Sick Again and Sick of Lies

Last week, I walked into one of my second grade classes (“second form,” in Georgian English). It was a day like any other. “How are you,” I asked my coteacher.

“Oh, not very good”, she said, pronouncing “good” to rhyme with “food.” “I have a cough and a sore throat.” This sentence, which sentenced me to my current state, was pronounced no more than a foot away from my face.

Mustering all the restraint in my soul, I managed not to recoil in horror from this news. I muttered some platitude about hoping she feels better (as if the alternative – having a sore throat for the rest of her life – were some sort of plausible outcome of her current circumstances). I tried to stay far away from her for the lesson, but Georgians are close-talkers.

Last spring I caught a cold from a little girl on a bus who coughed directly into my face. Of course, I can’t substantiate either of these theories – I may well have caught this cold, or that cold, from one of the hundreds of anonymous strangers who never cough on me or close-talk me – but in both cases, I had a distinct premonition when the incident occurred that I would almost certainly get sick as a result, and I certainly was sick in the ensuing weeks. Yes, weeks – for some reason, upper-respiratory infections tend to stick with me for quite a long time; maybe because of my weak lungs (asthma, chronic bronchitis, three confirmed pneumonia infections and several more suspected). Usually the initial cold goes away normally but I am left with a persistent cough for a while afterwards; I am functional and presumably not contagious during this time, but I am generally pretty unhappy to be coughing every day and night for a month.

I knew going into teaching that teachers get sick more than most other professionals; it’s a hazard of the job that you are in close interaction with lots of little disease vectors who haven’t quite mastered hygiene yet. “Knew” is a strong word; I haven’t bothered to research this theory so it might be just another stupid old wives’ tale, but it certainly seems truthy. I imagine that my getting sick a lot in Georgia is also related to overall Georgian concepts of hygiene, although I’m sure Georgians think it’s because I take showers in the morning and don’t drink enough chacha.

Point is, I’m starting to get pretty annoyed at having two to three colds a year. This time, I’m super irritated – not just because my friend is making peanut butter brownies and I’m not going to get to have any; not just because the warm weather is finally here and I’m stuck in the house in a sweater because I have fever-chills; but mostly because of something that I have to admit is somewhat similar to culture shock.

I’ve recently started to really understand that Georgian senses of politeness and social acceptability differ strikingly from what I grew up with. All those times that I complained about how Georgians stare at people, and how rude that was, and how uncomfortable it made TLG volunteers, and it honestly never occurred to me that in Georgia, staring just isn’t considered rude. I mean, it’s so simple, and it explains so much – but not a single Georgian or American ever so much as asked me (in comments, on facebook, in person) what was wrong with staring. Everyone seemed to acknowledge that the staring was wrong, especially the Georgians, who generally tried to make excuses for it; no one ever said “well in Georgia, staring is perfectly acceptable.”

I was talking to a Georgian friend who said that when TLGers complain about kids running around in the hallways in school, Georgians have absolutely no clue why or what is wrong with that scenario. This also explained a lot – for instance, the blank, confused stares I’ve gotten from Georgian people every time I’ve complained about kids running around in the hallways in schools – but again, it was something I hadn’t realized.

I think the unifying problem is that the vast majority of Georgians, when faced with something they don’t fully comprehend, simply stop communicating. Some just smile and laugh nervously, some stare at you like it’s their job, but in most cases I think they just bullshit you.

I end up having to guess at the cultural differences – mostly, I can’t help but notice, because Georgians seem to lie a lot. I try not to be offended, and I try to tell myself that this is just their culture – but of course, saying that dishonesty is a Georgian cultural trait is likely to be highly offensive to Georgians, so I can’t really ask Georgians what they think about this and expect to get any sort of reasonable answer. And I wonder if other people think Americans are liars, because there are a lot of times in American culture where you either dance around the truth or dress it up by convention. When someone asks how you are in America, you’re supposed to give a quick, one or two word answer that amounts to “fine, thanks,” and then respond with something like “and you?” Your mother could be dying of cancer and you’re still supposed to say “fine, thanks.” We don’t think of that as a lie, and we don’t call it a lie, and linguists and anthropologists construct that exchange as a ritual in which the words carry meaning other than that of the literal meaning of the words, kind of like how we still shake hands with each other even though we’re not actually searching each other for a hidden dagger.

