- The Cultural Norms and Taboos
- Languages and Communication Styles
- Low or High-Context Culture?
- Ranking on Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions
- Likely Causes of Culture Shock and How to Combat It
- What to Learn and What to Share
- The Role of Exchange Programs in Creating Global Awareness for All Countries
The Cultural Norms and Taboos
Georgia is a country known for its warm hospitality as guests are perceived as gifts. As such, it is normal to be invited home for meals and turning down such invites is seen as rude and antisocial. Supra is a common dinner party among Georgians involving many toasts where the host, called Tamada, choses the people to toast with and then wine in a horn is passed around the table. One should be careful not to toast using beer as it is usually used when toasting to an enemy.
On the first meeting, the norm is to shake hands and say hello (or “gamarjoba” in Georgian). As the relationship progresses, a kiss on the cheek can be used for after meetings even though not all Georgians embrace it. For close friends and family, first name is the preferred way of addressing someone (Kutateladze, 2015). However, one can attach salutations s...
uch as “Kalbatono” or “Batono” meaning madam and sir respectively to make the address more formal. Other people expect to be addressed using their surname preceded by the appropriate titles.
It is usual to give gifts during important occasions such as Christmas and on birthdays. Some other important gift days are the ‘name days’ which are the dates the Saint one is named after was born. Gifts need not be costly since the emphasis is on the thought and flowers, chocolates and imported sweets suffice as gifts. Notably, it is a taboo to give even number of flowers during a celebration since they are normally reserved for funerals. It is not important to elaborately wrap presents and are not usually opened upon presentation. Children’s gifts can be small presents.
Meals are meant to be little get-togethers and Georgians go a long way to ensure the guests are well fed and enjoy the meals (MacFarlane, 1997). The fork is to be held in the left hand while the knife is for the right while the elbows should not be rested on the table while eating. The norm is serving the elder guests first and with the eating time accompanied with lively conversations. The host will, in most cases, offer second and even third servings and it is rude to turn them down. As such, it is prudent have smaller quantities at the first serving and clear everything on one’s plate.
In meetings, the norm is shaking hands upon arrival and before departure with the handshake expected to be initiated by the person with higher status. One should maintain eye contact and one should shun using first names unless invited. Exchange of business cards requires no ritual and it is nice to have parts of them translated into either Russian or Georgian. Georgians are generally emotional and it should not come as a surprise if they show extreme
displeasure or anger during business meetings. Their conversations may be animated and raised voices should not be frowned upon.
Languages and Communication Styles
Majority of Georgians speak Georgian language which belongs to the Kartvelian linguistic group. The origin of the language is the Kartli kingdom, a historically dominant kingdom in the eastern part of the country. Georgian is the literary language used by all Georgians, making it the only language of the Kartvelian group to be taught and written. However, there are other languages of the same group that are spoken by some subgroups in the country.
Other languages used in the country include Russian, Abkhazian, Azeri, Armenian and Ossetian. Gruzinic, a Jewish language, is spoken by about 20,000 Georgians (MacFarlane, 1997). In Abkhazia, both Georgian and Abkhazian are recognized as the state languages. It is common to find most urban dwellers using Russian as opposed to Georgian. Nonetheless, bilingualism and trilingualism are common throughout the country with most parts embracing Russian (MacFarlane, 1997). Besides Georgian, the other official languages are Azeri, Russian and Armenian. ‘Gamarjoba’ is the Georgian way of saying hello while ‘gmadblot’ means thank you. “Gt’khovt’ ” on the other hand is used to mean please.
Georgians use a lot of gestures in their conversations. Notably, non-verbal communication is more prevalent in the eastern part of the country than in the western. Touching someone during chats is totally expected. In conversations, people generally tend to make eye contact. Erected thumb is used to indicate approval or to mean someone likes something. For instance, one can use an erect thumb to indicate the food tastes great. Georgians perceive silence as a signal of embarrassment, boredom or disapproval. A finger place over the mouth means that one should shut up. The use of forefinger and the thumb to form a finger ring has positive sexual connotations and is used to mean one is sexy. A V shaped arm may imply numerical two or victory in Georgia.
Low or High-Context Culture?
In discussing culture, one has to evaluate if a country’s culture is low- or high-context. A high-context culture is one which conveys their messages implicitly and one has to rely on the context of the message in order to understand it well. Low-context cultures on the other hand are explicit in their messages and one needs no context to derive the meaning. USA, German and Canadian cultures are low-context while Japanese, Georgian and Arab cultures tend to be high-context. In low-context cultures, there are clear directions on the streets and organizations such that one needs no personal help in navigating around. They also have thorough regulations as part of corporate practice (Hooker, 2008). In such countries, contracts are usually written down in much details with the anticipated outcomes clearly articulated. In such cultures, people are more comfortable with written agreements which make them feel more secure as opposed to taking a relationship approach to business.
Georgian culture is more high-context compared to the American one. In Georgia, it is common to see some unhelpful and vague street signs. As a result, one would require extra assistance to navigate around; a role that Georgians happy