10 Albanian Habits That Are Making Me A Rude American

For “Part 2″ of my Albanian habits, click here.

When you find yourself living in a new environment–particularly one drastically different from where you previously lived–it’s really easy to slowly, subtly acquire traits that mimic what you see around you without even noticing it. Because I live in Albania now, I have started to “become Albanian” in many ways: the way that I cross the street, the way I order at restaurants, the way I walk, the way I look (i.e. WEAR ALL THE LIPSTICKS), but especially the way that I communicate. However, a lot of these habits are not only things I would never do in America but behavior that is bizarre or even rude back home. So, if and when I move back, I’m in for lots of dirty looks and funny glances:

A perfectly-executed finger wag, if I do say so myself

A perfectly-executed finger wag, if I do say so myself

1. Finger wagging: Developing this habit is an absolute necessity here. I first discovered this when I started catching furgons from my training site to our hub city. Drivers would pull up to me and yell, “TIRANA? TIRANA?” and I would yell back, “JO!” (“NO!”) But the driver would keep asking “TIRANA? TIRANA?” I witnessed this happening with Albanians, and instead of replying verbally, they would simply raise their index finger and wag it in a sassy back-and-forth motion. The finger wag doesn’t just mean no, it means “NO. MOVE ON WITH YOUR LIFE.” And sure enough, every time I wag my finger, whoever is bothering me turns away.

2. “Tsk”-ing: In addition to the finger wag, there is a little clicking noise Albanians make with their tongue that is a substitute for “no.” It is a little less intense than the finger wag, but is still a denial. A finger wag paired with a “tsk” means “NOT A CHANCE, BRO.”

3. Constantly interrupting/talking over others: My students are really bad about this and I try to discourage them from doing it, but while you can take a teenager out of Albania, you can’t take the Albanian out of a teenager. In many cases, you can’t get a word in edgewise if you’re talking to an Albanian person unless you cut them off or just attempt to speak louder than they are. So, unfortunately, I’ve had to adapt and start yelling over others’ voices in crowded rooms and during heated conversations or be forced to remain silent.

4. Lack of please’s and thank you’s: Albanians tease me all the time about how overly polite I am. It’s a dead giveaway that I’m a foreigner. If it’s a simple transaction, like ordering a drink or paying for a furgon ride, Albanians tend to skip the pleasantries and simply say, “macchiato” with a short glance at the waiter when they want a coffee, or “merre” (“take it”) when they’re ready for the driver to collect their money. I actually don’t mind this habit so much because I think we overuse pleasantries in America, and here in Albania when someone says “thank you” to me, I know that they are genuinely expressing gratitude.

5. Shaking my head “no” when I’m trying to say “yes”: People I’ve Skyped with have noticed this. In Albania, shaking your head from side to side means “yeah, I get it,” instead of nodding your head up and down like we do in America. This movement is so natural for me now that I don’t even notice it anymore, so when I’m listening to an American in person or abroad via video chat describe how to deep-fry a turkey or whatever, I’m rapidly shaking my head as they’re speaking. Not because I’m opposed to deep-frying anything that has the potential to be deep-fried, but because the American in me is very, very lost.

6. Snapping at waiters: Over half of the time I spend out and about in Albania is in coffee bars with friends and colleagues. Once you order a drink and it is brought to you, you’re lucky if you’ll ever see the waiter again. If you want to pay the bill and get out of there, you have to act like a snob and snap at him to get his attention. I feel like I’m some stuck-up wench in an old movie when I do it, but at the same time it’s kind of a nice break from the contrived, over-the-top, tip-pandering service culture in America. (How about just paying people a decent living wage, guys???)

7. “EY!”: I’m not sure if this is something only people at my site do, or if it’s the case with all Albanians, but my counterpart is REALLY good at it. To get someone’s attention, especially in a hectic situation with lots of distractions, people just grunt, “EY!” at each other. I’ve heard it so many times that I’ve begun to do it myself, of course, particularly when I’m in class. Sometimes I’ll accidentally do it to an American, though–either another Volunteer or a friend or family member online–and they stare at me in shock, offended by my crassness. Oops.

8. Cutting in line: This is one Albanian habit that still makes American Me ABSOLUTELY CRAZY even though, like the others, I’ve been forced to adapt to it. One of my least favorite things to do is paying my bills at the post office, because the guy there is really mean and makes fun of my Shqip, but also because there’s about ten people there at a time and they all just shove their way in front of you no matter how long you’ve been standing there waiting. The more time passes and the more people cut me, the feistier I get, until before I know it I’m throwing a poor old gjyshe to the ground so I can slip the utility guy my booklet between the elbows of two men griping that they haven’t received their invalid allotments yet.

