The original geographical position of Georgia on the border between European and Asian continents reflected on its culture which absorbed Near-Eastern, European and local Caucasian traditions. The important trading ways crossing the territory of Georgia and connecting the north with the south, and the east with the west were the source of penetration for the elements of new cultures, traditions, trends, tendencies, doctrines etc. Deliberate wisdom of the Orient and progressing dynamism of the West met there in Georgia.
Despite repeated periods of foreign occupation, Georgia’s rich and ancient historical roots date back thousands of years, lending the country a unique national heritage and culture that will excite any cultural enthusiast. Georgia’s monumental architecture, unique traditional music and colorful dances, world-renowned cinema, theater and art combine to give the country, and its hospitable and gracious citizens, a strong sense of national identity.
The development of the nation is linked to King Parnavaz’s endeavor to unite Georgia in the 3rd century BC. At that time people from various parts of the country spoke different languages and had little in common. Western Georgia, for example, was inhabited by Colchian, proto-Abkhazian and proto-Svan tribes, with Greek settlements along the Black Sea shore. The language was closer to contemporary Georgian in the eastern and southern regions of the country. King Parnavaz successfully united the western and eastern Georgian states into a single state. He also invented the first Georgian alphabet and became the founder of the written Georgian language, which is one of the oldest languages in the world today. This sense of a unified identity is the glue that firmly binds the people of Georgia together and gives them a clear self-identity of who they are as Georgians.
Historically, Georgians have a unique cultural identity. This self- identity is founded primarily on linguistic tradition. Georgian is a South Caucasian language that is called Kartveli by its speakers. As the official language of Georgia, it is spoken by about 71% of the population, with Russian being spoken by 9% of the population, Armenian by 7%, Azeri by 6%, and various other languages are spoken by the remaining 7%.
Georgians are also separated into smaller regional provincial ethno-cultural entities, each with its own unique cultural flavor in terms of their peculiar traditions, customs, folklore, dress, cuisine and they may even speak another language. Yet, what binds them all together is the fact that they safeguard and share a mutual identity, literary languages and a basic set of cultural values.
Georgians are said to among the most hospitable people on Earth. They truly believe that guests are from God, and they have strong traditions of chivalry and codes of personal honor.
The supra is a large dinner party involving many toasts. The toastmaster or "tamada" selects people to make long toasts and for special toast, a horn full of wine is passed around the table.
Georgian society is patriarchal. The male remains the primary authoritative figure in society. Men are expected to protect and provide for their women and a Georgian male will fiercely defend the honour of his female associates. Women are expected to behave in a traditionally appropriate manner and the reputation of a family’s name rests heavily and solely upon the shoulders of the women in a family. They endeavor to educate their children to the best of their ability and they respect their elders. Although there is some social rank displayed and recognized by a person’s wealth, it is success rather than affluence that is admired and valued by a Georgian. The national culture firmly values respect for women. Furthermore, women are not allowed to become a priest in the Orthodox Church or a mullah among Muslims.
Meeting and Greeting Etiquette
When meeting someone for the first time, shake hands while saying "gamarjoba" ("hello"). Once a relationship warms up some, but not all, Georgians will quickly move to a kiss on the cheek. When addressing people only close friends or family will usually use first names. First names may also be used with the word "Batono" ("Sir") or "Kalbatono" ("Madam") immediately afterwards, which brings a sense of formality. Most people would expect to be addressed with their appropriate title followed by the surname.
Gift Giving Etiquette
As with most European and North American nations, gifts are usually given at birthdays and at Christmas. However in Georgia they also have "name days" - these are the birth dates of Saints whom people are named after. Gifts do not need to be expensive and it is more about the thought and intent behind the gift. If invited to a Georgian home, bring flowers, imported sweets or chocolates to the hosts. Give an odd number of flowers. Even numbers are given for funerals. Gifts do not need to be elaborately wrapped. A small gift for the children is always appreciated. Gifts are not necessarily opened when received.
Table manners are generally unfussy and relaxed. Meals are above all a time to get together and enjoy. Your Georgian host will want to make sure you are comfortable, well-fed and happy. If in doubt over etiquette then either watch what others do or simply ask. Table manners are continental, i.e. the fork is held in the left hand and the knife in the right while eating. Keep your hands visible when eating and try not to rest your elbows on the table. The oldest (or most honoured) guest is usually served first. Try all the dishes if you can. You will be offered second and third helpings and accepting them will please the host. Try therefore to take smaller first portions. Finish everything on your plate. Expect lively conversation during the meal.
A Georgians’ character is firmly set on a solid foundation of family, religion and patriotism. There might still be a huge gap between the average rural and urbanised Georgian with regards to lifestyle, language and adherence to tradition; but all Georgians remain united by their sense of national pride, fiercely protective over their unique ancient language and their devotion to the Georgian Orthodox Christian Church. Because of their history and their loyalty to their country, they cherish both their political heroes and rebels and they tend to support powerful individuals rather than an organisation.
Georgians consider their wine and local food to be world class, they believe that their morals and principles are firmly embedded in a culture of hospitality and generosity towards not only family and friends but also to strangers. Despite this culture and their interesting and turbulent past creating a nation rich in tradition, patriotism and diversity as well as religion, they remain, especially in the rural areas, a conservative nation. A traveler to Georgia would be well advised to respect and enjoy the local traditions, values, religious beliefs and nationalism to better enjoy their experience in a country that can offer a glimpse of the best both the Asian and European worlds have to offer.
