Georgeland is an archipelago in the Indian Ocean. It has no borders with any other countries but is located close to Australia, Indonesia and India. Georgeland is a major economic power and regional power, and is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations.
Georgeland's regions are mostly defined by the geography of the six islands that make up the country. Of these, only the island of Mainland is large enough to be divided into sub-regions, though each island has its own regional divisions such as counties and municipalities, each of which is unique in some fashion. As a general guide, the following can be seen as Georgeland's major regions:
- Bradmarch - very colonial in outlook and culture. Quite conservative, but multi-racial in its heritage. The capital of the state, Sergiocitta, is a regional centre.
- Capitalia - green, agricultural and lush in the south, with a heavily industrialised north. New Kikipolis is the capital, one of the country's largest cities. Topstad is also located on this island, but in a region of its own (see below)
- Delmago Island - tiny, isolated, very conservative - considered backward by many but with a rich culture and history all its own.
- Federal District - the capital city, Topstad is located here. Almost entirely urbanised, well-educated, affluent and liberal.
- Long Island is very rural with a strong Anglo-Scots connection to its culture, with some institutions resembling those found in New England
- Mainland - highly industrialised centres surrounded by rich farmland.
- Western Mainland, around Santa Christina, is highly urbanised, affluent and with a strong emphasis on "new technologies".
- North-Western Mainland, centred on Chipwich, is an alpine area with many ski resorts and other winter activities. A tourist hub, especially in winter.
- Southern Mainland is a strongly agricultural area with few large cities.
- North-Central Mainland, stretching from Zigit across into East Mainland is known for its forestry and mining industries, as well as a strong rural culture.
- The Bay Area, stretching around the Bay of Lyle and centred on Lylecity, is known for being a hub of "alternative lifestyles".
- North-east Mainland is highly industrialised and boasts many heavy industries including shipping and power generation.
- Eastern Mainland, the area around Doubledance, is industralised and has a strong working-class mentality.
- Scoita is strongly Catholic and with a proud Irish tradition that is present throughout its history and culture.
Georgeland is divided between two time zones. The western half of the country, defined as West Mainland, Scoita and Capitalia, including Topstad, are UTC+5, known within the country as Western Time, while the remainder of the country is UTC+6 or Eastern Time.
Cruise liners and other ocean-going transports bound for Georgeland regularly depart from countries in the region. Doubledance, Santa Christina and, to a lesser extent, Sergiocitta and Aliceport recieve most of the incoming sea traffic.
. Aquarius runs a cheap, but comfortable, cruise service, travelling from Doubledance to Perth or from Santa Christina to Dubai, and back again. The line operates six ships. The Perth-Doubledance route takes about five days, and the Santa Christina-Dubai route about nine days. The typical rate for a basic cabin for one person is G$800 for the entire trip.
The national carrier, Air Georgeland, flies internationally to and from 180 destinations worldwide. Because Georgeland consists entirely of islands, most visitors enter via air travel. The country's economy depends upon an efficient air travel industry, and in recent years airlines have begun competing to offer enticing deals to travellers. Most international airlines fly direct to Georgeland; stopovers usually take place in Dubai or Singapore.
The country's largest and busiest airport is Halliway International in Doubledance, which is the 9th-busiest airport in the world.
Georgeland has a maritime culture, and domestic travel by boat between its six islands is common, and available in a variety of styles. Budget travellers can take ferries between islands; simple, no-nonsense affairs (coach class only, a small canteen for travellers), while the more expensive options include luxury yacht travel. Elite Transport operates a yacht-for-hire service, though this is a very expensive option.
Travel times vary, though usually ferries only go to the nearest island. It may be necessary to travel by several different methods to reach your final destination within Georgeland. The most harrowing journey is the trip between Sergiocitta and Aliceport, which can take up to fifteen hours.
Car transport is by far and away the most common means of getting around each island. Because of the difficulty and expense of transporting cars across the sea, the car hire business does a roaring trade in Georgeland, and it is easy to acquire a hire car wherever you go, though it is always best to book in advance.
Hire car prices vary, but a mid-range family car is never prohibitively expensive.
Traffic congestion in the inner cities, especially Doubledance, Santa Christina and Emilypolis, tends to be bad and is so bad in peak hour (8-9 am and 5-6 pm) that public transport is a popular option. In the country, there is little to stop you from a leisurely drive, but be warned: speed limits are taken very seriously by most jurisdictions and if you are caught speeding you may even lose your drivers' licence.
