Traditions of Hospitality
Traditions of Hospitality in Georgia are professed in no uncertain terms in the Georgian proverb:
“Every guest is a gift from God”.
One of Georgia’s best known national monuments is Kartlis Deda – Mother of Georgia. Her statue stands high above Tbilisi bearing a sword in one hand and a goblet of wine in the other. This represents Georgia’s protective and hospitable attitude towards guests.
Over centuries, Georgian people developed traditions of, and a reputation for, generosity and hospitality. This can be experienced in a Georgian’s home or in the street, in a village bazaar or on a Tbilisi subway.
If a tourist stops a Georgian to ask for directions, the likelihood is that they will be personally escorted to their destination. If the Georgian isn’t sure, the situation instantly becomes a neighborhood affair with everyone in proximity dropping everything to assist until the dilemma is rectified.
Hikers have returned from the rural areas of Georgia recounting instances wherein Georgians invited them into their home for the night or for the week. Tourists are often aghast at the seemingly endless generosity with which Georgians treat a foreigner. Occurrences of tourists asking where the nearest restaurant only to be immediately whisked to a Georgian home and seated as a guest of honor at a traditional, impromptu, feast are common. This can and does happen at any hour of day or night. Thus, friendships with Georgians are imminent and are usually the result of first time encounters.
A guest in a Georgian house has the status of near royalty. Food and drink are offered upwards of every few minutes. This is the case whether the guest is there for the evening or for several days. It’s not unusual for Georgians to insist, if not demand, the guest stay on for an indefinite period. If a guest expresses admiration for a household item or garment of clothing, it is immediately given to them.
Georgians are perhaps some of the most laid back hosts a tourist will ever encounter. Their reputation for generosity is matched by their openmindedness and tolerance. Georgians rarely take offense to anything and drinking to excess is encouraged. Declining a drink, however, is frowned upon.
According to Georgian poetry, hospitality is valued more than bravery, courage or skilful weapon handling. Georgian folklore idealizes a hospitable, generous host.