And so I really try to be understanding, and I try to always give people the benefit of the doubt, and I try to remind myself that people in America probably lied to me too and maybe I just didn’t notice it as much because I wasn’t always on the lookout for cues about how to interpret my environment and the behavior of those around me.

But then someone lies to me, or about me, or in front of me, and my throat hurts from coughing up disgusting green slime, and my head aches and my skin is feverish and I can’t take anymore, and in that moment, I think, “why are Georgians such liars? Why are Georgians so comfortable with lying, and so willing to ask me to lie for them or with them?”

Is that a valid question, or is that culturally insensitive? I think in a lot of cases, Georgians lie because their culture demands it, like when women lie about being virgins or men lie about going to prostitutes, or whatever. I think in some cases there’s a lot of post-Soviet paranoia – Georgians who lie because they think that the government is after them.

(And while I’m sitting here worrying about offending Georgians, I half expect that Georgians are going to respond with, “yes, of course we lie a lot. So what? There’s nothing wrong with that!”)

Back in the early days of TLG, volunteers used to sit around and try to figure out what was going on. We’d all independently concluded that Georgians seemed to lie a lot but we couldn’t tell if it was them actually lying or us just misinterpreting things. We knew that if we asked two Georgians the same question we’d always get two or more different answers – but not like, opinion questions; I mean questions like “Is there a Populi on this street” or “how do I get to the Metro from here.” We thought of alternatives – maybe it’s not that Georgians are liars; maybe they just suck at geography. Ultimately none of us ever arrived at a satisfactory answer; we just eventually got used to all the lying, and we joked about it with each other occasionally but we learned to live with it.

Every once in a while, though – when I’m sick, or when I need to rely on a Georgian person for something important, but can’t because Georgians keep turning out to be untrustworthy (or, as happened today, both) – the lying just irks me.

Well, that’s it. Sorry for the pointless rant.

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33 Responses to Sick Again and Sick of Lies

  1. Mach says:

    Prepare for hate mail. What, in your opinion, do Georgians lie about? I’ve never heard anyone say that lies are happening here more then anywhere else. I could tell you that they (we) always and I mean always lie about the progress towards the destination point. E.g. if I should meet you at Rustaveli’s statue at 6, it’s 5:45, I’m still at home and you call me asking where are you, and I answer that I’m in the metro station.

  2. Native perspective here.... says:

    Well, I’m not quite sure what questions you wanted answered in this post, since it’s quite long and I’ve had a long day as well. But I’m Georgian and I live in America, so I’ll help out with what I can.

    About lying/not telling the truth:
    1) If someone feels strongly about a topic, say “abortion should be legal”, many Georgians will not bother having a discussion with him/her, since he/she will not be persuaded to change his/her mind so quickly. This often happens to people who are close to each other- for example, if your neighbor gossips about you a lot, is very conservative, and very annoying to you, you still will not say what you feel to his/her face, just to maintain peace and not have more problems to deal with.

    2) Lie to look better – Georgians are closer to family/friends/neighbors than Americans, and society is more judgmental too. Hence, you lie to save your reputation.

    3) As for the geography thing, many Southern Europeans also give different directions to the same place. Apparently, it’s to help the person lost – if they don’t know where some place is, the person giving directions will guess as to where that place is or where someone might know where that place is, and then tell the lost person. They would feel bad if they didn’t give them SOME directions, since the person is lost, after all.

    4) Asking someone to lie for/with you – this is not Georgian, but universal. In the U.S., it happens a lot too – “dude, can you put my name down on the role today? I got a hangover, brah” or “don’t tell my boyfriend about that guy on spring break!”. Or my favorite “ok, if we get caught, here’s the story…” It’s simple, both the Georgians and Americans want an alibi.

    In general, “Southern cultures” are not as direct and blunt as “Northern cultures”, and this applies not just to Georgia/U.S. but also Southern Europe/Northern Europe, Latin America/Canada, etc..