Traffic rules to be aware of
- Georgelanders drive on the left side of the road, as in the UK, Australia and Japan.
- Different states, and different municipalities, have different road laws. Watch carefully for signs telling you about changes in the law as you cross borders.
- Many people, particularly young people, will tell you that there is no speed limit on the stretch of highway between Zigit and Lylecity. This is a common urban myth; there is indeed a speed limit (120 kp/h), and people are fined for violating it.
- It is the law everywhere that all motorists must give way to emergency vehicles.
Nearly all Georgelanders speak English as their first language; only a very small minority speak no English at all. Approximately 30% of Georgeland's population describe themselves as multilingual. Travellers from English-speaking nations should have no difficulties. The greatest challenge is understanding the Georgeland accent and vernacular. Georgelanders speak quite slowly compared to Australians or Americans, and there is a tendency not to run syllables together - to pronounce each syllable in a word. Also, emphasis and pronunciation in many words differs. Georgelanders from the state of Mainland or from the southern states of Long Island and Capitalia tend to accentuate the first syllable in any word, though this is not a hard and fast rule. In Scoita and Bradmarch, the accent is different, and closer to an accent you might find in Ireland or the North of England.
Some words are pronounced differently universally - the word "were" is pronounced "where"; the two words sound the same in Georgeland, and are distinguished by context. Similarly-sounding words are almost always pronounced the same way; ie. "fur" becomes "fair" and "sir" becomes "sair." This tends to create amusement in visitors unused to the accent; avoid mocking Georgelanders' speech. More enlightened and educated will merely take it in humour or think you are foolish; some will take great offence.
Georgelanders use the English spelling of most words, and the English version of most words as opposed to the American.
Some key words to be aware of:
- Punny: basket or carry-bag; in some areas can mean a handbag or purse.
- Handpurse: handbag (or purse for Americans)
- Bugs: money, as in "thirty bugs". A combination of the American 'buck' and rhyming slang (Bugs Bunny).
- Chummy: Friend, as in some parts of the UK.
- Little Bank: Toilet ("to go to the little bank" or "make a deposit in the little bank."
- Duff: Idiot or fool.
Georgeland's currency is the Georgeland dollar ($G). Very few, if any, shops will accept foreign money; occasionally, money from Australia enters circulation; only coins of 5c, 10c and 20c denominations can be confused with Georgeland money.
Georgeland uses small, silver-coloured (they are made of copper and nickel) coins for denominations under $1. The 5c and 10c pieces are very small and frequently confused with one another, while the 20c coin is much larger. The 50c coin is an unusual, octagonal shape and unmistakable. Georgeland uses gold (actually mostly copper) coins for $1 and $2 denominations. Recently, a limited number of large, gold $5 coins have entered circulation.
Georgeland no longer uses its old copper coins of 1c and 2c denomination. Phased out from 1998, they will remain legal tender until 2018, but you will rarely encounter them today.
Denominations of $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 are issued in notes of various sizes. Notes are made from a strong but durable paper. A plastic $10 note will begin entering circulation in 2009 as an experiment.
The exchange rate fluctuates daily. However, in the last ten years, the mean value of the Georgeland dollar has remained at roughly 77 U.S. cents. To convert U.S. dollars to Georgeland dollars, multiply the U.S. amount by 1.3 for an approximate figure - thus, $1000 US = $1300 Georgeland.
Currency exchange kiosks are located at every international airport and all major cities. Failing this, a bank will usually exchange foreign money. There is no charge or commission for exhanging money in Georgeland.
Most Georgeland businesses take credit cards, and all major international cards (such as MasterCard, Visa, American Express) are pretty much universally accepted. In rural areas, it is common to find businesses that do not take credit cards.
As with credit cards, most businesses will accept electronic purchasing (EFTPOS). The only exceptions are in rural areas or very small businesses. All major banks in Georgeland cater to electronic banking, and many of them prefer it. E-banking is popular in Georgeland, and most banks have an efficient and user-friendly internet banking system in place.
For Georgeland residents (regardless of citizenship status), Georgeland has a progressive income tax system. This will matter little for tourists, however. Georgeland has adopted a free trade policy over the past few decades, and import duty on a number of goods, especially from Asia, have been abolished.
However, since 1979 the country has had a Value Added Tax, or VAT, applied to most transactions. VAT does not apply to "essential goods and services" such as medical care, electricity, water, rent and some types of food. "Luxury foods", as defined by a complicated system of guidelines, are subject to VAT and thus more expensive than they would be otherwise.
VAT never varies, and is set at 12.5% for all transactions.