9. Staring at people who look different: When I first came to Albania, I was appalled by how many people–men in particular–shamelessly stared at me everywhere I went. I could feel their eyes on me at all times, and for about a month I was terrified and intimidated by it. That was before I learned, however, that 1) it’s normal for men to stare at women, however unfortunate that behavior may be, and 2) it was largely because I was new in town AND I looked super American with my backpack and my Merrell sneakers and my Nalgene bottle. Nowadays, because I’m so used to everything here and everyone is more or less used to me, I find myself doing the exact same thing when I see somebody who sticks out! On a coffee date with a friend, I might spot some tourists and burst out: “SEE THOSE PEOPLE OVER THERE?!! They’re wearing backpacks and hiking shoes! Do you think they’re American?! Do you think they speak English?!” And we watch them go by, whispering excitedly, as the foreigners shake their heads and say, “Albanians are so rude, staring at us like that…”

10. Asking overly personal questions the first time I meet someone: I kinda hate myself for developing this habit. When Albanians first meet you, one of the first things they want to know (other than “Why did you leave America to come to this God-forsaken place???”) is if you’re married, engaged, have a “lover,” or single. It’s totally normal to climb into a furgon, sit next to the driver, and have him ask you, “A je e martuar?” (“Are you married?”) before he even knows your name. Sometimes it’s because they’re interested, sometimes it’s because they want to set you up with someone, but most of the time it’s just because they’re curious. (Imagine how much easier this would make dating in America: you go up to somebody at a bar and ask, “So, what’s your deal? You engaged, or what?”) I once met a woman who works at the Town Hall in Kavajë, and during a lull in conversation, I asked her, “So, are you married?” She then looked at the ground and muttered, “No.” And yeah, I hated myself a little bit for it, because all I could think about were the times when ladies at church would ask me if I had a boyfriend.

I’m already dreading having to re-integrate back into America. RPCVs say that the reverse culture shock is harder than leaving your home country and integrating into a new one. Some days I simply say that I’ll just never leave. But then I remember that there’s bacon, central heating, and orderly lines at the post offices in America and it seems a whole lot more appealing.

About these ads

98 responses to “10 Albanian Habits That Are Making Me A Rude American

  1. Pingback: 10 Albanian Habits That Are Making Me A Rude American | Holy Shqip Xhilli is in Albania·

  2. #8: Lines. I had to learn there are no lines in Albania because that is “communist”. I had to get over my knee-jerk reaction when people hovered around me as I put in my ATM pin number. Privacy, what’s that?! When the insanity is normal, that’s when you know you’ve integrated into the culture.

    • yes!!! that’s another thing I forgot, people getting in your “bubble” all the time. there is no concept of personal space here.

      • Haha – I was born in Albania, and when I was a kid, not only did people respect lines, you could literally leave a bag/or whatever object and come back whenever and people would just move it down the line for you so you wouldn’t miss your turn. This disrespect for lines is the most unfortunate Italian influence/backlash to communism, but it is very different depending on the region. But I think it will go away – Albanians are obsessed with rules (really!)
        The only thing I HAVE to correct you on is #3, because I learned that the hard way. When I started visiting Albania, I’d get in huge fights with my family because they considered it rude, when I asked someone to clarify something mid conversation. I’d ask, and I would get ignored completely! They do NOT interrupt people – WE do! Turns out, you have to wait till a person is done speaking before you can make a sound, but I can never figure that out. Albanian etiquette is very complicated, and very subtle.

  3. Kat, you are so cute! You are so awesome! I wish I had the guts you do, to go to a foreign country! Have fun and be safe friend!

  4. I’m live in Oregon too. I’d just like to remind you that it is December and while there are lines at our post offices, they can be just as aggressive, disorderly, and dangerous ;)

  5. These are not exclusive Albanian habits, don’t be surprised if you encounter these in South Italy, Greece or France,…….or in all the Mediterranean.
    And I love Mediterranean stuff, from the olives to minding others’ business.

