In the spirit of Thanksgiving, here are some all-American things I yearn for:
Food. Not only the overall availability of various cuisines in the US (even backwoods towns like where I grew up had easy access to at least [air quotes] Italian, Mexican, and Chinese), but also specific brands and dishes that are not generally available in Georgia: bagels, imported cheeses, and a bewildering variety of ice cream flavors.
Functional Postal Service. Granted, there is kind of a way around this by using package shipment services like USA2Georgia. But you don’t really notice just how good we have it in the US, where everyone has a clear street address, zip code, and/or PO box. As a result, everyone here is almost always muling something for someone else whether they’re coming or going.
Public libraries. Seems kind of weird that these aren’t really a thing, what with the whole Soviet legacy of communal learning. There are certainly National Archives here, and most schools have their own libraries, but there aren’t really regular neighborhood libraries where you can go and find new books and magazines for free.
The Holiday Season. I’m from New England. And if it’s not late October-January 1st, then you have no business being alive. I have to admit, it’s kind of hard to get into the holiday spirit without genetically-modified poultry, tacky light-up lawn ornaments, laughably bad jewelry store ads, the Rankin-Bass Christmas specials, and a general atmosphere of commercialism.
Critical Thinking. ‘Peer review’? That’s when your friends read it, right?
Paying by credit card. In the US, most stores (particularly chains) will let you use a credit card for even the most nominal purchases, or there will be a reasonable minimum. In Georgia, you pretty much have to be at a chain store and making a purchase of over 100 lari in order to break out the credit card without having the cashier throw a fit at you. This means I spend a lot of time running to the ATM, or carrying more cash than I would feel comfortable doing at home, or having to find someone to break the unusably large bills the ATM inevitably provides.
Quality TV. Entertainment television in Georgia consists of poorly-dubbed Latin American or Russian soap operas, or locally-produced knockoffs of international sitcoms like Ugly Betty. The latter are so colorful and sanitized that they bear about as much resemblance to daily life in Georgia as High School Musical bears resemblance to American public schools. Soviet-era cinema was actually quite good, and there is a surprising variety of historical documentaries dubbed fairly well into Georgian (I recently watched one on the Lindbergh Baby Kidnapping). But nothing really challenging, entertaining, or insightful.
Arabic numerals. For whatever reason, Georgians learn to use Roman numerals when writing centuries (XVII century, VI century). This means whenever I am translating a history-related text (which is, oh, every other day) I have to get into a huge argument with a Georgian about how most people in the rest of the world are not familiar with the system, most people under 40 in the West were simply never taught Roman numerals at all, and how this is never used in academic papers intended for international audiences, so I need to change them to Arabic numerals.
Non-Smoking Sections. I am so tired of coming home from every restaurant, bar, club, cafe, and even office building smelling like an ashtray. This is particularly difficult when you have a limited wardrobe and then have to wash everything twice as often when airing out just won’t cut it.
Washers and dryers. As it gets colder, I really do miss having warm fluffy sweaters and blankets after one hour in the dryer, as opposed to the stiff, stretched-out jeans and socks that take two days to dry on my balcony–although in the warmer weather, I totally appreciate the energy-efficiency of line-drying.
Safe driving. I have heard it said that Georgians still drive cars like they rode horses–but they forget that unlike horses, cars do not exercise a sense of judgment or will to survive when you steer them off a cliff/into another car/person/edifice. This is all very true. Just because you’re on the crosswalk does not mean you’re safe. Or on the sidewalk. Or on a stoop.
Safe pedestrian-ing. I have never met so many lifelong urbanites who still have no idea how to navigate a city street. Moving through the sidewalk is like moving through a herd of loose, occasionally agitated livestock.
Customer service. While I don’t miss the irritating obsequiousness of American clothing/department stores, it is nice to be acknowledged (semi-pleasantly) when you walk into a store in which you plan to spend money. It is also nice to not have your reservation at the sauna given away on short notice with no explanation, and to get all the dishes you actually ordered, and to have those dishes get to your table in under 30 minutes.
Snow and ice clearing. Back home in Massachusetts, we have snow and ice clearing down to a science. Two feet of snow was not even a guaranteed school delay, let alone snow day. So it’s kind of amusing to me to be in a country that throws up its hands in confusion after a dusting.
Central heating. Yes, the US is notoriously wasteful when it comes to climate control. But when used responsibly, central air is a wonderful thing. For a country that gets snow every year, Georgia still relies heavily on cheap, generally ineffective space heaters that must be shut off whenever nobody’s at home to make sure they don’t blow a fuse or catch fire. This sucks if you live alone, because it means you always come home to a freezing house that takes hours to become bearable.
Cleaning up after your dog. Ever wondered what a city would look like if no one cleaned up after their dog? Wonder no more! Tbilisi is plagued with massive piles of crap all over every street and sidewalk, ready to be stepped in and smeared around and turned into massive poo-rivers when it rains. Owners will unapologetically let their dogs foul your doorstep or garden.
Germ theory. I am not insulting the intelligence of Georgians, nor do I agree with the OCD Purell-slathering American masses–I’m just saying that Georgia is a country with some really stubborn, pervasive (and often truly bizarre) myths about health, and schools here don’t seem to make much effort combating them. Perhaps the biggest one is that illness is caused by changes in temperature rather than contact with infected people. This means that it totally acceptable to haul your sick self/child about your day, hacking all over everyone and everything and if that starts an epidemic, well, it’s been a cold winter and people should bundle up more. Other fun facts: meningitis can be caused by not blow-drying your hair, it’s better to sneeze into your hand because doing it in your elbow makes your clothes dirty, exercising on your period will damage your reproductive health, and if you have acne past 17 it’s because you have bad health habits. Also, your fallopian tubes can get congested like your nasal passages do (often a result of sitting on cold things, like cement stoops), and in order to stay fertile your gyno should “flush them out.” Sometimes I am also really tempted to put up PSAs for regular bathing when I’m on public transport. And flossing.
…and stay tuned for the things I do NOT miss!