    As for kids running in the hallways, what is wrong with that exactly?

    • Anonymous says:

      As an American native to the rural south who is about to become a TLG volunteer I could not help but laugh when I read this post. Where I grew up, telling the truth about certain matters (especially those of the personal/familial/financial genre) was just considered bad manners and possibly a sign of a neglected childhood. I’ve spent a great deal of time reading about Georgian culture to better prepare myself for this transition and it sounds like I’ll be right at home!

      • Native perspective here.... says:

        It’s exactly like that! I think, in general, the rural south of the U.S. is very similar to Georgian culture- conservative, religious, tight lipped about “certain matters” and love to eat. So, welcome to your second home 😀

    • Charli says:

      Loved your response 🙂

  3. tnlr says:

    Get well. When you are sick or annoyed, worse – when it is both, this kind of ranting ending up being posted in your blog. Which obviously is a great contribution in your popularity, but after some time I think you’ll regret writing about the subject this particular way.

    Regarding the subject, one question – have you already noticed the fact that locals rather do root canal w/o anesthesia rather admitting that they’ve being wrong?

    ‘Saving face’ in Georgian culture is as strong as in Japanese, lies are daily results of that.

    There is one proverb in Georgian – გარედან მტერს უბრმავებს თვალს და შიგნიდან მოყვარესო, literally translating: ‘(some event/thing) blinds enemy from outside and friends from inside’. It is the same concept as White Elephant/800lb gorilla in the room everybody ignores, but with much stronger connotations.

    I do not want to make blanket statements but you probably can’t find any Georgian admitting publicly that he/she was wrong about some subject. If one (especially man) does it, he would loose respect and appreciation from everyone – family/friends/society, etc.

    • Cate says:

      I didn’t know that this was still such a strong compulsion. Someone told me that during reforms when many “thieves in law” were jailed in possibly sketchy ways, there were some kind of experts that would go in and talk to them and use logic on their opinions and beliefs until they were forced to admit that they were wrong about something. And after that they would lose their power as a “thief in law”. It sounded sort of fantastic to me, like fairy tale-ish, but it seems like it fits with what you mention here.

      • tnlr says:

        With “thieves in law” (AKA Godfather, კანონიერი ქურდი) is/was completely different situation. They (“thieves in law”) operate under they own ‘law’ – code of conduct. One of the pillar of this code is that such person should never under any circumstances deny his status (to be “thief in law”), even when questioned by police or journalists.

        So the law was made to criminalize any admittance/claim to be “thief in law”. I am not going to debate legality of such law into light of free speech with the audience who has no experience living and being raised in Soviet/xSU country.

        Wiki has quite a good article about this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thieves_in_Law

  4. Cate says:

    Sorry you’re sick–me too. I always try to keep in mind, besides the hazards of teaching, that I just haven’t had time to be exposed to all the new viruses in Georgia. But I am tired of everyone blaming it on the way I dress.

    I’m not sure you’re right about staring just not being rude here. I’ve talked to some Georgians about it, and they expressed the same sort of reactions to it when they’re stared at–feeling uncomfortable, embarrassed, and disliking the starer. Basically they also interpreted as a hostile act, which doesn’t make it seem very socially accepted to me.

  5. Glyphwright says:

    Staring is just as socially unacceptable in Georgia as it is in any Western country. People staring at foreigners are either curious and not really thinking about what they are doing or feel like violating some social rules because they don’t think anyone will call them on it. Nor does any part of Georgian culture mandate its carriers to intentionally give wrong directions in the street – Tbilisi has had an influx of newcomers from the regions/towns/villages of Georgia in the past years, which may not know the city very well, but would rather give an approximate answer than no answer at all.

    • panoptical says:

      Don’t take this the wrong way, but this is essentially the same simplistic and incorrect explanation that led me to write the original post. As I said – people acknowledge that staring is wrong, then make excuses for it. Same deal for lying.

