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Before we get to Russia, let's talk about Georgia. My big expedition for the year will be to this country, which is described in almost all articles as a "tiny, but proud nation." I always try to read a bit about local customs before stepping foot on foreign soil, learn a few basic phrases in the local language, and understand a bit about the current political climate of the nation. To this end, I even purchased a book called "Georgia - Culture Smart", which explains how to behave in the country to avoid trouble. A huge part of the book is focused on traditional gender relations, warning Western women about the wild and untamed men of the Caucasus. :))

I place almost no weight on these types of books because they are always overly cautious with their interpretations and warnings, and I really don't fear offending locals when I'm a guest in their country. If you're running around trying to be so prim and proper all the time, there's no room for true adventure, or learning about local nuances from the mistakes you make when dealing with natives. I think it's always best to just be yourself, and simply live and learn along the way.

Yesterday, I came across another article explaining ten things you should never do in Georgia. Almost all of them focus on supra etiquette, as these huge meals and gatherings are a main part of Georgian culture. Let's take at the things this simple American woman should never do during her visit to Georgia. Then, we can think of a similar list for Russia. :)

1. Pick either chacha or wine for the long meals, never both: Foreigners are warned they will be the subject of many long toasts at the feast, and expected to drink wine or chacha each time. Pace yourself, and pick one or the other, so you don't end up unconscious after a few hours. :)

2. If you fail task one and consume too much alcohol, never try to cure your hangover with anything except the local spring water from Borjomi. Last time I was in Russia, my Uzbek friend gave me some disgusting hangover remedy, which tasted like fizzy, sour milk. What was it, I don't know the name? :))

3. NEVER interrupt the tamada, or "toast master." It's considered very disrespectful, and you should not speak unless he or she directs someone else to make a toast in your honor. I'm not sure if the tamda is always a man, or if women can also play this role?

4. Don't try to escape a supra, basically Georgians will hold you hostage at the table for a long time. :) Any threat to leave will be followed by more food being placed on the table for you to consume, or more alcohol dumped in your glass.

5. Be alert on the city streets in Georgia. Many cities have ongoing construction, lots of renovations and scaffolding hanging everywhere. Thus, you should never yawn on the city streets. :)

6. Don't pity the Roma children begging for money, or give them anything.

7. Never enter a church in shorts, flip flops, bare-headed or without your shoulders covered. This is nothing unique to Georgia.

8. Something about Georgians being very open, animated and hospitable people...I can't understand the rest because the online translation is bad.

"Грузины люди открытые. Любят громко петь, веселится, громко разговаривают на улицах. Но о чем лучше на улицах громко не разговаривать, так это "о ворах  в законе".  Дело в том, что с  2004 года  Грузия объявила войну "ворам в законе".  Грузинские правоохранители учли тот факт, что по "воровскому кодексу" "вор в законе" не мог отрицать свое звание. Поэтому в Грузии ввели такую норму: если человек  публично признавал, что он "вор в законе"- вперед за решетку на 10 лет."

9. In Tbilisi, it's better to speak Russian or English, but never broken Georgian. Mangling this beautiful language can lead to a ridiculous situation with the locals. This is probably exaggerated, as I've always found that locals appreciate any effort by foreigners to speak in the native language. Maybe Georgians are so proud they can't tolerate any abuse of their sacred language? Not sure? :)

10. Never go to fast food or pizzerias in Georgia. The traditional food is delicious, and should be consumed in large quantities.

After reading this, I began to think about all my visits to Russia, and writing a similar article to guide foreigners on behaviors to avoid there. I can't think of so many items honestly, only one which has plagued me time and time again. In Russia, ALWAYS remove your shoes before entering a home! This is not a natural habit for me, because in the U.S. we wear shoes in the house. I even wear them when lying on the bed or sofa sometimes. The obligation to remove shoes in Russia is serious, and should not be taken lightly! I've been yelled at by many babushkas, and even my friends, for walking past the doorway with my shoes still on. On a similar note, I'll never forget during the last trip when I placed my suitcase on the bed, and my host grew hysterical, shouting and yelling to remove it immediately. There's some heightened sensitivity or fear of dirt/mud in Russia, of which foreigners should be very aware. :))

What else can you think of? Which behaviors should foreigners avoid when visiting Russia, or which Russian customs should they be warned about in advance? :))


( 94 comments — Leave a comment )
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Apr. 18th, 2016 01:27 pm (UTC)
Behaviors to avoid in Russia...a guide for foreigners
User info_infanterie referenced to your post from Behaviors to avoid in Russia...a guide for foreigners saying: [...] Originally posted by at Behaviors to avoid in Russia...a guide for foreigners [...]
Apr. 18th, 2016 01:48 pm (UTC)
#2: It was probably kumys which is -- brace yourself -- fermented horse milk.

