Our regular column “The Expat Lifestyle” sees us out and about meeting expat business owners who have chosen to make a life in Georgia. We’ll be finding out about their lifestyle, hobbies, culture, likes and dislikes about Georgia, and how this life compares with that abroad. For our latest interview, GEORGIA TODAY sat down with Thomas Burns, who settled here after falling in love with the country in his university years. Thomas now has a family and a successful family-run computer repair business, and tells us he is hopeful that, with all the good there is in Georgia, its people will ultimately choose the West and a path toward “the light.”
What brought you to Georgia?
I first came to Georgia in 1998, fresh out of university, and ended up staying for several years before returning to the US for graduate school. I moved back to Georgia in 2014, met my wife the next year, and we’ve been here ever since.
Tell us about your business and background in the field.
Our family runs Mariam’s Computer Repair, where we fix all sorts of laptops, phones, and other electronics. My daughter Mariam and I have always loved working on electronics, so it was a natural progression to make it into our family business. We love solving problems for our clients, but even more we love helping them build a more rewarding and productive relationship with their technology. This is really the philosophy behind Mariam’s Computer Repair.
As an offshoot of our repair business, we also have a YouTube channel (@WorkshopNation) where I restore a lot of vintage Soviet technology here in Tbilisi. This tech is sadly disappearing from the world, and we are doing our best to save what we can and educate people about this particular era of electronics. There’s so much history in these devices.
This is a wonderful environment for children to grow up in: it’s safe, and the education system is structured so that children form very close friendships early in life that last forever
Tell us about your family. Are they also thriving here in Georgia?
My wife and I live with our two girls (5 and 14) and my wife’s parents. Our oldest daughter, Mariam, is a student at the Newton Free School and absolutely loves it. Our youngest, Claudia, goes to an international kindergarten where she meets kids from all over the world, which is something that’s important to us.
What are your main likes here?
The community aspect of living in Georgia is really what brought me back here, the social fabric is very tight. Absolutely everyone understands that family and children take precedence over everything else. This makes for a wonderful environment for children to grow up in: it’s safe, and the education system is structured so that the children form very close friendships early in life that last forever. The fact that there is so little bullying in schools here is a truly remarkable social achievement that the rest of the world should learn from.
What would you change about Georgia if you could?
Georgians have made so much progress since the dark years of the 1990s. But even with this progress, it’s heartbreaking today to see so many families struggling to survive. So many young people move overseas to start a career simply because there are so few opportunities here at home. I don’t know what the solution is, but I look forward to a time when Georgians who study well, work hard, and give back to their communities can count on being able to raise a family in Georgia without worrying about basic survival. Georgians deserve this.
I look forward to a time when Georgians who study well, work hard, and give back to their communities can raise a family in Georgia without worrying about basic survival
Are you here for the long-term, do you think?
Georgia is home. My wife is from here and I’ve effectively immigrated. The kids are fully bilingual and we’ve got such a wonderful group of friends here. At some point sometime soon, however, I expect we will need to spend a few years in the US to be closer to my side of the family for a bit. But I don’t see a scenario where we don’t return to Georgia. No-one leaves Georgia forever.
How do you see Georgia a few years from now?
Georgia finds itself today at an important crossroads that will define its progress for generations to come. One road leads backwards to the darkness and corruption of the Soviet Union. The other road leads to a future of growth, justice, and mutual prosperity alongside its American and European partners. My hope is that after so much hard work and sacrifice over the past 30 years, Georgians will choose the path of light.
Interview by Katie Ruth Davies