  6. Yes there are a lot of rude people/behaviors in Albania, but that usually comes from uneducated people. The educated people are a lot more polite and a pleasure to talk to. Unfortunately not everyone in Albania has the fortune to attend college and older people probably didn’t even go to high school. Uneducated people are rude and display bad behaviors in every country. Albania just like any other country won’t change until their education system changes.

    • Thanks for your comment! You are absolutely right. I actually don’t consider Albanians–educated or otherwise–to be rude because now that I live here, I understand that the culture is different and what is considered rude to Americans is considered normal here. The point I was trying to make is that when I go back to America I will have new habits that might make me seem strange to other Americans just as my American habits here make me seem strange to Albanians. I find most Albanians–educated or uneducated–to be a pleasure to talk to :)

  7. The problem with cutting lines was developed during the communist problematic decades, when food was rationed and yet you could not take what you was entitled to. If one shop covered one neighborhood and they had 5000 frozen chickens to give to 5000 families with 5000 food stamps, the government was only able to provide 2000. So only the first 2000 guys would actually take a chicken for the next two weeks even if they had the stamp. Politeness would keep your stomach empty. It continued for so long that it became a habit. A very ugly habit that I hate about my country, along with the millions of other things that I love.

    • I haven’t heard this about communism before. Thanks for your comment. But I’m with you, this is one thing about Albania that I can’t stand among SO many things I love.

      • I was very young but I remember that time. They say it was that worse only in those last years before the collapse, but those are the years I actually remember. Especially in cities, cause farmers in villages could secretly grow their own. Not only because there wasn’t enough supply, but because drivers who transported them would steal food, or even factory producers. Everything went out of control with every product, meat, milk, sausage or even gas for the stove.

        Our retired grandparents who didn’t have to go to work would wake up at 3 or 4 am and go to the milk store, like Americans do today for the newest iPhone. Old people were polite in queues. If they had to go somewhere, they used to let a piece of stone to identify their place in the queue and other old people would respect that. “The red brick is mine, the white pebble is of that woman with the grey hair, the rusty tin is of that man with the brown jacket, etc.”

        But when young boys would wake up at 8:00, they weren’t as polite and didn’t respect the stones and tins of old people. They’d push and even jump on people’s heads. I remember once when my mom came after work with me, and she found out that they were distributing sausage, just 300 miserable grams for each family. God knew when there would be another opportunity like that, because all they were bringing in abundance was vegetables and bread. I was playing around the shop with the other kids like me, who were waiting for their parents. Playing around shops with kids you didn’t know was a common playground for us in those years, because the queue could take hours.

        When the shop finally opened we heard screams of women being squashed and old ladies shouting that they were not respecting their red bricks and pebbles, and one guy actually walked on people’s heads to reach the counter and threatened the shopkeeper to give it to him first. My mother gave up immediately and came out of the queue, all red in her face and very angry. We watched as the stronger guys took their rations first, and in a few minutes it was over, all finished. Then the shopkeeper had saved some rations under the counter for the people she knew, but we didn’t know her. So we went home, no sausage. After a few hours I told my mom I could smell sausage being cooked from our neighbors.

        Old people today, and even my mother, say sausage in communism was so good, unlike today, that the entire neighborhood could smell it if one house was cooking. But I believe that the smell was distinctive because it was rare. Like when you stop taking coffee and you smell it when you walk near bars.

        My mother was so angry when I said that I could smell sausage being cooked from our neighbors, that she stopped doing whatever she was doing, she took me me with her and we went to her parents’ house. She asked them if they had got any sausage from the queues. They didn’t, but my grandparents had a phone. We didn’t have a phone at our home. They called my mom’s sister and asked if she had been able to get any in her neighborhood. She said yes. She had only one child and so she arrived as quickly as she could, together with her daughter, and gave me half of that goddamn 300 grams of sausage. It’s not that I cried or even asked to eat sausage, but my mother had made such a big deal out of it, just because I said I smelled it, that I and my cousin had to eat it slowly to show appreciation, as they watched us smiling.

        Anyway, it was 20 years ago and there’s no justification today for cutting in lines. It is just a lack of education in this area.

      • I do remember that time in Albania.. I was about 14-15 years old . It was a very difficult and scary time. To this day it is so hard to forget those desperate faces waiting in line at the store for a loaf of bread that a family would try and make it last for over a week.

  8. As for the asking of personal things, please know that is something that is disappearing. Albanians of my age and under (29) don’t use them anymore and we are as bothered as you when they ask us. I think that this was one of those habits that is created because of life in small and closed communities where everyone knows each other. Our parents do a lot of stuff that we, the young Albanians, do not do anymore.