      I think it’s pretty safe to conclude that staring is actually nowhere near as unacceptable in Georgia as it is in New York. Where I grew up, “I didn’t like the way he was looking at me” was widely considered a good enough reason to get violent. Clearly that is not the case in Georgia (or, alternatively, Georgians are deliberately trying to start fights with foreigners, which seems less likely). I don’t know what Western countries you’ve been to or how things are in those places, but you’re totally off if you think Georgia can be compared to “any” Western country in that way.

      I think it’s also pretty safe to conclude that Georgians are more ashamed of admitting they don’t know something than they are of lying, which suggests that Georgian culture values knowledge more than honesty. I think the vast majority of Americans, when asked for directions in an unfamiliar place, would say “I don’t know” or “sorry, I’m not from around here” or “I can’t be sure but I think it’s that way”, rather than try to bullshit their way out of the conversation.

      • tnlr says:

        > Georgian culture values knowledge more than honesty

        Correction: pretending to demonstrate (often falsely) knowledge (of something) in front of someone (or self) is more valuable than honesty.

      • Glyphwright says:

        “people acknowledge that staring is wrong, then make excuses for it” – I’m offering the most reasonable explanation which is supported by my personal experience and basic logical thinking. The easiest way to prove that gawking isn’t acceptable in Georgia is to stand in a public place and deliberately stare at people. And watched them get creeped out like anywhere else. As for suggesting that someone would deliberately give you the wrong directions because you’re a foreigner… well, this is just too unreasonable.

        “Where I grew up, “I didn’t like the way he was looking at me” was widely considered a good enough reason to get violent” – I realize there might be notoriously uptight places in America where people avoid eye-contact like the plague, for the fear of . Let’s cherish the fact that Georgia is different.

        “I don’t know what Western countries you’ve been to or how things are in those places” – actually, when I was in Germany last year, there were numerous times when I noticed people staring at ME with curiosity.

        “I think it’s also pretty safe to conclude that Georgians are more ashamed of admitting they don’t know something than they are of lying” – funny, my biggest annoyance at dealing with Georgians is hearing “I don’t know” or “I’m not sure” to every question I ask.

        • panoptical says:

          I’m offering the most reasonable explanation which is supported by my personal experience and basic logical thinking.

          And I’m questioning that viewpoint based on lots of peoples’ experiences and less basic critical thinking.

          The easiest way to prove that gawking isn’t acceptable in Georgia is to stand in a public place and deliberately stare at people. And watched them get creeped out like anywhere else.

          This doesn’t prove that staring is socially unacceptable, it proves that some Georgians are creeped out by staring. There are a number of fairly obvious reasons why these things are not the same. Here’s one:

          Consider sexual harassment in the workplace in America. Such harassment has gone from mostly acceptable to mostly unacceptable, mostly in the last fifty years. Does this mean that women used to like being harassed, but now they don’t? No. It means that society decided to stop accepting a behavior that makes people uncomfortable, and start taking steps to end this behavior. No similar movement seems to be occurring with respect to the (admittedly less serious) issue of staring in Georgia.

          Let’s cherish the fact that Georgia is different.

          You can “cherish” things; I’d rather understand them.

          when I was in Germany last year

          Well then maybe you should have said “Staring is just as socially unacceptable in Georgia as it is in Germany.” At least that claim is plausible.

        • Glyphwright says:

          “This doesn’t prove that staring is socially unacceptable, it proves that some Georgians are creeped out by staring” – What you originally said was, “it honestly never occurred to me that in Georgia, staring just isn’t considered rude. I mean, it’s so simple, and it explains so much”. I told you that staring would indeed be considered creepy, rude and unacceptable by not “some”, but rather virtually any Georgian stranger who would notice being stared at, and gave you an easy (and generally safe, punching people, calling the police and suing at the slightest provocation is also not part of the Georgian culture) way to prove it to yourself.

          I don’t see the connection between sexual harassment and staring, though. Obviously harassment of any kind goes far beyond routine rudeness/lack of manners. And saying that sexual harassment used to be socially acceptable (!)… well, if it were acceptable, then it wouldn’t be harassment, would it. There’s a difference between a widespread phenomenon and a SOCIALLY ACCEPTED phenomenon.

