Georgia

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/friends your address. 

Telephones

All trainees receive cellphones as part of Peace Corps/Georgia’s safety and security plan. You are expected to have your cellphone turned on and with you at all times. Calls to Peace Corps/Georgia staff and Volunteers are free, as are incoming calls. You can buy credit for texts and outgoing calls to those outside of the Peace Corps’ plan. Calls to the U.S. cost approximately 10 cents/minute on your Peace Corps-issued phone. If you have an unlocked smartphone, you may also bring it; data plans are 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 resource room with computers with internet access and printers.

Housing and Site Location

During pre-service training and for the first three months of service, trainees/Volunteers will live with a Georgian host family. Volunteers are strongly encouraged to live with a host family for the duration of service for integration, language practice, and safety reasons. After the first three months, some Volunteers may be able to move into separate housing if available. About 85 percent of Volunteers live with host families throughout their service. In most areas of Georgia, continuous electricity and running water is not guaranteed. Bathroom facilities are not what most Americans are used to, and may be detached from the main house. Some villages only have a few hours of electricity a day in winter, and the natural gas supply may be nonexistent or intermittent. 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 operate on 220/240 volts, 50 cycles. Adapters are readily available and inexpensive. Electricity will be weak, sporadic, and/or irregular, particularly in winter. 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 there are no site placements in the capital, Tbilisi. Some sites require a day’s travel to reach the Peace Corps/Georgia office.

Living Allowance and Money Management

Volunteers receive a monthly allowance in local currency that is sufficient to live at the level of the local people. The allowance covers food, housing, household supplies, clothing, transportation to and from work, utilities, recreation and entertainment, and incidental expenses. Peace Corps Volunteers are expected to live at a level that is comparable with that of their host country counterparts. The Peace Corps discourages Volunteers from supplementing their living allowance with funds from home. However, Volunteers often wish to bring additional money for vacation travel to other countries. For this, credit cards and traveler’s checks are preferable to cash. If you choose to bring extra money, bring the amount that will suit your own travel plans and needs. For this, credit/debit or ATM cards are preferable to cash. There is no reason to bring extra USD or travelers checks from home. ATMs are plentiful in Georgia and easily access American bank accounts and even dispense U.S. Dollars if you desire.  The Peace Corps office does not provide safekeeping for valuables.  Using your US credit or Debit card to access funds is the most convenient and relatively inexpensive method. Note; Travelers checks are very, very difficult, if not impossible to cash or use in Georgia, do not bring them.

Food and Diet

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

Standard Diet: The basic Georgian diet consists of bread, meat, cheese, vegetables, fruit, and nuts. Seasonal, fresh, 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 in winter. During the winter months, cabbage, potatoes, pasta, carrots, beans, bread, and meat are the mainstays of the Georgian 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 in 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 mode of transportation is 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, and Yerevan in Armenia. Most people travel by bus or minivan between cities and fares are relatively cheap. 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 (i.e., automobiles or motorcycles) or riding on motorcycles or in motorcycle sidecars. 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, or culture houses. The geography of Georgia is breathtaking and you will have opportunities to hike and explore the mountains and 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 typical format that involves a lot of drinking. 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 pre-service training.

Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior

Service in Peace Corps is a full-time job and Volunteers are expected to meet the core expectations, uphold a high standard of professionalism, and be respectful of the host country culture at all times. One of the difficulties of finding your place as a Peace Corps Volunteer is learning how to fit into the local culture while also 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 means 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, and some may consider it inappropriate for the workplace. Beards are uncommon, except among the clergy and, unless short and neatly trimmed, not generally accepted. Visible body piercings (other than earrings for women) and tattoos for both men and women are not generally accepted in professional settings. Tattoos are uncommon in Georgia and can sometimes indicate that a person has been in prison or is a prostitute. Please be prepared to cover tattoos whenever possible. Wearing facial piercings may make it more difficult to integrate into your community. You will participate in an orientation on culturally appropriate behavior and cultural sensitivity during training. Volunteers are encouraged to spend time in their communities to develop their language skills and get to know the individual members of their community and 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.