    • You are right. This is much more common with the older generation of Albanians. I’ve noticed a lot of differences between older and younger people here, and I know that the youth in Albania will make it a better place.

      • The *youth* will make it a better place? I think it’s the exact opposite, the younger people are beginning to lose appreciation for older values and respect for elders, they’re being influenced by all the negative qualities brought on by sudden western contact and media at a startling rate. The thing that has kept the Albanian people together for centuries is that we constantly acknowledge our heritage and shared lineage, something that no other nationality has felt so strongly about in my experience. Unfortunately, it is being threatened by the desire to conform to the rest of the “modern” world.

    • Hey Kate and Albanian! It’s getting late here in Seattle and I’m supposed to be snoring by now, but you guys had me learning some interesting Albanian stuff, and so I can’t help but cut here between your messages, to say ‘Thank you’ to both of you! After wondering all night why I kept reading all the depressing news, and wondering some more what I’m really looking for in the news that I’ve been trying to avoid reading, and still looking for something to de-depress. But I think I found it and this is it. All these, articles, stories, comments, are all so refreshing. I already feel like I’m in Albania, at present, and even some years in the past. It’s like you both are here talking to me, telling me stories. I can relate very well as I love more being with simple folks in the country (than with smart city ‘owls’ [don't know of better description]) . I wish I can meet you both someday. Thank you guys for making my night, I can sleep better now. Good night/ day everyone!

    • She looked so Albanian I had to look a few times. I personally don’t mind when people ask if you are married, engaged, have kids, who your parents are, where you are from… It opens conversations and you make friends. In USA I literally just watched my local news, this woman had been dead for 6 years in her garage and they just found her body. Nobody cares, neighbors do not even say hello.

      I would NEVER in a milion years trade the childhood I had in Albania. Just the food alone is heavenly.

      By the way, EY is an Albanian thing. It’s how you get someones attention. Even if you know their name you say EY BOB. It’s HOW you say it that shows how you mean it. I still use it with Americans. I can’t shake it. When I go back & say thank you to the waiter they look at me like I’m stupid. They see it at it’s their job & yes if you say SORRY & THANK YOU you actually mean it.

      Have fun. I wish one day the world can derstand how meaningful that small county and it’s people are and have been for the human civilication. We are ancient and I am so proud to be Albanian.

      • I am from Elbasan living in Tirana (maybe we’re from the same town, since you chose the nickname Skampa), and in the first three years of university here in Tirana I used to travel in furgons to Elbasan every Friday and turn back to Tirana every Monday morning or Sunday afternoon for school. You have no idea how many times I have been interrogated like that in furgons by complete strangers. Sometimes it went for good, cause I came to know very interesting people who I kept meeting in the future and even helped each other out. Sometimes they were boring and I wish they didn’t start the conversation at all. However, now it is changing a lot. There’s a huge gap between generations. I think that the reason why this looks normal to Albanians is because communities are so small and no matter where you are from, if you make enough questions to the stranger you’ll always find someone that you both know. If you have a common friend or acquaintance, conversations are much easier and it is as if that friend has introduced you without even being there. It’s like;
        -I’m from Elbasan. Where are you from?
        -I’m from Lushnja.
        -Oh, my mother’s aunt is married to a man from Lushnja.
        -Really? What’s his name?
        -Filan Fisteku.
        -Hmmm, where does he work?
        -He has a shop near the stadium.
        -Oh… yes, I’ve worked with his first cousin at a bar. They’re such a good family.
        -Cool. Yes, they are.
        It always ends up like this, and when it ends like this, it’s almost as you are no strangers anymore, and they’re allowed to make further questions, like “are you married” to have a better idea who they are talking to and what to talk about. If you’re married, they can talk about kids. If you’re not married, they can talk about their life before being married. Albanians hate being on the same seat and have nothing to talk about. It’s good to a certain point, but it’s also bad. For example I will never forget a 72 year old man that entertained me the entire road with very wise comments, after we started our conversation like this. He told me wise things that I still remember. But on the other hand, there was a very boring guy that after a talk in the furgon considered himself my friend even if I tried to avoid him.

        However, things are changing in Tirana and in big cities like Durres, Elbasan or Vlore, but they are changing much sower in smaller communties like Kavaja.