#8 essentially means: don't talk about organized crime and crime lords.
Apr. 18th, 2016 01:50 pm (UTC)
Yes, that was the drink! It was disgusting, I only took a few sips. :)) What's the problem with speaking about crime lords? Maybe strangers who overhear such conversations will think you're part of the Georgian mafia? :)
(no subject) - siberian_cat - Apr. 18th, 2016 02:01 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - portsel - Apr. 18th, 2016 02:19 pm (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - black_marya - Apr. 18th, 2016 03:19 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 18th, 2016 01:52 pm (UTC)
True chutzpah behavior in Georgia may be natural and unpunished.
Apr. 18th, 2016 01:54 pm (UTC)
I'm communicating with many Georgians now. So far, they have all been very kind, gracious and lovely. :) I like emotional, lively people. I'm surrounded by buttoned-up professionals all the time in my work as a lawyer - ultimate boredom!

Edited at 2016-04-18 01:56 pm (UTC)
(no subject) - perycalypsis - Apr. 18th, 2016 02:01 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Apr. 18th, 2016 02:09 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 18th, 2016 02:01 pm (UTC)
Well, the vast majority of those rules are kinda covered by the common etiquette.

#8, to elaborate, what Mr. Cat wrote above, Georgian goverment declared war on organized crime lords in 2004. The quote, that you didnt translate covers georgians being loud not because of their disrespect, but because they are open and animated. However there is one thing, that no one mentions out loud - is organized crime. Because since due to the gangster code, one can't deny being a gangster (or, rather, a lord) - talking loud about it automatically turns the speech into implied admission with inevitable mandatory 10 years behind bars.

It was cool to be a gangster there back in the days, but no more. Wish something like that could be arranged in the US inner cities.
Apr. 18th, 2016 02:08 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the explanation. It's quite interesting. There could never be a similar law in the U.S. prohibiting content based speech (i.e. you can't speak about "gangsters" or "organized crime"). It's an outrageous violation of the First Amendment.
(no subject) - 10_4 - Apr. 18th, 2016 02:17 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Apr. 18th, 2016 02:31 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - 10_4 - Apr. 18th, 2016 03:10 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Apr. 18th, 2016 03:33 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - 10_4 - Apr. 18th, 2016 04:00 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ambival - Apr. 18th, 2016 04:39 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 18th, 2016 02:08 pm (UTC)
When you go to Georgia, put any ring that looks like a wedding bend on your right hand ring-finger(I think they wear it on the right hand like Russians but could be mistaken) - that will prevent hot Georgian guys from kidnapping you with marriage purposes :)) I'm only half joking. This trick also saved me in Russia many times. Otherwise it's a disaster.....
Apr. 18th, 2016 02:36 pm (UTC)
Yes, men from Georgia are quite attractive with their dark skin, hair and rugged five o'clock shadow. I think much more handsome than Russian men, based on what I've seen. :)) I will definitely carry some type of fake ring in case these Caucasian romeos become a nuisance, but I don't anticipate it. I'm very "plain Jane" when traveling. Men usually don't notice me at all, and I prefer it that way most of the time. :))
Apr. 18th, 2016 02:10 pm (UTC)
I think that the milk-like thing your friend gave to you was kefir or kumis)
The part you didn't translate told that Gorgia authorities had started in 2004 a special campain against organized crime. Anyone who stated that among criminals he is a high-ranked would be sentenced for 10 years. So the article suggests no to rise this topic (the involvement and rank in criminal activities) with the locals as they used to talk about everything in a very loud voice.
Apr. 18th, 2016 02:37 pm (UTC)
I have a very soft, clam voice. I doubt Georgians will even be able to understand anything I say if they're accustomed to loud speech. :)
(no subject) - worderlandguest - Apr. 18th, 2016 02:57 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 18th, 2016 02:17 pm (UTC)
On #4: yes, the Georgians are proud of their traditions of hospitality. I personally cannot complain, but from other people's experience, their hospitality may take a sadistic turn when you are being practically force-fed under a threat of offending your hosts. It's a sort of dominance, you know. :)
Apr. 18th, 2016 02:39 pm (UTC)
I like being dominated sometimes. :)) But, yes, many people warned me to eat and drink slowly there, to avoid becoming sick from over consumption.
Apr. 18th, 2016 02:18 pm (UTC)
I don't like when people sit or lie on the bed in outwear also. You should take off your pants before you sit or lie down on the bed. Isn't it obviously? I heard that in Japan the same fuss.

