I really, really hate making sweeping generalizations like the one I am about to make, but its proven true more often than not. I have a high distain for most Georgian men. They perpetuate an aura of abrasiveness and dominance towards their female population that is appalling. They tend to take drunkenness to an obnoxious level and carry it as a badge of honor. They seem to look for ways to demonstrate that they are the alpha dogs and rules are great… for everyone else but them. And these traits are systematically encouraged. Again this obviously doesn’t apply to ALL Georgian men, but I daresay most….
Zura is so non-Georgian it makes one scratch their head. I want to record some of the things he has told me over the course of our conversations in this post.
Zura grew up in Tbilisi. He has one older brother. He grew up during the harshest times of Georgia’s recent history. He was a competitive boxer in his youth, but his doctor told him he risked long-term damage if he continued. So he stopped. He said he didn’t have the build to do well long-term anyway.
He did really well in school. He scores top of his class, which allowed him to study for free. He also scored well all through University, which should have awarded him the opportunity to study at master’s level for free. But the University did not allow this (due to lack of money). He was able to get his master’s later on in England.
He got a job at a major bank here in Georgia, and was a manger of people’s property that had defaulted. So that was how he was able to get into the real estate business. He does that for the most part now. He owns a lot of properties throughout Georgia. He also has investments in several businesses.
Zura is not flashy, but he wants his family to live well. This current house is the highest quality house I have seen in Georgia. Specifically, the furniture, the molding in the rooms, the appliances, the technology, etc.
Zura remembers when there used to be police officers in charge of the highways (pre- Saakashvili, most recent former President). These people were what we would call highway patrol officers. They were in essence highway trolls. They would stop people at random and extort money from them. They would beat them and plant drugs on them to extort more money from their families.
People during his youth would do the same to people walking on the street, ie, hold you up at knife point. He said a lot if his friends did the same thing, “So many of my classmates were killed”. Boys were discouraged from studying. His saving grace was he was a champion boxer, so no one really bothered him. Or if they did, he would handle his business.
He met Mari, his wife at a party for a mutual friend. Apparently her father was a successful businessman. He had originally owned the property in the swanky enclave of Saguramo. He bought two flats in the current building; one for Zura and Mari and the other for his wife, Lali and himself. Zura has so much respect for Mari’s father. He honors him with teaching him his business sense.
Mari is a hardcore feminist, progressive, anti-establishment Georgian woman. She doesn’t cook (her mom does that). She doesn’t even serve dishes for Zura or me out of the pot. She deliberately insists we serve our own plates. When they were living in England together for studies, he was frustrated she didn’t clean the house or cook. So they made a bargain, that she would cook and he would clean the house. He admitted that he was baffled by her stance early on, but decided to let it go. He realized she was NOT going to change and be a conventional Georgian wife.
I have noticed that a lot of Georgian customs that I have come to take for granted as the fabric of Georgian tradition, he distains:
For example, he hates the kissing culture. As the French and Turks kiss on both cheeks, the Georgians greet each other by kissing one cheek. I like kissing, and affection between friends, so I don’t mind. But he said Georgians used to not do that. He said it arose in the 90’s amongst the mafia of Georgia specifically in Kutaisi. And it spread throughout the culture. He said he is trying really hard not to do it.
He hates the toasting culture of the tamadas. He says that they are too long winded and, “Why should I wait 15-20 minutes to drink? If I want to drink, I should be able to drink.”