      • I agree with you 100%. If you read some of my other posts, I talk about how “cold” American culture is compared to Albania. I really do love the way that Albanians have accepted me into their community and I think it’s often a good thing. But it’s definitely different than what I am used to being American!

        You should be proud to be Albanian. This is a wonderful country and I feel lucky to be here.

      • LOVE LOVE LOVE your comment. You expressed my feelings exactly. Foreigners can apprecaite our hospitality, and loyalty to friends and family, but rarely can they understand the incredible beauty of our land, its culture, and its people. I count the days till I return home every other summer.

      • If I could change anything About current Albanian culture is: make the younger generation realize that speaking Albanian and keeping our culture is very dire. We have a tendency to be very accepting of other languages & that is a good thing that we know so many languages HOWEVER, we need to keep our IDENTITY & Culture. USA, FRANCE, ITALY.. They do not use foreign words in their dictionary. Because they keep their countries identity. Spanish is very huge in the states & they still don’t want to assimilate into mainstream society.

        We watch Albanian TV every day & we HATE it when they use English words when they speak. We have fought so hard to create a community so far from Albania that preserves our language and culture for future generations. We are very proud here.

        When we first came here I fell IN LOVE with muzikën popullore. I
        appreciate it so much and it makes me so happy when I listen to it. I have both of my traditional costumes Belshi & Elbasani. When I wear my Grandmothers costume I feel like I will always have her with me.

      • >USA, FRANCE, ITALY.. They do not use foreign words in their dictionary.

        This is, maybe, the most incorrect thing I have ever heard. You speak English.. Do you have any idea how many loan words the English language has?

      • Hi Kate, Albanian, Skampa, etc, let me interject again, (please!). I’m enjoying reading your conversation here too much that I’m still here instead of being in bed by now at midnight here. Kate, you just said the word that described the ‘cold’ situation or life here in America when you mention ‘how cold the American culture is compared to others’. (You just answered the question I haven’t asked, like what I’m missing when I thought I’m a very friendly person). I guess it all balances out. You guys are fortunate to see the good in both and to experience and be enriched with them. Thank you again for being here,

  9. 10. Asking overly personal questions the first time I meet someone

    That means you’re just nosy not Albanian.

    • Unfortunately, you’re both right and wrong on this one. If you live in a big city like Tirana, most of the people have changed and they don’t make personal questions. If you live in smaller towns, they still find this normal and not nosy for the reasons I explained in the other comment, answering to user Skampa.

      In the apartment building where I live people don’t even greet you like they do in Elbasan, just because you’re their neighbor. It’s boring sometimes because you feel completely transparent, as if you didn’t existed. There’s a man I often take the elevator with, and he always asks me “what floor”, without even looking at my face, but staring the constantly changing numbers. Even the next day he will make the same question, as if he didn’t even notice me the day before. At first it kind of made me feel he hated me for some reason.

      But the good thing is that you can bring whoever you want in your apartment and wear whatever you want when you go out, and you will not feel judged as in your hometown where everyone knows you, where they know your parents and even the grandparents have played together as kids.

      The only explanation I can give why people are not as nosy in Tirana, (especially the young ones and newcomers from other towns) it’s because more than half of Tirana are not natives and they don’t stay for too long in the same rented apartment, and because there are more jobs and more things to do around the city, and this makes people don’t stay in the neighborhood for too long. Imagine I had a coworker and only after six months I learned that we lived in the same building, when it was raining and the company car dropped us home at the same place. I had never seen him around the neighborhood cause I never stayed there. I went to work at eight, go out with friends after work in downtown and come at night to sleep.

      I have changed apartments so often in these 12 years in Tirana, that I have never had time to get to know my neighbors. When I have made the mistake to get to know them better, I have felt I was being judged for my choices the same as I did in Elbasan. That’s why I do not even greet my neighbors in the elevator anymore, just stare at the floor numbers. I don’t want to create friends I don’t need, and it’s easy, because they don’t want to know me either.

      The bad thing is that in case of an emergency I have no one I can trust or I can ask a favor to. I can’t even knock for a lighter for my cigarette if the shop is closed, and I cannot ask someone to help me with a heavy furniture. I have to pay for everything. But this is not the case in old neighborhoods of Tirana. People there are the same as in other towns.