Most Georgelanders won't know what you mean if you ask for "Georgeland food", since the country's culture is a blend of many others, predominantly from the United Kingdom. However, there are some uniquely Georgeland dishes, most of them the result of culinary adaptation - dishes from other countries that have been altered and made unique to the archipelago.
One of the most obvious unique foods is a Pennysnap. A pennysnap is a kind of coarse pastry, sugared on the outside and containing a variety of fillings, usually cheese but sometimes fruit or, rarely, meat. The treat's unusual name comes from its price in days of yore and its small size. Georgelanders are very attached to them and they are ubiquitous in bakeries. They are especially common as a breakfast food, but the beauty of them is that they can be eaten at any time depending on the filling. Some of the sweeter kinds of pennysnap are often eaten with ice cream as a dessert.
Other foods unique to or originating in Georgeland are Mountain cakes, which resemble rock-cakes but are larger and with a soft inside, Adaki, a kind of thick, spiced, hearty stew which has become more common in Georgeland than its original home of Africa, and several home-grown varieties of 'foreign' dishes such as curries and pastas.
Georgeland being what it is - i.e. a series of islands, fish and seafood is a staple part of the Georgeland diet and indeed the national character. While restaurants (and others) sell all kinds of fish in huge quantities, and make all kinds of exotic dishes with it, the old standby of Fish and Chips is probably the most common and popular food of all time in Georgeland. Just about everybody eats it, especially on the coast, and the local "Fish and Chip shop" (sometimes called a Fishie, a Chippie or, in Scoita, a 'Effincee' (F and C)) is often as much a part of the local community as the pub or the church.
There are some uniquely Georgeland ways of preparing seafood - even the humble fish and chips has hundreds of varieties. One delicious variety is usually found around the Santa Christina area, where the fish is cut into small chunks, then deep-fried and eaten like chips, usually topped with lemon sauce, tartare sauce or even tomato sauce for the surreal, but strangely appealing, experience.
Seafood restaurants are extremely popular, especially in coastal areas.
Most (but not all) of the U.S.-owned 'fast food' chains operate in Georgeland, though many of them have only started recently when the country began to scale back its laws regarding foreign-owned corporations. You will certainly not have to look hard to find a McDonalds, a KFC or a Pizza Hut. Increasingly, other chains such as Taco Bell, Burger King, Nandos and of course Starbucks have become popular. Starbucks is almost ubiquitous in Santa Christina and Doubledance particularly.
It is legal to drink alcohol in all states at the age of 18. Georgelanders enjoy a drink, but seldom drink to excess, and alcohol does not play a major role in society or culture. Georgeland's most popular type of drink is beer, though wine and spirits are also common.
Georgelanders love to drink beer, though the culture of drinking is not as pronounced as in some countries. Georgelanders enjoy a variety of beers from various cultures, though the country has a large and popular domestic beer industry.
The most common type of beer drunk in any given location depends on where you are. In Scoita, for instance, the most popular foreign beer is Guinness, reflecting the state's Irish heritage. In other parts of the country, English lagers are popular. However, several varieties of domestic beer are drunk everywhere. These include:
- Flaherty's Stout: A sort of home-grown Guinness, it tastes very like the Irish stout but is thinner and contains slightly less alcohol.
- Hodges: The Hodges Brewing Company brews dozens of varieties of beer, mostly ales but also increasingly breaking into the lager market. Hodges Brown Ale is a very common type of beer served in most pubs in the country.
- Gladstone: Gladstone manufacturer a variety of beers, mostly lagers. Gladstone beers are noted for their rich taste and relative cheapness, which is why they are so popular. If you come from Europe, a drink such as Gladstone Dry will be very much what you are used to, and quite appealing.
Georgeland's home wine market only really took off in the 1980s, and a wide variety of local wines are available. Most of Georgeland's premier vineyards are located in Southern Mainland and Bradmarch, in the Emmsley Valley and Hyde Valley respectively. Local labels from these regions include Wesley Grange, which is a local shiraz from the Hyde region, Chateau Loame, a cabernet sauvignon-merlot blend from Emmsley, and Oaktown, a white wine manufacturer from the Hyde region.
Georgeland wines are noted for their infusions of flavour and exotic mix of grapes. They can also be quite acidic, and drinkers of more European wines will find them unpalatable at first (though most report that the taste and texture improves over time).
