It’s been over 2 years now since my first arrival on Albanian soil and since travelling and living in Albania I have learned some hard and valuable lessons.
Here are 11 lessons I learned from living in Albania
1. I shall stare and stare and stare
If you come to Albania, particularly as a woman you will notice a tonne of staring. From the old men drinking their coffee to the Albanian grandmother guarding the world from her balcony, everyone is staring at you! But fear not, it’s not because you have salad in your teeth or that you are particularly good looking, they stare because, well actually, I still don’t fucking know why but it happens so get used it!
2. I shall never pop into a café for a quick drink ever again
One lesson I learned from my arrival into Albania is that I should never expect a quick drink. Drinking coffee is also an art form like staring. It can take hours to have a coffee here and I’m not even exaggerating. I have had coffee for over 2 hours before.
3. I shall not expect to get a whole to-do list done in one day
In most places around the world, if you have a to-do list to get some documents or maybe want to pick up a few things, don’t expect to get it all done in Albania. Things take time as I found out when applying for visas here. There’s so much bureaucracy that even a simple piece of paperwork can take 5 phone calls to someone you know to get it done quicker, a little further fee for their time and patience. Oh, I forgot to mention that most offices close at 12 or 1pm so you better be getting everything down by the middle of the day!
4. I shall never directly ask someone random for help
If you’re a foreigner living in Albania, you will 100% know what I mean by this. I don’t mean you need a boyfriend I just mean you need to know someone to get anything done. Is your washing machine broken? Ring your guy. Need to find a new balcony table? Ring your guy. Want to set up a business? You better have a guy for that one!
If I was in New Zealand and I needed to get something done I would most likely do it myself but here it works a little differently. Here, you will ring your Albanian friend (that’s your guy) and he will ring 5 other people and eventually your guy will come back to you and have a solution. I guess that’s why it takes so long to get anything done here!
5. I shall never buy olive oil unless it’s from a plastic water bottle
Olive oil is like water here! Albania is a mass producer of olive oil, which you may not have ever heard of. I still don’t understand why they don’t export it because it’s some of the best olive oil I have ever tasted. But here you do not simply go to the supermarket and get a glass bottle of olive oil. No way. Go to the local market to the stall where they don’t speak English and look for a 2-litre plastic bottle with the juicy green goodness, its olive oil and its damn good.
6. I shall not eat until I’m full but eat until I’m about to pass out
Albanians love to feed people. Food is a big part of the day and meals are eating with all the family. Having an Albanian boyfriend, we often go around to my in-laws and eat lunch or dinner there. My boyfriend’s mother and father make me eat until I want to pass out from overeating. If I don’t eat everything off my plate and then some, they think I’m sick or something.
7. I shall not get offended about weight comments
Bless the Albanian, they are very honest but maybe a bit too honest. They will say anything that comes to their mind. So, if you have gained a little or lost a little weight then they will tell you. In my culture it’s an offensive to comment on someone’s weight. If you did this, you would probably never be forgiven! But here I have learned (and am still learning to be honest) that weight comments are not offensive in their eyes and it should be taken as motivation and not offensive. It’s great when you have lost some weight but not so much if you have gained it!
8. I shall always use raki as a cure for everything
Raki is the local alcoholic drink that is pretty much the cure to anything. I have seen it used in the local hospital as an anti-septic. It’s made from grapes but also can be made from plums, peaches, any fruit in fact! It is also VERY strong. The alcoholic content can range from 35%-80% and because it’s home made you never know how strong it really is.
Do you have a sore throat? Gargle raki
Do you have a heart break? Drink raki
Did you chop your finger off whilst cooking? Drink raki and pour raki on the wound
You will see in the mornings the older men with a coffee cup and a small glass which may look like water but probably isn’t! The older men drink a shot of raki for their health.
9. I shall get used to never being able to speak the language
The Albanian language ‘Shqip’ is extremely hard for a foreigner to learn. Nothing makes sense, well to me anyway. They have approximately 500 ways to say one sentence. There are words that’s sound very similar to me; for example, fish and peach sound very similar. I have been in a café where I asked for peach juice but really, I was asking for fish juice. Safe to say that I really made everyone’s day that day, the café was filled with laughter. I have also found that words and sentences I have learned from one Albanian is wrong to another Albanian. It seems I will never master the Albanian language!
10. I shall drive in Albania if I want a real-life dose of grand theft auto
Yes, driving in Albania is something I have refused to do so far and probably something I will never do here. You know those things that the government puts to keep everyone safe? I think they are called rules, yeah, they don’t apply here. Well they do but also, they don’t. Everyone is for themselves on the roads of Albania so sometimes it can seem like a game of grand theft auto. Oh also, did I mention that if your hazard lights are working you can pretty much park anywhere you frickin’ want. You can even double park on the busiest street to duck into and get souvlaki and leave a mere 1cm between your car, the car you’ve double-parked on, and oncoming traffic, no problem!
11. I shall use ‘Avash Avash’ as an excuse for everything
‘Avash Avash’ translates to slowly slowly. I have learned that you can pretty much apply this to everything. If you haven’t done something you were supposed to do, its okay, no problem – Avash Avash! Speaking of Avash Avash, it just took me 2 months to get one part for my washing machine door fixed. Need I say more.
Living in Albania has its quirks as you can see from above! I absolutely love living here and I find it so fascinating the differences between Albanian culture and everyone else! Tell me below which lesson you laughed at the most!
Other articles you will love:
- South Albania Itinerary: 10 Days in the Albanian Riviera!
- Albania Travel Guide for First Timers: Everything You Need to Know!
- Cost of Living in Albania as a Tourist
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