    • db, you made me laugh! Thanks! We know what Kate means, though. Where I came from, for example, asking some personal (not overly personal) questions means one is interested in me and wants to know me better, so maybe, we can be better friends and not just acquaintances. In other cultures, just one personal question is almost tantamount to personal intrusion. It’s the culture I’ve been immersed for a while now but you guys are reminding me what I’m missing. Thanks again! See…

    • I never said finger wagging was offensive, but it is something unique to Albania that foreigners like me might not be used to. And I don’t know if you’ve ever lived in America or only seen it in movies, but raising your middle finger is definitely not the norm.

      • Well I live in America and in a state that is very friendly compared to bigger states/cities and if you drive around for about 30 mins you will have at least 3 people raise their middle finger towards you not because you are a bad driver but because everyone is hurrying to go nowhere important.:)

  10. Culture and religions plays a big role on understanding the difference between people and more we travel more we except their life style.

  11. Hi Kate,
    Kudos to you for taking the initiative to dive into a different culture. I have recently returned to Albania ( after living in the US for more than 10 years) and am still having a hard time getting used to some of our customs. l live in Tirana so if you ever want to meet and hang out, my email is velona@hotmail.com. Best, ELona

  12. This is so much fun,and a bit sad.Us albanians can be very strange,and according to me we’re not even trying to change. I’m sorry you’ve had to experience some of those things though.Good luck on your albanian adventure :)

      • Hi Kate,
        i am Albanian, and now i do live in Toronto Canada from 13 years and travel very often to USA.
        To me maybe you are having that experience some where nobody’s land ( village).
        As you may know in any country including yours there are different level of education. I may tell you that middle finger it is common in your highways and more.
        Albania as you know have beautiful city’s and beautiful people including those with less education or lower manners but they are friendly and on top of hill they are were nice and treat people like you in special way.
        Come to Chicago, New York or Texas with me and i will show how “nice” are people there and what kind of manners they have.
        I am pretty sure in that small village where people maybe give you the best room and feed you with best food they told you : in Albania it is not nice to eat the food and spit in table
        wish you well there

  13. Reddit brought me here – always pleasant to find Americans discovering my home country. Kind of like the first time I heard a Chinese man speak perfect albanian, I still can’t get over foreigners spending substantial time there – takes some getting used to. Glad you’re approaching it with the right attitude, we need more westerners understanding that it’s more than a backward anomaly; wonderful people live here and if you enjoy experiencing other cultures you will have a good time. Keep on keeping on.

  14. Hi Kate!

    I’ve lived in Albania for almost 12 years. I’ve been married to my Albanian husband for over 5 years and we have four daughters. Your list made me laugh out loud! The “tsk”ing was the big one for me when I’d visit my family back home. They’d have no idea what I was doing. We live far more like Albanians that we do like Americans, so I’m sure my habits seem really strange to people back home. With your permission, I’d like to share your blog with friends and family back home. We’re heading back to N.America this year for a lengthy sabbatical and this list might help my friends/family understand why I’m acting so strange!

    • Thanks for reading and thanks for your comment Amie! I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Please feel free to share :)

  15. Most of the things you listed are things that are very offensive in Albanian culture. It’s not being Albanian that’s making you rude, it is your upbringing.

  16. I don’t know here you have got all these exaggeration. Clearly to some extent they are attitudes that are found everywhere else in the world. It is not good to make prejudices of this kind when you live in a country that you stay willingly not by force. If such attitudes make you fill bad, you better leave, but please don’t spread this bad attitude of an American living abroad. Don’t pretend to make USA in my country please

    • Please do not misunderstand me. I have made it clear in other posts that I love Albania, but cultural differences are a reality that every foreigner in any country has to face. I do not believe that all Albanians are rude, but there is social behavior that exists that is different from my home country. If you believe that I am prejudiced, please read my post “The Cold War Never Ended” where I talk about how others stereotype Albanians and how it is not accurate and not okay.

    • Mimoza, although I love the fact that Albanians are finally protecting Albania on the internet, this is not the case. I myself am a hunter of those who diss Albania and I appreciate your feeling, but Kate is simply telling things from her point of view for the Albanian community she has seen most of the time. If you read her other posts, she has been a visitor to other places, but she has stayed mostly in small communities. And that’s how they behave. Certainly, not all Albanians behave like that, especially the younger ones in bigger communities, but there is where most of Albanians live, and Albanians are not only those young ones. If you want to defend Albanians on the internet, which I really appreciate and would love to see more frequently, please look for famous shows like Top Gear,


      who have millions of views and who have treated us as a country where people only steal cars, where everything goes around mafia, and they even pretend we use Serbian cars. There are plenty of other unfair comments and exaggerations around the internet about us, but this really is not the case.