Georgeland has a number of domestic spirit brewers, but the types of spirit brewed do not differ significantly from the norm. Most discerning spirit drinkers prefer the imported variety, and the local spirits industry has a somewhat "cheap and nasty" reputation. Whiskey is a popular drink (local label Max Green is an acceptable brand of single malt). The more famous varieties, such as Jack Daniels and Johnny Walker are readily available.
Where to Drink
Almost every settlement, from the smallest farming community to the major cities, has at least one pub. The concept of "going down the pub" is an integral part of the country's cultural heritage, and the local pub, especially in rural areas, is often a centre of community activity on par with the local church. The sense of community and familiarity is the appealing part of the pub to Georgelanders - the alcohol is a bonus. Most Georgelanders have a "local" that they attend regularly. If invited to the pub by a Georgelander, always accept - it can be considered quite rude to refuse, even if you don't drink. In fact, if you don't, almost all publicans will understand and gladly provide you with a non-alcoholic alternative.
Most pubs contain a pool table or dartboard, or some other form of game, that forms a central part of the pub culture. More modern pubs, especially those in cities, also increasingly have electronic games or slot machines for patrons.
Most state governments have now passed laws segregating pubs (and restaurants and clubs) into smoking and non-smoking areas. In Santa Christina, Bradmarch and Capitalia, ordinances or statewide laws prohibit smoking in pubs entirely.
Obviously, to purchase alcohol in a pub you must be over 18 and prepared to prove it with a valid ID (usually a drivers license - a passport will do for travelers). Having said that, in most places it is legal for minors to enter pubs and order non-alcoholic beverages (though usually they have to be accompanied by an adult).
Many (but by no means all) restaurants serve alcohol. As with pubs, a valid ID must be shown if asked.
Increasingly, younger Georgelanders are eschewing the pubs for nightclubs, many of which have been known to be lax on asking for ID before selling alcohol. This behaviour is the subject of a police crack-down. Santa Christina, Doubledance and Lylecity have a particularly strong clubbing culture, but nightclubs of all kinds can be found in most major population centres (though you'll be hard-pressed to find them in rural areas). Also note that drug-taking, particularly harder drugs such as amphetamines, is on the increase in nightclubs, despite police attempts to crack down on illegal drug use.
Liquor stores, referred to as off-licenses, bottle shops or boozers (depending on region) are usually open from about mid-day until late evening. While laws governing public houses and other places that sell alcohol have been relaxed since the 1970s, allowing them to open earlier (many pubs are now open in the mornings, though they receive few patrons), liquor stores are not governed by the same laws and there are some jurisdictions that force them to stay shut until the evening. In some places, they are not permitted to open on Sundays. This is a common state of affairs in Scoita, which has strict licensing laws that prevent pubs from opening on Sundays in some places and have early closing. In most places, however, pubs and clubs remain open until the small hours of the morning most of the time.
Georgeland prides itself on the quality of its education system. University is free to every citizen, though most universities insist on taking fees from non-citizens and overseas visitors on study visas. Nonetheless, these fees are not usually prohibitive.
There are 53 universities in Georgeland, and another 64 technical colleges and specialist training schools. Georgeland is very proud of its commitment to education and overseas students will find studying in Georgeland a pleasant and rewarding experience.
Citizens of the Commonwealth (the UK, Australia, New Zealand, India, Canada etc.) will find it easier to gain a work permit. Every worker must have one, however, unless they are a citizen or a permanent resident (more than 2 years). Unemployment in Georgeland is on the rise, and many employers will prefer to take local people than overseas visitors. However, among younger travelers, it is common to find employment in the service industry, such as bars, restaurants and nightclubs.
Georgeland has a very low violent crime rate, and travelers should be safe most of the time. As always, you should observe simple common sense and do not enter situations where violence is a possibility.
Be aware that while Georgeland is tolerant, there are areas where it is not a good idea to appear to be a foreigner or of an ethnic (non-Caucasian) background. In some areas, particularly in Doubledance, racially-motivated violence is on the increase.
Avoid traveling through suburban areas at night. Usually there will not be a problem, but it is better to be safe than sorry. Most major cities are well-policed at night, and the closer you are to the city centre the safer you will be.
Keep a close eye on your valuables in train stations and airports. Pickpocketing and bag-snatching is on the increase in some areas.
Georgeland is well-policed, and local police will be able to help you if you are a victim of crime.
NEVER ATTEMPT TO BRIBE A POLICEMAN. In Georgeland, as in most Western countries, this will be regarded as extremely offensive. It is a serious crime to attempt to bribe a police officer, and you can end up in prison.
When leaving or entering Georgeland, make sure your luggage is secure - there have been reports of tourists being used as unwitting drug carriers, particularly if bound for South East Asia.
