So you’re thinking about moving to Georgia and finding a job? Great.
Perhaps you’ve heard about the buzzing expat community, or maybe it’s Georgia’s uber-relaxed immigration laws that draw you here. Whatever the reason, don’t pack your bags just yet, as there are some vital things to consider. And many of those things are the kind that relocation companies fail to mention.
Most Expats Don’t Work Locally
The biggest misconception some people have about the expat community in Georgia is that many foreigners move here for a job or to find one.
In reality, this is not the case. The vast majority of expats here in Tbilisi, as well as myself and my wife, all have external income sources.
Some run a freelance business, others rely on an online or foreign company to pay a salary or a dividend. Whatever the exact income source, most of these people have income that doesn’t originate from Georgia.
And whatever the source of income, Georgia is usually a great option as the low cost of living means that your earnings will take you much further than they would in many other places.
But all of this tends to create the false impression that it’s possible to hop on a plane to Tbilisi, get your passport stamped, find a job and start living the same happy life that most other expats.
The reality is somewhat different.
Average Salary vs. Cost of Living
Ok, let’s look at the official numbers, shall we?
According to Geostat, the average monthly salary in Tbilisi last year was GEL 1,068 ($360/€323). Not very big numbers.
That’s, of course, just the average. So if you’re an unskilled laborer, you can expect to make much less than that. Similarly, if you’re a skilled professional, your salary is likely going to be roughly double that amount.
But let’s run with the average for a moment and see how it compares.
Our next stop is Myhome.ge, one of the leading real estate listing sites in Georgia. Our goal? To see what we can get in Tbilisi for GEL 640, or 60% of the average salary.
Here’s what we see:
While it is possible to find an apartment in this price range, it will be tiny and far. Most of the listings that come up are for apartments in the 40-50m2 range, and as you can guess, the areas aren’t exactly the most central ones.
Here’s an example of what you’d get for 500 GEL. As you can see, the apartment looks reasonably decent for the price. Still, there will always be significant drawbacks in this price range. In this case, it’s the location. Let’s just say you won’t see Gldani among the Top 5 (or 15, for that matter) recommended areas, especially for expats.
And even with all that, after paying for the utilities, you’ll be left with 350-450 GEL to cover your living expenses.
Once again, it is possible, but not easy. You will most definitely not be shopping at supermarkets and buying Western products or going out for a meal or drinks more often than once or twice a month.
Ok. Let’s say you’re okay with all that, you’re no stranger to frugal living and think you might even find it rather enjoyable.
Even then, there’s an additional problem to overcome – the language.
The Language in Georgia is……… Georgian!
In Georgia, one can indeed quite easily get by in Russian, and if you’re in Tbilisi, then even in English to an extent.
But this doesn’t make the knowledge of Russian, English or even both enough to be competitive on the job market.
While there are exceptions, such as international firms looking for highly skilled specialists, a quick search on HR.ge shows that most positions require the prospective employee to speak Georgian.
It makes sense, too. While the number of tourists and expats in Georgia is ever-increasing, the economy is still primarily geared towards the local population. Because of this, you won’t encounter a dynamic like that of Ibiza, Malta, Cancun, or other small-ish tourist resorts where the only languages that matter are the ones that visitors speak.
Georgian is also a somewhat difficult language to learn. Because of this, I’d suggest you do your research if your plan is to get here and only then worry about the language.
In conclusion, while it’s absolutely possible to move to Georgia and find a job locally, it won’t be a smooth ride.
Georgia is a great place and very rewarding to those who have an external source of income and can, therefore, enjoy the low cost of living. But if making money is your top priority, there are likely better options elsewhere.