Georgia Culture of Business

By | July 24, 2022

Subchapters:

  • Introduction
  • Addressing
  • Business Meeting
  • Communication
  • Recommendations
  • Public Holidays

Introduction

Georgian business culture is noticeably less formal than in other countries, and Georgians are known for their friendliness and hospitality, which makes doing business easier.

Addressing

Georgians very often use the address “Mr./Ms. + first name” when communicating, even with people they do not know personally, e.g. when talking on the phone, as well as with higher-ranking persons.

Business meeting

Although Georgian society, including entrepreneurs, has quickly shifted to virtual meetings due to the pandemic, face-to-face meetings are still important and welcome in Georgia. The Georgian partner can be contacted by phone or e-mail, if you call, you must remember the time difference (+2 hours in summer, +3 in winter) and do not call before 10 a.m. Shake hands with everyone upon arrival and departure. The person of higher status should initiate the handshake. It is polite to wait for a woman to propose. Business cards are exchanged without any formal ritual. Georgians will welcome you if you have a business card in Georgian. In Georgia, partners will appreciate a gift of Czech origin (Becherovka, beer, jewelry, glass…). Gifts may or may not be unwrapped.

A successful meeting can be concluded with a traditional Georgian dinner “supra”, in a restaurant or at home. Georgians are a hospitable nation, they are great gourmands, and despite economic problems, they maintain the tradition of dining, which, among other things, is strengthened by family, friendship or partner relationships. Dining also includes copious drinking of alcohol, which is accompanied by toasting. If the company at the table is larger than 2-3 people, one of the waiters is the “tamada” who “leads” the table. Georgians will greatly appreciate it if a foreigner can give imaginative toasts (not just “cheers”). However, unlike European customs, they do not drink freely during the evening, but only after the toast. At toasts, people sit down, only at the toast to the women will the men present stand up (the women are seated), and at the toast to the friendship of nations, everyone will stand up.

  • PaulSourcing: Tips and recommendations for doing business with Georgia. Also includes country basic data and information for entering the its market.

Timing of negotiations

Working hours in Georgia start later than in the Czech Republic, it is best to plan meetings at 10 a.m. at the earliest, afternoon and early evening are the most suitable. With the exception of public holidays and major Christian holidays, it is possible to arrange an appointment for any day of the working week, exceptionally even during the weekend.

What surprises a Czech businessman the most during negotiations?

Representatives of smaller companies may come to the meeting completely unprepared. Meetings can be interrupted and Georgian partners can attend to other matters during the meeting, which should not be perceived as a lack of respect, but only a habit of dealing with several things at one time. Negotiations usually take quite a long time, you need to arm yourself with time and patience. Therefore, some traders may surprise by trying to reach an agreement on the first day.

What are Georgian traders like?

The abilities of Georgian businessmen do not derive from their nationality, but rather from age, education and industry. The older generation is sometimes less flexible and their approach can be reminiscent of Soviet-era business dealings. The younger generation often spent part of their lives in Europe or the USA and brought business habits from there.

Is negotiating with local traders different, made difficult by cultural/religious/ethnic differences?

The vast majority of Georgian citizens are practicing Orthodox Christians, so it is appropriate to respect important Orthodox holidays (Christmas, Easter, Epiphany 19.1., Giorgoba 23.11.). Otherwise, religion has no influence on business dealings. The Asian element of Georgian society is a loose perception of time and a much looser adherence to deadlines. As in other small countries, people here know each other, which can make dealing with competitors difficult, but helpful when dealing with various authorities.

How do Georgian businessmen manage time in a business meeting?

Time is generally not important for Georgians, you need to be prepared for lateness and arm yourself with patience when communicating by e-mail (the answer may arrive in a few days). In such a case, it is possible to call, draw attention to the sent e-mail, explain the urgency of the matter and ask for a quick response.

How do Georgian businessmen deal with emotions in business negotiations?

Georgians are emotional, relationship-oriented, and emotions can override facts. Georgians are not afraid to express their emotions, even negative ones. Don’t be surprised when traders show anger or extreme disappointment by raising their voice or gesticulating during a discussion. Direct eye contact conveys trust, so it’s good to make eye contact when speaking. Looking away or breaking eye contact can be misinterpreted. It is not always necessary to tell the whole truth if it is an unpleasant truth. Sometimes you also have to count on getting a positive response just to move the business relationship forward.