          “You can “cherish” things; I’d rather understand them.” – there is no need for these two things to be mutually exclusive or incompatible, in fact, if you think about it – one really leads to the other.

          “Well then maybe you should have said “Staring is just as socially unacceptable in Georgia as it is in Germany.” At least that claim is plausible.” – maybe you should have said “you’re totally off if you think Georgia can be compared to in that way” instead of “*any* Western country” (your indentation, specifically generalizing the difference between Georgia and all the Western countries taken as a unit). Or we can admit that, perhaps, we are allowed to deduce conclusions based on known information. There’s no reason to suspect that the “rules on staring” in Germany are widely specific/different from other Western countries, is there?

          Also, the part you quoted referred to me explaining how I encountered very obvious and very unmistakable staring in Germany in multiple places, not how I found it socially unacceptable, you’re kind of missing the point there.

        • panoptical says:

          Now we’re arguing over the definitions of words and phrases, rather than over what’s actually happening in Georgian culture. This is pointless. I don’t know if you’re a native English speaker or not or what dictionary you might or might not be using, but I’m not interested in using this blog to teach people English – that’s my day job and I get paid for it.

        • Glyphwright says:

          “we’re arguing over the definitions of words and phrases” – I haven’t noticed us doing that at all, definitions of which words and phrases are we not agreeing on exactly?

          “I’m not interested in using this blog to teach people English” – people don’t generally make comments to posts on cultural differences to receive a lesson in English. I mean, I know you’re trying to end the conversation, but there are better ways of doing that. You are, after all, complaining about other people’s lack of manners.

        • panoptical says:

          For example, you cannot make a distinction between “creepy” and “socially unacceptable” – something that directly follows from the definition of the words. I used an analogy to try to explain that distinction, and not only do you still not understand the distinction, but you also failed to recognize the analogy as an analogy and you also didn’t know that sexual harassment used to be socially acceptable. To me, that demonstrates a stunning lack of understanding about the English language and about Western culture, and there seems to be no end in sight with respect to the amount of explanation I would need to do to give you that understanding.

          Every other part of the argument hinges on your understanding of what “socially unacceptable” means, and since your understanding is different from mine, the entire argument – as I said – is pointless.

        • Glyphwright says:

          I can make a distinction between “creepy” and “socially unacceptable”, I just haven’t noticed us being at odds with the meanings of these terms. Creeping people out means acting in a manner that induces a sense of fear/revulsion/repulsion, whereas “socially unacceptable” is something denounced by the society at large. We’re not arguing about the meaning of these terms, are we? Nor does the knowledge of these terms require any additional skill in the English language, so you can’t really pass any reasonable judgement based on this.

          In this case, staring at people is an act of a socially unacceptable nature due to it causing the said sense of fear/revulsion/repulsion in people who did nothing to warrant such unpleasantness, and likely have a thousand more important concerns on their mind. There’s no reason to find staring unacceptable, other than the psychological sense of implied hostility/lack of respect, is there? So, stressing the distinction between these two terms does nothing to suggest that Georgians are inconvenienced/repulsed by being stared at as much as anyone else – but at the same time don’t really mind the act, which is impossible. Nor would it be prudent to suggest that staring is universally accepted when it’s in regards to a foreigner – Georgians are generally very concerned with making a good impression on people, even going out of their way to do so. The most likely reason for a Georgian to begin looking at a foreigner is sheer harmless curiosity, and the only reasons for continuing to stare for an inappropriately long time are either absent-mindedness, or a lack of regard for social norms – not the lack of knowledge of said social norms.

          “you also failed to recognize the analogy as an analogy” – saying I did doesn’t make it true, nor does it lend credibility to your claims. We’re not really in a situation where we call each other dumb and then slam the door, are we? That would be neither mature nor cultured.

          “sexual harassment used to be socially acceptable” – again, a criminal act can’t really be ACCEPTED BY THE SOCIETY AS A WHOLE – otherwise it wouldn’t be criminal. It’s an oxymoron, like square circle. Failure to prosecute perpetrators of the said act through any factors whatsoever is a different thing altogether.
          This isn’t really relevant to the subject though.

