Respect

Albanians are very hospitable. Even more so than the rest of the Balkans, elder males expect to be shown respect on account of their age. Men of the family have to be respected in particular. Shake hands with them and do not argue about topics such as religion and politics. Certain topics are strictly taboo, although they may be fine in the United States or other countries. Homosexuality is one good example. Don't speak about gay rights, no matter what. Just remember that the situation changes a lot according to the location (village or city) and the people with whom you speak as well. Of course, in the hidden north, avoid topics that go beyond local understanding, but be sure that in Tirana you will find very cosmopolitan people that are as open to new ideas as the citizens of Western Europe. There is nothing particular to worry about; all you need to remember is to respect local people as much as you do back home.

Sometimes, if you stay for a night or so at someone's house, don't be surprised if you see a big, old AK-47 Kalashnikov staying at the wall. It's pretty normal for Albanians to keep guns in the house.


Traditions

In Albania it's common to kiss cheeks of males of your age or younger (if you are a man), even the very first time you meet them. This is especially for the regions of Fier, Tepelena, Vlora and Gjirokastra. In Northern Albania, you will simply touch each other's cheeks, but not kiss them. Women also do kiss one another, sometimes from the very first time they meet, but men and women do not kiss each in the cheek unless they are friends for a long time. Kissing cheeks between young people, 15–20 years old, is however very common. If a baby is in the family, always ask to see him or her, and don't forget to add a compliment (usually "qenka i shendetshem, me jete te gjate" or "what a sweet baby" works best). If you are a man, or a woman with a group of men, don't compliment females, unless they are under 10–12 years. If you don't speak English, but a language where "you" in singular and "you" in plural are not the same (like Italian, Greek, German, etc.), be aware that some Albanians do not use the plural form in their language. Sometimes, even the prime-minister is addressed with "ti" (you in singular, "tu" in Italian, "Du" in German or "Esi" in Greek), if the journalist is a friend of him. However, when meeting people for the first time, its better if you address them in plural, although they will shortly after ask you to address them in singular. Policemen in Albania are often polite. They usually never stop foreign cars, but if you rent a car, they may stop you. However, when they see you are a foreign tourist, they will immediately tell you to go on (usually with a "ec, ec, rruge te mbare" which can be translated in "go on, have a nice trip"). When this happens, it's very polite if you respond with a "faleminderit" (thank you in Albanian).

Albanians love dancing, especially during weddings. If you are attending a party, don't be afraid to dance! Maybe you don't know the traditional dances, but try to learn.

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