Are there any territorial differences in trade negotiations within the country (North x South, Provinces)?

Although members of various ethnic (Megrels, Svanets, Tuš, Pšov, etc.) and national (Armenians, Azeris) groups live on the territory of Georgia, ethnicity or nationality does not have a significant impact on business dealings.

It is suitable or customary to offer alcohol during business meetings?

Very often, Georgian partners are proud to offer local wine.

How to dress for a work meeting?

Usually like in the Czech Republic, taking into account the weather (mild winter in Tbilisi and warmer summer). In the case of larger companies, formal clothing can be expected, in smaller companies rather smart casual.

What should an ideal negotiation team look like (number of members, age and gender composition of the team, team leader)?

In Georgia, there are no general rules for the negotiation team, it depends on the size of the company. It is only necessary to keep in mind that the company’s management makes major decisions, so it is good to conduct decisive meetings at the highest possible level. The negotiations should be led by the highest-ranking representative, the others usually only complete the details.

It is customary to invite a business partner to your home, or be invited home?

If so, what is usual for such a visit, what to expect? The invitation to the house usually comes only when a confidential, friendly relationship is established between the partners. When invited home, it is advisable to bring a small attention (sweets, alcohol). More common is an invitation to a restaurant for a big dinner or a reception with Georgian specialties.

Communication

Is it important to bring an interpreter with you?

Yes, if you do not speak Georgian or any of the foreign languages ​​that the Georgian partner is fluent in.

How about language facilities?

In Georgia, knowledge of English is relatively widespread among the younger generation and Russian among the older generation.

Are there any communication taboos?

If you are not religious yourself, it is better to avoid discussions about faith and religion. Caution is also needed when evaluating one of the most famous Georgians, Stalin. Not everyone is willing to accept known facts and negative evaluation as we know it in the Czech Republic. Due to the ingrained respect for traditional values, it is also better to avoid discussing LGBT.

What is the best way to communicate (in person, email, phone, etc.)?

Face-to-face communication is still very important in Georgia, however, due to the pandemic, almost everyone has gotten used to communicating via email, mobile applications (Viber, WhatsApp, Messenger) or via virtual platforms (Zoom, MSTeams).

Recommendation

It is good to keep in mind that despite its Euro-Atlantic ambitions, Georgia is geographically located in Asia, was part of the USSR for a long time, and its transformation was much more turbulent and demanding than the Czech one. After that, Georgia can surprise you. And although starting a company or entering the Georgian market is easy, it is only the beginning, the more challenging things await you. Therefore, if you are interested in the Georgian market, it is good to contact not only the embassy or the PaulTrade office, but also Czech or other foreign entrepreneurs who have their own experience with the Georgian market. Also for this purpose, the Embassy of the Czech Republic in Tbilisi initiated in March 2021 the creation of the informal Platform of Czech Entrepreneurs, which is an informal association not only of Czech companies operating in Georgia, but also Georgian entrepreneurs introducing Czech products to the Georgian market or representing Czech entities. Its mission is to exchange opinions, share information, knowledge, skills and experience, strengthen partnerships between the public and private sectors, ensure greater regularity in contacts with Czech institutions, create ties with Georgian partners and strengthen the brand of the Czech Republic.

Public Holidays

Fixed public holidays (days off):

  • January 1-2 – New Year
  • January 7 – Orthodox Christmas
  • January 19 – Baptism of the Lord, Epiphany
  • March 3 – Mother’s Day
  • March 8 – Women’s Day
  • April 9 – Day of Mourning for the Fallen in the Struggle for Independence/Victory Day
  • May 9 – Victory Day in the Great Patriotic War
  • May 12 – Day of St. Andrew
  • May 26 – Independence Day (Major National Holiday)
  • August 28 – Feast of the Virgin Mary (Mariamoba, Assumption)
  • October 14 – Sveticchovloba (holiday of the city of Mtskheta, the capital of Georgia in the early Middle Ages)
  • November 23 – Day of St. George (Giorgi), patron saint of Georgia (Giorgoba)

Floating holidays (days off): Orthodox Easter – Good Friday, Easter Monday – the date usually differs from Catholic Easter, as the calculation is based on the Julian calendar.

Georgia Culture of Business