        • panoptical says:

          I just haven’t noticed us being at odds with the meanings of these terms.

          Really?

          You said:
          “The easiest way to prove that gawking isn’t acceptable in Georgia is to stand in a public place and deliberately stare at people. And watched them get creeped out like anywhere else.”

          I said:
          “This doesn’t prove that staring is socially unacceptable, it proves that some Georgians are creeped out by staring. There are a number of fairly obvious reasons why these things are not the same.”

          And then we argued about it for several more comments. Including this one. I’ll spell it out for you: just because a behavior creeps certain people out, doesn’t mean it’s socially unacceptable. Some societies accept all sorts of behavior that bothers, annoys, scares, irritates, or repulses certain people. A behavior can be both creepy and socially acceptable, which means that showing that a behavior is creepy is not sufficient to show that it is socially unacceptable.

          We’re not really in a situation where we call each other dumb and then slam the door, are we?

          We’re damned close, because I have a very low tolerance for stupidity.

          again, a criminal act can’t really be ACCEPTED BY THE SOCIETY AS A WHOLE

          Again, you’re so completely wrong that I am having trouble refraining from insulting you. There are all sorts of socially acceptable acts that are against the law. For example, oral sex was illegal in fourteen U.S. states until 2003, which meant that a woman who gave a man a blowjob was committing a criminal act. I don’t think anyone could convincingly argue that blowjobs were socially unacceptable in those states.

          Driving over the speed limit is illegal but socially acceptable. Cheating on your taxes. During Prohibition, the sale of alcoholic beverages was illegal, but was highly socially acceptable. If you want to look at Georgia, look at the thieves in law, who committed tons of crimes that were accepted by the society as a whole. Or go back to bridenapping – same deal, until relatively recently.

          Also, workplace sexual harassment was not always illegal – in fact, in the US sexual harassment was only criminalized in the late 1970s and widespread awareness of the problem wasn’t really attained until the 1990s. So in the case of sexual harassment in the workplace in the US before the 1960s, not only was it not socially unacceptable, it was also not illegal.

          It was, however, creepy, which means that it is an excellent example of something that was both creepy and socially acceptable, which in turn contradicts your ridiculous, idiotic claim that you can prove staring is socially unacceptable by creeping people out by staring at them.

          “you also failed to recognize the analogy as an analogy” – saying I did doesn’t make it trueThis isn’t really relevant to the subject though.

          Sexual harassment was an analogy for staring. By saying that sexual harassment isn’t really relevant to the subject, you indicate that you do not recognize sexual harassment as analogous to staring, which indicates that you failed to recognize the analogy as an analogy. I don’t really see how you could argue with that, and given that “saying I did doesn’t make it true” isn’t an argument, it is apparent that you don’t either.

          I appreciate your continued patience in the face of my increasingly obvious disdain and disrespect for your words. You seem polite and respectful, and are probably quite a good and generous person. However, your arguments are those of a simpleton, and being a good person doesn’t make your continued inability to understand simple logic any less irritating to me. I’ve tried my best to explain myself, but now I am done; as I predicted several comments ago, this has been pointless. Consider this conversation over.

        • Glyphwright says:

          maybe you should have said “you’re totally off if you think Georgia can be compared to list-of-western-countries-you-personally-visited in that way” instead of “*any* Western country”

  6. tnlr says:

    Neal,

    In states, sexual harassment according to you was creepy but socially acceptable. But it was in past, now such kind of behavior is both criminal and socially unacceptable.

    Could you name one other behavior which NOW is both creepy and socially acceptable in States? And when we are talking about it should be for _majority_ of people across the population, now for _some_.

    I can’t name any such behavior, probably you know better.

    • panoptical says:

      I specified workplace sexual harassment. Street harassment is still widespread in the US, is generally not illegal, and certain levels of street harassment are accepted although society is pushing back.

      Full-body scanning at airport terminals in the US is creepy but people put up with it – most don’t like it, but most also either think it’s a necessary evil or are too apathetic to do anything about it.

      Most Americans find overt displays of homosexuality to be repulsive (between men, anyway) but homosexuality is rapidly gaining social acceptance, as it should.