Georgia has about 100 museums. In Tbilisi alone there are more than 20 of them. The major museum of the country is the State Museum of Georgia named after Simon Dzhanashia transformed in 1919 from the Caucasian Museum (founded in 1852).
There you will see the largest collection of Georgian culture monuments: material culture objects whose age starts from the epoch of the lower Paleolith – tools, arrowheads and spears, utensils, ancient ornaments as well as handicrafts from different areas of Georgia, the collection of coins both from Georgia and the countries of the Near East. The Museum is divided into geological, biological, zoological sectors as well as the ones dedicated to contemporary history of Georgia.
The second largest museum is the State Museum of Fine Arts named after S.Amiranashvili. Its “golden fund” contains the richest collection of ancient Georgian artifacts (including well-known enamels of the Khakhul triptych and the central enamel icon of the Mother of God) along with Russian, Soviet, West European and Oriental art.
Worth visiting are the National Picture Gallery, the State Museum of Modern Fine Arts, the State Museum of Folk and Applied Arts, the Museum of Georgian Literature, Tbilisi Historical Museum named after I. Grishashvili, the State Museum of Music, Theatre and Cinema, N.Pirosmani's State Memorial Museum, the History –Ethnography Museum with the collection of ancient Georgian dwellings.
In Georgia there are more than 30 theatres. The most popular of are in Tbilisi: the Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre named after Z.Paliashvili; S. Rustaveli State Academic Drama Theater well-known in the modern theatre world for as of the most creative and talented company, the State Academic Drama Theatre named after K.Mardzhanishvili which marked its 50 th anniversary, Griboedov State Russian Drama Theatre, the State Music Theatre named after V.Abashidze.
Georgian dramaturgy goes back to the mid-19 th century. Its founder is the writer, translator and theater figure Georgi Eristavi (1811–1864).
Film and Cinema
For years there have only been three cinemas, where you could go and watch some movies. These were Rustavelicinema, Amirani cinema and Sakartvelo cinema. The most popular one is still Rustaveli cinema, because of its location and that comfortable environment that it offers to its guests. So, there has recently been opened two other cinemas, one in each end of the city of Tbilisi, Cavea cinemas.They are located inside those big shopping and entraining centers and people really like going there, especially on weekends with families and stuff.
They offer films in their original English language, or translated into Russian or Georgian. You can watch films in 3 dimension, too.
The rooms are pretty large, there are different sized rooms where different films are shown and the seats are very comfortable. Well, everything is just great and you will be pleased with all the stuff there.
Usually the tickets in Tbilisi cinemas cost from 5 to 15 Gel. (Cheaper on the weekdays in the morning, more expensive in the evening and on the weekends). The tickets are sold in the cinemas and you can buy them online at www.biletebi.ge too, where you can also see when your desired film is being shown.
There are just a few countries in the entire world with such a developed choral culture as in Georgia. The national originality of Georgian people fully is fully reflected in harmonious singing. The roots of polyphonic church chanting go back to the 5 th century AD. Originally it existed only on folk level, but with the coming of Christianity it got the status of church chanting.
For Georgian harmonies are characteristic special three-voice vocal techniques. Traditionally men do the dinging I Georgia. Like in Russian folklore all Georgian songs can be categorized as labor, ceremonial, around-the-table and dance.
There are a lot of disputes related to origination of Georgian folklore. Some people believe that Georgian folk music is more than 1,500 years old. The most courageous assert that the first mentioning of Georgian dancing and singing folklore is dated back as far as B.C. For example, according to Greek historian Xenophon (the 3th century BC), among the Georgian tribes used secular music, military and dancing melodies. Georgians even went to war singing and dancing. Georgian folklore has preserved ritual songs and dances of both pagan and Christian epochs. In 2001 the UNESCO recognized Georgian songs as a masterpiece of oral immaterial heritage.
Georgian dances are divided into solo, twosome and group. Women move gracefully in short steps. Men show the eagerness to fight which is expressed in fast movements, high jumps and courageous pirouettes. Both men's and women's backs always remain straight and motionless.
In Georgia there is such a concept as “dancing dialect”. It means that each region of Georgia has its special manner of dancing such as Kakhetian, Kartalian, Svanetian, Mingrelian, Imeretin, Gurian, Adzharian,Mtiulian etc.
Georgian singing and dancing culture is rich in genres. The national performing style and the traditions, which were passed from generation to generation, have been in formation for many centuries.
Today Georgia is proud of such temples of musical and dancing art as the Georgian Opera and Ballet Theatre (founded in 1851), and the Theatre of Musical Comedy. Tbilisi Conservatory has deserved the reputation of educational institution training great performers of classical music.
The State Symphony Orchestra and a number of folk song and dance ensembles such as “Erisioni” and "Rustavi" are known all over the world.
The Georgia's capital features the country's best variety of art and exhibitions. Whether you're drawn to photography, inspired by classic paintings or moved by contemporary works, Tbilisi has something for your aesthetic interests. The art galleries feature contemporary art, traditional fine art, glass art, paintings, prints, photography, sculpture, and other types of visual art. If you are interested in collecting art or would like to purchase art, these are some of the art galleries to visit while in Tbilisi.