There’s a passionate activist community. Georgia is notoriously conservative. Women are expected to be (or at least seem to be) virgins until marriage; members of LGBT communities are often harassed and, in some extreme cases, attacked. But among Tbilisi’s younger, more ‘intellectual’ and artistic community, there are several organizations—such as Identoba—lobbying for gender and sexual equality, organizing anti-homophobia rallies and events, and challenging traditional Georgian notions about identity. The places they hang out (often the bars mentioned above) are often safe(r) spaces for those who, for whatever reason, don’t fit the Georgian norm.

The most powerful man in Georgia lives like a Bond villain. Technically,Bidzina Ivanishvili holds no formal role in government. After the party he spearheaded, Georgian Dream, swept the 2012 elections, he served as Prime Minister only from 2012-13. But his handpicked candidates now run the country, and Ivanishvili himself is rumored to be still pulling the strings, without any formal accountability (the country is, nominally at least, still a democracy, though members of opposition-friendly press organizations may find themselves quietly, if not overtly, stymied). His $50 million expansive glass mansion on a hill overlooking the old town features a helipad, a café inside a gargantuan rotating steel ball, and a $1 billion art collection, including paintings by Picasso and Damien Hirst. His second house in Georgia’s seaside city of Batumi is rumored to have a collection of zebras.

His son is Georgia’s most famous rapper. Georgia may not have a sophisticated rap scene, but everybody’s heard of “Bera”, the albino rapper-slash-professional bodybuilder. He found fame in 2012 with his hit single “Georgian Dream,” which also happens to be the name of the political party headed by his father, reclusive billionaire and former prime minister Bidzina Ivanishvili. Bera has 50,000 followers on Instagram. He sometimes parties with Justin Bieber.

Watch your gestures. ‘Personal space’ is relative, especially if you’re female. A friend of mine once tried to signify that she was full by pointing at her stomach, and the elderly proprietress of her guesthouse forcibly removed her shirt and bra and gave her an hour-long breast massage, watching the clock the whole while to make sure she was giving my friend the full experience. Apparently, my friend had mistakenly indicated that she was pregnant. Nobody at the guesthouse seemed to think this was remotely out of the ordinary.

You can buy a gas mask and a Karabakhi carpet at the same flea market. The Dry Bridge market in the old town, near Rustaveli and Baratashvili streets, is the best place in the city to buy souvenirs. You can stock up on jewelry from Dagestan, pewter cups from Russia, erotic postcards, Soviet gas masks and medals, fur hats, antiques both imitation and real, and mangy (and probably illegal) tiger skins. The carpets here are of reasonably good quality, and far cheaper than in nearby Turkey. Carpets from the Georgian province of Kakheti, or the disputed region (Armenian or Azeri, depending on whom you’re asking) of Nagorno-Karabakh are particularly prized.

No doesn’t always mean no. Whether you’re refusing food, refusing drink, or—more troublingly—refusing sex, the first few times you say ‘no’ are roundly ignored. In the first two cases, this can be a minor inconvenience: men in particular are rarely allowed to stop drinking. In the latter it can be downright dangerous. Tbilisi, and Georgia more generally, are very safe, but non-Georgian women—presumably not subject to local virginity taboos—are often considered promiscuous, and a negative response is often understood as a token display of resistance, rather than an outright refusal. In some cases, what other cultures might consider ‘stalking’ (finding out the phone number of a strange girl you like and calling her at 5 am every night for a week) is considered a chivalric display of interest. I frequently travel alone and with men in Georgia, both within and outside Tbilisi, but I’m more cautious than I would be elsewhere about the cultural signals I’m sending.