      Wearing your hair in a mullet is considered creepy but socially acceptable. So is having a moustache with no beard. So is having really long fingernails, if you’re a guy. So are a lot of personal appearance choices – in America, we strongly support the right to self-expression, even if it means that your grooming and attire mark you as a complete creep. See also: Jersey Shore.

      • tnlr says:

        Thanks for the clarification. Do you have such examples in case if Georgia? Starring according to you is socially acceptable norm for Georgians and I’m not going to open new thread of debates here.

        What do _you_ think is both creepy and socially acceptable for _locals_?

  7. sstiff says:

    I really don’t get the whole staring thing. I’ve outstared a few starers in my time in Georgia, but I usually try to ignore anyone who stares at me. If I tried to outstare everyone, I’d probably go nuts. Most starers are harmless (although some find my ethnic appearance amusing and sometimes make uncomfortable comments), so I’ve learned not to mind. There was this one time, though, where I was walking by a couple of young men who were walking in the opposite direction. Of course, they were staring at me, and they were also clearly gesturing and smiling at each other as if they were sharing a joke about me. Slightly pissed off, I decided I’d stare back. I guess I took it to the extreme by continuing to stare even after we passed by each other. One of the men was clearly upset by my staring and started gesticulating and shouting at me. I was amused, and I could’ve easily taken on the guy had he really wanted to rumble, but I just continued on my way. Talk about double standards.

  8. pasumonok says:

    how is staring acceptable? did i miss something growing up? i was taught that pointing finger at people is very rude–becoz they will know u’re pointing at them and they will be upset. doesn’t staring fall in the same category?
    and fights have occurred based on “ras mikureb, bicho?!”…
    i am so sorry u are sick, when i worked with the kids (in colorado) i got stomach flu 4 times (4 times!!!) in 6 months. i was constantly sick. all of those 6 months.one thing or the other.
    and there is this monster virus going around and putting people into their beds for a week. just got up today.

  9. cookie says:

    I find the discussion after the text highly interesting since I am a foreigner that has tried to work with Georgia during six years within the framework of different projects. I love the country, it has a lot to offer but it is also a country that is indeed are in need of help from others in many ways, TLG is one of the programs that will create a better future for the next generation, a lot of help is needed within the educational system and I know a lot of people that are working for the country to became a democtratic state but it does not happend over night, it takes time. However during this time it would be very good if the persons from outside the country would get help i the way not to be lied to, it has happend a lot to me and my colleuges and not just once. It makes the work a lot harder then it is needed to be and a lot of energy and time is waisted in the process, energy and time that could have been put to better use and greater good.

    Even so, all this people refuses to give up the work and continues to come back to Georgia with the hope that what their work helps to create a better and happier existence for everyone, or at least someones. Personally I salute all this people that are working so hard for Georgia and love the country despite the lies they face very often, my hat goes off to all of you!

  10. Left Eye Looking says:

    @ Panoptical
    “When someone asks how you are in America, you’re supposed to give a quick, one or two word answer that amounts to “fine, thanks,” and then respond with something like “and you?” Your mother could be dying of cancer and you’re still supposed to say “fine, thanks.” We don’t think of that as a lie, and we don’t call it a lie, and linguists and anthropologists construct that exchange as a ritual in which the words carry meaning other than that of the literal meaning of the words, kind of like how we still shake hands with each other even though we’re not actually searching each other for a hidden dagger.”

    I think the reason why Americans say, ‘fine thanks’ and ‘how are you?’ instead of really talking about their feelings is because the US is a fast-paced society. Everyone is in a hurry and it has a lot to do with the proximity of space that they have between each other. I’ve found that since I’ve been back and I’ve reached the six month mark, after being abroad, that I’m no longer an American. (I felt this way after I lived abroad in the 90’s as well. I get annoyed when people are in a hurry all the time.) I don’t like mundane chit-chat and small talk. I’d rather have a long conversation with someone and it doesn’t seem possible to do that in US society. It’s rare and the occasions that it happens are enjoyable, but it’s still rare. In this sense I truly appreciate Southern European cultures, the Caucasus region, and Latin America (and I’m sure many other places) because people take time for each other. I don’t see that happening as much in the US, even in the South.

