Volunteers are encouraged to spend time in their communities to develop their language skills and get to know the individual members of their community, their traditions, and culture. Inappropriate behavior, such as excessive drinking or other actions that compromise the safety and security of you and others is not acceptable.