You should definitely watch the soviet movie called "Kidnapping, Caucasian Style" from 1967. It's all about their culture and ours stereotypes of it. IMDb ID 0060584. But don't be naive. In reality they're more dangerous than this movie represents them. Soviet propaganda tried to cut corners and show it more funny than dangerous way. I'm really worried about you. Be carefiul. Georgia was (and is) a source of crime on the territory of the former ussr. Do you know that Stalin was born in Georgia? Do you know that they proud of him? Just imagine there's an entire contry somewhere in the world, where people revere Gitler

Edited at 2016-04-18 02:22 pm (UTC)
Apr. 18th, 2016 02:41 pm (UTC)
Take off your pants before lying on the bed? It's ridiculous in my view. Why are you so worried for me? :)) I'll be traveling with a Georgian man most of the time, and he has already informed me he carries a shot gun. I think we will be fine. And, of course, I know Stalin is from Georgia. He was so hot in youth, I almost feel guilty saying that but it's true. :)
(no subject) - ext_2832598 - Apr. 18th, 2016 03:16 pm (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - ambival - Apr. 18th, 2016 05:00 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 18th, 2016 02:27 pm (UTC)
About #6 - not being pity to the Roma children - I think, it's true for any country, not only Georgia.
Apr. 18th, 2016 02:32 pm (UTC)
You're right. Your new avatar is very nice! :)
Apr. 18th, 2016 02:27 pm (UTC)
So true about taking off shoes while inside the house or apartment. Actually, our roads and pavement are sooo dirty and even muddy so taking off shoes is an absolute must. We keep the habit even in summer when situation outside gets a bit better!

Edited at 2016-04-18 02:30 pm (UTC)
Apr. 18th, 2016 02:33 pm (UTC)
Exactly, this is something that is deeply rooted in the brains of most Russians, no matter the weather outside. In my area, we don't have a lot of snow and dirty roads and sidewalks aren't really a problem.
(no subject) - (Anonymous) - Apr. 18th, 2016 02:37 pm (UTC) - Expand
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Apr. 18th, 2016 02:38 pm (UTC)
All of those points can be completely ignored. Touristy stuff written to excite tourists. Except covering your head in church. They take they religion seriously, and you know how angry god will be when sees women without headscarf. Men are ok.

Edited at 2016-04-18 02:39 pm (UTC)
Apr. 18th, 2016 02:44 pm (UTC)
These tips are probably for unseasoned travelers, who are worried about traveling to an "exotic" destination for most Westerners. I'm really not shocked or paranoid about anything in my travels. Maybe this is naive, but I think people are so bound by stereotypes about others that they miss out on so many wonderful opportunities due to fear. This is not my personality. :) Once you go to a few places (for me, it was Palestine), where everyone warns you about the "scary" people, you soon discover you get along just fine with them in most cases.
Apr. 18th, 2016 02:51 pm (UTC)
There is one state in US where you have to remove your shoes when entering a house - it's Hawaii. Just FYI :-)
Apr. 18th, 2016 02:52 pm (UTC)
I've been there - to Maui - but don't remember this custom. It's really paradise on Earth on those islands. :)) Someday I will go back.
(no subject) - (Anonymous) - Apr. 18th, 2016 02:54 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - margot_yyc - Apr. 18th, 2016 03:35 pm (UTC) - Expand
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Apr. 18th, 2016 05:22 pm (UTC)
1. Correct. And not for Georgia only, as our bodies deal with different alcohol types badly - everywhere.