    As for the liars in Georgian culture. When I lived there, I didn’t notice the lying as much as I noticed the sexual harrassment. My attention was focused on other things, but I did hear other TLG volunteers complain about lying. I’ve always thought that Persian culture, Arab cultures, and Turkish culture had cornered the market on lying. I remember conversations that I’ve had with peope while traveling through various Middle Eastern countries (and I’m not Islamophobic or anti-any ethnicity) where “gas lighting” was the favored psych-tactic used to distract from the topic of conversation. It can become very frustating. Being a woman in cultures like that makes it worse.

    I’ve also had other conversations with male shopkeepers in the Middle East and i asked them, “Where are your lightbulbs and how much are they?” The cashier tells me the price and points to a far-corner of the shop and tells me the lightbulbs are there. I look for the lightbulbs and there aren’t any lightbulbs left. I walk to the front of the shop and tell the cashier, “you pointed to that part of the shop but there aren’t any light bulbs.” He shrugs and looks me squarely in the eye and tells me that he never told me that were lightbulbs in the shop. On the one hand I can argue that he pointed to a section of the shop indicating that is where the light bulbs are or I can just leave. I don’t like to argue with people, so I usually leave. It’s not worth the hassle. The cashier/shop keeper doesn’t want to admit that he has no more light bulbs and that he made a simple mistake. I’m not going to judge him about it, but he doesn’t know that. He has to keep up an image. So he lied to me.

    Of course, now I’m treading on the territory of who are the biggest liars? The worst liars? I don’t think that Georgians are the worst offenders by a long shot. Live in Istanbul or Beirut of 6 months, then we can discuss cultures that value knowledge and saving face.

    Americans lie a lot too, they just lie about different things and aren’t as obvious. I think that maybe some cultures are worse at lying than others.

    “Lie to me and make it a beatiful lie, make me believe it.” -uknown

  11. giorgi_7@posta.ge says:

    This is very simplistic approach. You do not consider the following factors- Georgia has been the small country with the everyone knows everyone situation for the entire history and any stranger was considered suspicious (recall how many invaders invaded Georgia?), who called for necessity to pay attention to. And you expect this historical memory can change so soon?

    • panoptical says:

      “You do not consider the following factors”

      Yes, I do. In fact this is exactly what I was referring to in the line “Everyone seemed to acknowledge that the staring was wrong, especially the Georgians, who generally tried to make excuses for it”.

      You are a Georgian, this comment is an excuse; do you see now how it fits into the point I was making?

      I’m zeroing in on another conclusion. Georgians all say that staring is rude, but they also all say that Georgians have a good reason to stare at foreigners, and yet I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Georgians would also object to my concluding that Georgians think that it is okay to be rude to foreigners.

      So what I am left with is the conclusion that Georgians are either not willing, or not able, to think clearly, rationally, and honestly about their own behavior.

  12. giorgi_7@posta.ge says:

    With your conclusion it is evident to see that you do not feel comfortable living in Georgia.. So why not instead of complaining all the time and trying to change 4 million people, you just relocate to another country where people do not stare and do not say lies? I am sure we can always find English teachers who can replace you.

    • panoptical says:

      “With your conclusion it is evident to see that you do not feel comfortable living in Georgia”

      No, it isn’t. Why should your irrationality make me uncomfortable? You’re the one who has to live with a mind full of contradictions, and you’re the one who has to suffer constant confusion when your model for what the world should be like breaks down over mundane things like whether or not staring is acceptable.

      I believe that it is rude to stare, so I either a) don’t stare or b) admit I’m being rude. It makes my life much simpler. If you want to complicate your life by blaming your backwards, country-bumpkin habits on the Persians and the Mongols instead of just owning up to it, that’s no skin off my teeth.

      No, I think in fact it’s you who is not comfortable having me in Georgia. Good – I’m here to stay, and I just love pissing off passive-aggressive little nitwits like yourself.

  13. Pingback: Come On Up for The Rising | Georgia On My Mind

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