      • I don’t understand your advocacy role in my comment to the person that published this article. As for the Top Gear thing have watched and don’t believe it gives the reality instead only the bad things and no intention on that video to tell anything nice about the country.
        My point on the article of the lady that wrote on her experience on Albania was to say that attitudes found here don’t make her bad American, unless she likes to embrace them. and (as i noticed she is part of peace corps group) she brought nothing nice on the article not that there are no nice things, but it makes me think that is intentional. this is a perception that unfortunately is created for Albania from such misguiding information of persons of this kind. I think this article is purposely negative and I find it very judgmental which is unfair in my opinion.
        All my life I am working with many different nationalities (Europeans and American’s) and I can say I find many of their attitudes discussing, but that does not affect me of making me worst Albanian. And to say that attitudes (which may be cultural difference or even bad attitude) another nation makes a person worst American I find it unacceptable as Albanian.
        I won’t go further on my comment, because I find it unfortunately unproductive. I hope this lady enjoys her time in my country as she came voluntarily

  17. I totally understand what you’re saying. It’s not that Albanians are rude, it’s that there are things that are fine in Albanian culture that are rude in US / UK culture. But of course it works the other way round, too – my Albanian husband was disgusted when my Scottish uncle blew his nose at the dinner table! Social death ;)

  18. No ofence to everyone thats why we all are different, diferent cultures different nations, different habits,we can learn from each other and find the best way to go around thinks. We dont have to be all the same

  19. I read the article with great entertainment… and the only thing stuck on my Albanian mind is: Are you married or not!? :) Don’t leave things hanging, we hate that :p

  20. For me, it was driving that was crazy when I returned. I was driving so aggressive when I returned to America. Family and friends did not want to ride with me because I drove like an Albanian.

    • When James Belushi visited Albania, he said something funny: “I had always thought I was a bad driver. I was just an Albanian driver”. lol

  21. I strongly disagree with “Shaking my head “no” when I’m trying to say “yes”: “Staring at people who look different” is a small town mentality. (take a trip to Iowa you’ll realize that right away). I understand that having 10 habits makes it sound more important, but you could have done 8 and probably would have been more accurate.


  22. Most of what you said are not Albanian habits… you’re just rude the way it is. Don’t justify your self with this.

  23. The title of this article is very offensive. You could have chosen a different title but you did not care. How about if someone that lives in US writes “10 American things that make me a rude Albanian.” I am sure you would not like it. Next time, put yourself in the shoes of an Albanian and I am sure you will edit before you post.

    • oh for sure we can write more than 10, when I lived in US me and my other friend from Europe we had count more then 10 “typical American” that made us pissed of with the people from US we had to work for. What about Americans helps u just if they need your help, if u don’t have nothing to help them they don’t care what happens with u, in Albania we do help without asking for any favor back. And we have our culture, good or bad for you this is ours.

  24. I’m an Albanian that moved to the States a couple of years ago and although some of the things you mentioned are true, they vary from region to region. For example, in my family is very rude to say EY to someone. However, the head shaking thing is very true. When I moved to US I didn’t speak English and I would shake my head for yes and nod for no. It created a lot of confusion for my teachers and myself.

  25. I’m an Albanian, born and raised in Vlore. I read your article with pleasure, and a little nostalgy to be honest. There’s just some things that I miss, and people wouldn’t understand them here in Texas, or Everywhere else I’ve been in the USA.

    I’d like to make a few corrections though.

