Stranded in Despair: Ogden on Expats


Continuing last week’s theme of foreigners, this week I am sharing my experiences of The Stranded, a rare - but not unheard of - breed of alien in Georgian which I have always found to be the most unpleasant. The Democrat and The Genacvale are annoying, but The Stranded is poison.

Occasionally, The Stranded might just be The Democrat gone savage, someone who has been in Georgia too long and perhaps never had the chance to travel before, and hence misses the comfort of home and the familiar. This is only natural, of course, but when they put roots down in Georgia (such as a spouse and a family) then continue to remain and complain...well, my sympathy wains, rather.

I recall a particularly unpleasant man of my acquaintance, who, despite being a rather extreme example, sums up the attitude and behaviour of The Stranded rather nicely.

One day, this chap wanted a haircut (though God alone knows why, since he had about as much hair on his head as I do on the back of my hand), and, not trusting the plethora of salons on just about every street in Tbilisi, insisted that we go to one of the American-style malls here. I warned him that the price might be extortionate compared to one of the small salons and the result more or less the same, but he batted my concerns away with a jerk of his neck.

We found a hair salon in one of the malls. My companion placed a paw on my shoulder, pointed at it and declared ‘That’s a salon,’ in the same way Columbus might have looked at America and said “That’s the New World”. We entered the place, the smiling hairdressers greeting us in Georgian, only for my new best friend to bark ‘You speak English?’ at the room with the air of a bank robber working for Al Capone. Wide-eyed, they shook their heads. He turned to me for help.

‘You speak Russian.’ It was a statement rather than a question, snapped at me in the way a highwayman of old might yell “Stand and deliver!” I admitted that I did. ‘Right,’ he said with a nod, having established this, ‘you tell her-’ he stabbed a finger the hairdresser, causing her to flinch, ‘that I want low fade.’

Seeing as I had absolutely no idea what that meant in English, explaining it in a language I only speak second-hand proved to be something of a challenge. I asked for further clarification. ‘You don’t know what low fade is?’ he growled, looking at me as though I’d just stamped his dog to death. With artful hand signals that would have done credit to any hard-of-hearing translator, the hairdresser managed to propose a style which received a grudging nod.

I spent the rest of the afternoon listening to a tirade of complaints about Georgia. Georgians, he said, did not care about their city (this after he dropped litter on the floor), were aggressive and pushy (after the above-mentioned incident) and did not respect women. This last one was particularly interesting, since he had leered at every girl who walked past and muttered the kind of suggestions that would have had Charlie Sheen bawling for the police. He was also married with two children, something I did not learn until his wife called him and asked him to come home. Since he then shouted her down with curses worthy of a Los Angeles rapper, I wondered that she wanted him back at all.

While The Democrat whines and complains, but usually with a desire to see genuine change; The Stranded bleats for no good reason, pines for home, yet refuses to go. It is easy to see why Georgians become sick and tired of listening to their country being criticised by people who have chosen to live here, even married into the people. The Stranded should, I think, do us all a favor– the Georgians who are tired of complaints about their home and the foreigners who hate being tarnished with the same brush – and go home.

Tim Ogden

17 December 2015 23:01