When people learn I am from Georgia, they have different reactions, as the people I meet are quite eclectic; however the most common reaction is “Georgia, Russia?” or “Georgia, U.S.A? (In case I am successful at squeezing a convincing American accent out of me). Despite these and some other reactions from people, I decided to check what random people know and think about my homeland. In order to meet and ask people I have never met before, I decided to go out to the central streets of Glasgow and approach random strangers.
My first respondent is a taxi driver, he is 59 and his name is Ian. He has never been out of Great Britain; however despite this fact he seems to possess some knowledge about the country.
“I’ve never been abroad in my life, I just stay in Britain and the only time I heard about Georgia was from news, when there was fighting between Georgia and Russia.”
News of political nature is not the only source of information for Ian, as he remembers and describes Scotland’s defeat by the Georgian national football team in 2007, as a bitter experience. When asked about Georgians Ian seems to be pleased by the fact that Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili speaks English, saying: “Your leader speaks English, which is very unusual as usually leaders in most countries don’t.”
My next interviewee’s name is Eric, 41; he sells newspapers on the streets of Glasgow. Similar to Ian, his knowledge of Georgia is partly linked to football as he says that Scotland played against Georgia several times during the world cup qualifications.
Eric’s general knowledge about Georgia seems to be proper and does not fall into any of two categories mentioned in the beginning of the article, as he tells me that Georgia used to be a part of the Soviet Union, but now is an independent state.
Having spoken to people of older generation, I am now trying to find younger opinions. Soon I noticed a blonde girl sitting and reading a book on a bench, probably in her early thirties, I decide to approach her. She replies to my request to speak with her briefly by asking what the topic is about, “Georgia” – I tell her. “Georgia? What is it?” – She questions and refuses to give me an interview.
After I experienced a failure I continue my walk in the streets of Glasgow. Unlike the previous girl another young lady, 18, whose name is Emma, studying music in college is eager to comment on the request. Emma says she has heard of Georgia, but really can’t say where exactly it is.
“Georgia in US, is not it? Or it is somewhere else as well? Sorry I am not very good at geography,” she says.
My next interviewee is Luke, 22, a traveler from Australia visiting Glasgow. He says he has heard of Georgia, as a country either from the news or the movies.
“It is in eastern Europe, probably next to Slovenia,” he says.
Having interviewed five persons in the street I think it’s time to call it quits and plan to return home. On my way I enter a computer shop for personal reasons, while choosing and browsing around some gadgets a seller approaches me and asks if I need some assistance. Then he asks me where I am from, I answer and ask him the same question: China he says. I am unable to fight my temptation to ask him one of the questions from my interview, so I address him: “Do you know where it is?” He thinks for a while and then admits that he does not.
In total, 6 people were interviewed, 2 posses general knowledge about Georgia, 2 have heard of it, while 2 have no idea what it is and where it is, that is the result of my curiosity to know what random people in Glasgow know and understand about my homeland. Sadly, they also don’t know they are missing out on great food, great wine and great people… But they still have time to learn.
The article was published as a free lance work for “Georgia Today,” June 12, 2009 issue.