2. Incorrect. First of all - get rid of dehydration by drinking much liquids of a preferred kind.

3. Both correct and incorrect :) It's disrespectful to interrupt people speaking in general :) However, remarks are always allowed everywhere :) Tamada is a man, but nowadays, a woman may also be one :)

4. Incorrect. If you have to leave - you have to leave, of course, tries to make you stay will take place, but moderate and peaceful :)

5. Correct. Sometimes buildings are also in quite... a critical state. And some people are literally pigs throwing objects right from their windows.

6. Correct. Applies worldwide.

7. Correct. You will not be allowed into a church even in jeans. Long skirts for women - only.

8. Explained above.

9. Incorrect. Locals appreciate speaking their native language, or attempts to do so - at least :)

10. Correct. Traditional food is MUCH better :)))
Apr. 18th, 2016 05:37 pm (UTC)
It's good there has been some progress and a woman can now be a tamada. Why should we be deprived of this joy and pleasure? :)) Or, maybe it's a burden to come up with so many toasts in honor of a person, never really thought about it. :) The rest is common sense, to be applied almost anywhere in the world. And I'm certain your experience in Tbilisi is quite different from some village high up in the mountains, which is likely more traditional. I'll let you know in October. :) Btw, in FB, one reader said that "traditionally men and women sit at separate tables and even separate rooms during social gatherings in the Caucasus and don't mingle." How will we discuss and solve the problems of the universe and humanity, if this is the case? :))
Who would have thought that... - (Anonymous) - Apr. 18th, 2016 08:06 pm (UTC) - Expand
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Apr. 19th, 2016 05:45 am (UTC)
As for shoes, that's true that we don't wear them at home because of dirt in Russia. However, your feet also feel better without shoes, especially in summer. Now I live in New Zealand and can easily walk past the doorway with my shoes on because they are clean, but later on, I always take them off if I stay at home :) I have an American flatmate, and at first, when he just moved in with us he would never take his shoes off. We were completely OK with it and never complained. Why, it is his home as well and his choice to boil his feet in leather boots, hahah! However, in a few weeks, he, perhaps, realized that it feels much better not to wear shoes at home and even developed a Kiwi habit of going outside with bare feet =)
Apr. 19th, 2016 04:05 pm (UTC)
Sure, I also like to run around barefoot! :) But I don't feel the need to remove my shoes each time I enter the door. For instance, if I make several trips to the car to carry in a bunch of grocery bags, I will not take my shoes off each time. It wastes too much time. In summer, I always walk around the yard with no shoes. :)
(no subject) - panterkin - Apr. 19th, 2016 07:27 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 20th, 2016 12:32 pm (UTC)
> Which behaviors should foreigners avoid
Nowadays it is definitely talk about politics, been alone outdoors, speak their native language loudly.
> There's some heightened sensitivity or fear of dirt/mud in Russia
It is because there is so much dirt and mud outdoors... And without removing shoes it is so easy to bring all this dirt from outdoors into a house...
> because in the U.S. we wear shoes in the house. I even wear them when lying on the bed or sofa sometimes.
May I ask you a question about shoes, slippers etc? For example, you are in shoes and you want to go to the bathroom and take a shower. Where will you take your shoes off? In a room where you are and go to the bathroom barefooted? Or will you go just in shoes and take them off in a bathroom? And after shower, when and what will you put on your feet? The same shoes? And is there any type of shoes or slippers you put on in mornings, when you get up? Or do you walk barefooted till you decide what shoes you want to wear with your current outerwear? And what if you decide to stay at home?
Sorry for the torrent of questions but I've always been curious about this topic.
Apr. 21st, 2016 02:05 pm (UTC)
If I'm going to take a shower, I take my shoes off in my bedroom. I don't put on shoes or slippers when I get out of the shower...I simply walk barefoot to my bedroom, where I get dressed or go to bed. :) I never wear slippers in the house. If I don't have shoes on, my feet are walking on the floors and carpet bare.
(no subject) - anna_sollanna - Apr. 22nd, 2016 02:42 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Apr. 22nd, 2016 02:43 pm (UTC) - Expand
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