Georgeland has an excellent public health care system, and basic health care (and some other services) are free to all residents and to visitors. Most general practitioners and clinics charge fees, which are reclaimable. Public hospitals do not charge, except for elective surgery.
The National Health Service maintains hospitals, and also provides either free, or cheap, medicine to those who need it. Though it is very well-funded, the NHS is recently beginning to struggle with a shortage of doctors and nurses, who are leaving for the private system. In the cities, this is not so much a problem, but in some rural areas medical treatment can take some time, and many hospitals do not have enough staff to operate smoothly, or at all.
The private health care system prides itself on being efficient, and in recent times has become more affordable, in order to compete with the NHS. Most major cities boast several private hospitals and many clinics; in rural areas, however, it is not common to find major private health care services.
Private health insurance in Georgeland is rare, but does exist. The industry is very heavily regulated. Most private hospitals and clinics will honour overseas health insurance.
Georgeland is free from any major health concerns; the last serious epidemic was of Influenza in 1946. However, travelers should be advised to take the usual precautions, and to avoid traveling if unwell. In winter (June-August), cold and flu are common to Georgeland.
Georgeland is a very cosmopolitan and open nation, and its people have a reputation for acceptance, tolerance and hospitality. As a general rule, if show are polite and respectful, you will be treated politely and with respect. However, there are some cultural manners to be aware of when traveling in Georgeland:
- Burping is considered rude, and you should immediately apologize upon doing so. This is less necessary among young people.
- Australian travelers should be aware that if they encounter jokes or pranks directed towards them, there is nearly never malice intended and this is simply just a bit of multinational rivalry, like the rivalry between Australians and New Zealanders, and that the locals will be just as courteous and friendly as they are to anyone else.
- While religion is present in Georgeland, most Georgelanders are accepting about other faiths. Nevertheless, you should avoid talking about religion unless you know the company you are with will not take offence.
- In Scoita, the population is heavily Catholic. Contraception and even abortions are legally available there, but many people have strict views about them. Avoid discussion or inquiries of this nature.
- When entering a person's home, it is considered polite to remove your hat, gloves and jacket.
- Similarly, Georgelanders do not wear hats indoors. Head scarves or other similar items are not included in this, and may be worn freely.
- Wearing shoes indoors is also considered rude, and wearing socks is nearly mandatory, for those not wearing socks, most households have a pair of white, ankle socks for guests. This is a custom across most of the country.
- Avoid using colloquialisms or terms of familiarity with strangers - do not call them "mate" or "buddy". Many people will not mind, and indeed do the same thing, but some, particularly older people or those from conservative backgrounds, will be offended.
- When drinking, the correct way to toast is to raise your glass aloft and say "cheers", as in most Western cultures, or to say "A toast to...".
- Do not talk with your mouthful. Most Georgelanders consider this rude.
- It is considered good manners to excuse yourself when you leave the table while eating a meal.
- Georgelanders are very politically active, and political debate is a national hobby. Do not be afraid to express your political opinion, but be warned that Georgelanders take a dim view of foreigners "getting involved" in uniquely Georgeland debates and issues.
- Similarly, remember that no opinion is common to everybody. Georgeland has a reputation as a liberal, open-minded society, and that is certainly true in general terms. However, there are plenty of people who hold conservative views or are deeply concerned about the current 'liberal' climate in Georgeland. Be aware that not everybody may share the values associated with Georgeland internationally.
- A recent trend has begun in which young women (aged from about 14 to 20) behave more stereotypically 'male', particularly in relation to their sexual promiscuity. It is not uncommon at all for men to be 'hit on' by teenage girls, particularly in trendy areas. Try not to be offended, but remember: UNDERAGE SEX IS ILLEGAL IN GEORGELAND. If you accept any such advances with anybody under the age of 18 (or 16 if you are also a minor), you will be in violation of federal law, for which the penalties are quite harsh.
The national telecommunications service, Georgeland Telecom, is a government corporation and provides 99% mobile phone coverage - the only exceptions are in mountain ranges or deep wilderness where the phone cannot recieve a signal. Landline coverage is universal.
Georgeland's international internet suffix code is .ui. Internet access is widespread; Georgeland ranks 4th in the world for internet usage per capita; 76% of all homes have internet access. Georgeland is at the cutting edge of internet technology development. In 2005, the city council of Santa Christina undertook an initiative to develop wireless internet access (wi-fi) across the entire CBD, becoming the first city in the country to do so.