The longer I stay in this country, the sadder I become that the end is nigh. It’s been over two months now and I feel that I’ve barely scratched the surface of Tbilisi, let alone Georgia as a whole! Nonetheless, my view of the city has certainly changed since my arrival. During those initial weeks I was enchanted, as many visitors are, by the charming architecture of the old town, the mouthwatering national dishes and the city’s fun, exciting vibe. I was, however, essentially seeing the city as a tourist, a recent arrival. Whilst I’m certainly still a newcomer, I do feel like I have gained more of an insight into the heart of this city and why it has such an appeal to its foreign residents.
First of all, the city seems to attract a diverse and interesting crowd of people from all over the world. I’ve met many long-term travelers who, having initially just planned to pass through the city, have made Tbilisi their semi-permanent home. I even remember meeting several people this Summer in Tajikistan who, when I told them I would be moving to Tbilisi, literally groaned with jealousy, saying that it was one of their favourite cities. It’s not hard to see why this city appeals to them. For Europeans, Tbilisi is comfortable and familiar enough to feel homely, but at the same time it is different enough to keep things fresh and interesting. Need to do your weekly shop?Yyou can head to one of the several enormous Carrefour supermarkets and choose from a relatively wide array of European products at elevated prices (7 Lari for a can of baked beans?!), or alternatively you can head to your local market and get haggling with the locals, arguing over a few Tetri just for the damned principle of it.
The expat community here is a pretty large and mixed crowd and I’ve had the pleasure of meeting some great people. So, I decided to ask some of them about why they decided to move to Tbilisi and what they love about living and working here.
Chris is a freelance writer from the UK
I’m a freelance writer and I first came to Tbilisi on holiday when I had recently met the woman who would become my wife. She was living in Moscow, I was living in Berlin, so after a few days here, we fell in love with it and decided to try out living here. It was also one of the few places that we wouldn’t have visa issues since she’s Russian and I’m British. I still find it very beautiful and I never tire of looking out from the top of the many hills. My wife and I are lucky that we both work from home, since we’re both freelancers, so we only ever use the city in a social way; no rushing to work, no meetings to get to, just going for drink and dinners… a lot of dinners.
Nata is a teacher from Russia
I am always trying to follow my dreams and the things that make me feel good and happy. I had traveled in Georgia 4 or 5 times before, but from the first time I felt that I would like to try living here for longer. If you have a dream, you follow it. It’s been a year now since I moved to Tbilisi and I love everything about it. After a hectic, busy and stressful life in Moscow (which I was fond of!), I finally felt like I had to slow down to have a different quality of my life. In Tbilisi, I had the chance to try this slower pace of the life. Having time for yourself, going grocery shopping, cooking, going to the gym, reading more books, meeting friends more often – I never had the time for these simple things before. I enjoy my daily routine here. The city is big and convenient enough to have everything you need for a comfortable life, but at the same time it’s small enough to get around quickly and easily. There are some problems with people parking on the pavements, old cars and pollution, dog shit on the pavements etc., but I hope that with time the new mayor can make a difference. I also miss Moscow’s recreational areas and parks, but as you need only 10-15 minutes to get to one of three three beautiful lakes outside of Tbilisi, you can easily reach green areas. I love observing the city from above and Tbilisi is surrounded with great hills which makes for stunning views. I also love all the hidden spots this city has to offer and it’s my mission to explore as many of them as possible! However, I still can’t accept the smoking part of Georgian culture as I am allergic to smoke, so I am looking forward to this non-smoking law.
James is a travel writer from Canada
There were so many reasons to come to Tbilisi that it’s hard to narrow it down to just one. I was intrigued by the culture, the history, the beautiful old buildings, the cuisine and the 8,000 year old winemaking tradition. I had read blogs about Tbilisi and they had piqued my interest. I work online as a freelancer and a few other freelancers in my network had mentioned it as an affordable and enjoyable place to live. When I got to the city there was so much more to discover. Even after living here a few months I keep finding new aspects of the culture to enjoy, as well as new cafes, restaurants and bars to discover.
My name is Mushtariy and I am originally from Tashkent. I moved to Tbilisi two months ago and for two years before that, I was living in Moscow. I work in social media for a German company that produces, sells and installs PV solar modules. It might seem like a cliché to say this, but I really fell in love with Tbilisi at first sight. The pace of life here feels very relaxed, especially in comparison to frantic Moscow. However, I’ve had to get used to the fact that here there is no central heating and that I should always carry around 5 or 10 Tetri so that I don’t have to climb to the 11th floor of my building my foot! In any case, you can get used to these things with time, but the most important thing remains my love for such a comfortable, radiant and varied city. The city is like a box of surprises: at first glance, it seems quite ordinary and that there isn’t much interesting going on, but then you realise that it’s full of so many different and spectacular things that you might not have expected at first! Nature, beautiful landscapes, architecture, sunny weather, delicious food, vibrant nightlife and such different but open and friendly people, all these things together make Tbilisi unique. Many people don’t understand the city when they first arrive, but with time they realise “this is Georgia, baby”—and that says it all!
Vahur is a freelance translator from Estonia
I am a digital nomad, freelance translator, and I have been living in Tbilisi for little more than a year. I am a bit of an outdoors nut and Georgia is pretty much a paradise for hikers, climbers, mountaineers, kayakers, skiers, as well as an excellent centre for exploring the rest of this extraordinarily fascinating and diverse region. Tbilisi in turn is an excellent base for doing all this, it’s big enough that you can always find something going on, yet small enough that you do not disappear in it. It’s a weird, amusing, chaotic, unruly and totally lovable place where life is cheap, nothing works like it should, nothing goes to plan, nothing happens on time, but everything still works out in the end and the most amazing people from Europe and Asia can both feel at home.