    As far as #1 I actually still use it here too. Not as often, but I still do. I like how you described it.
    As far as #2 or the “TSK” isn’t supposed to mean “no chance” it’s supposed to mean just “No”. Usually when you’re multitasking and someone asks you a closed end question. If you wanna answer no, you just say “tsk”.
    #3 Usually people do not interrupt unless they’re adding something funny to your story, or an event, or a factor that would make it better ( yes that is interruption, but not for bad, or to cut you off ) the only time that someone will cut you off, is when you’re saying something without interest, or boring. People do that everywhere around the world actually.
    #4 I’m not sure where you’ve noticed this, however when it’s not that drastic. It really depends where you’re at and who you’re with. People will judge you instantly.
    #5 The funny head shake ( how my friends called it here until they’d get used to it. Fun stories ) if you pay close attention, when someone wants to say yes, they will shake their head horizontally very quick. If they want to say no, they shake it slower, usually with a face expression sticking to it.
    #6 I haven’t noticed anyone snap as bad as you describe it in quite some years ( early highschool ). Of course, there will be rude people snapping, but honestly I’ve noticed that here in Texas too, where people are way nicer than most of the other states I’ve been in !!
    #7 EY is supposed to be hey, the illiterate spell it EY or OU ( OU and ohuu are different ) I still use the Hey with my coworkers, they’ve gotten used to it, and they use it on me now !
    #8 Not sure how you’ve noticed this, but honestly people won’t cut in line there, they’ll more than likely let you go ahead, especially with you looking a little different and not speaking Albanian as a native. The only people that would try to cut in line are elder people, which honestly I don’t blame them. Compared to here, they don’t have as much commodities to pay bills etc.
    #9 well, that’s just how it is. People will check you out when they feel like you’re different. Although, in the last couple of years that I’ve traveling back home, I haven’t noticed that trend as much. Maybe because I mind my own business !
    #10 that’s something people really need to work on. It’s just too awkward. It’s ok when my mom asks me if I’ve got a girlfriend, but it’s very awkward when the neighbor comes upstairs to see me, and the first thing they ask is : So, when are we going to eat the “Llokume”.

    Fairly good article though, I enjoyed it.

  26. This is 100% true!! Lol I died laughing. Everytime I land back home, immidietly I’m shocked at how loud people are! It definitely takes time to get adjusted to the life style.

    • Actually, I thought Americans were known around the world for being loud. In fact, there have been times when I have seen American tourists in Tirana speaking very loudly even for our standards. Anyway, America is too big, and I also don’t think being loud is a characteristic of Albanians. Italians are the same and Tirana is full of them, you can hear them in every bar. And they also love to interrupt, same as us. Especially when they talk in their TV shows, they never leave their opponent to speak. It might be a Southern European thing


    • THANK YOU Erin! It really was not my intention to offend anybody :( I love Albania, and Albanians, but it’s ridiculous to pretend that the culture here is the same as everywhere else because these 10 things–among others–are a reality that I have had to adjust to. I’m glad you enjoyed it!

      • Hi Kate, I enjoyed your comments about my country. I used to live in Chicago, IL but I have relocated to Vancouver, Canada. I left Albania 15 years ago and I went back only two years ago only to visit.
        I have to say that the habits that you describes about my people are true. However It is true also that we Albanians blend more than any other culture when working in the west. I guess we know how to adapt and leave behind behavior that is not common on our new homes.
        At the same time I hope you had the chance to visit an Albanian family, take part on an Albanian weeding:)
        If you did I am sure that you must have been impressed by Albanian hospitality. Perhaps you should have mention that too.
        So after all it blend to the same question…
        Are you married or getting married anytime soon:)


      • Maybe its because we want so much to be like Americans that we get offended when we aren’t. Nice blog post. You are cute.

      • If it’s this, why did u write …making me a rude american ?? I do all of those that u write it cuz i am an Albanian , but it doesn’t make me even rude Albanian, all the people i know and I work with knows about it and they just laugh with me, they don’t think i’m rude, and not everyone ask personal question, more then 8 month and i don’t have idea about the personal life of the people I work with. And yes, I interrupt people sometimes cuz or they are saying something stupid , or something they don’t know well, or they are talking for someone that is not present and talking bullshit , or i have to say something funny to broke the ice..

  28. Number 5 is not true. It should be the opposite. Shaking your head from side to side means “No”, It means “Yes” in Bulgaria, but not in Albania.

  29. As for the lack of “thank you” and “te lutem”, although it is true that there is a lack of good service in small communities, we have to make it clear that they don’t say “thank you” not because they think that waiters are there to serve you and that’s it. It’s because waiters in small communities don’t do what waiters in big cities do, which is using “te befte mire”, a word that immediately forces you to say “thank you”. When they say “te befte mire” after they have served it, (they all say it where I live), you are considered extremely rude in Albania if you don’t say “faleminderit” or “rrofsh”. But if the waiter doesn’t say that to you, he is not being polite to you. When that happens, I wait a few moments for him to say “te befte mire”, and if he goes without saying it, I murmur “faleminderit” just for the habit, without willing to say it.

    I also want to make clear the lack of “please”, cause I have thought about it before and I have discussed it with some friends long ago and we thought it is actually a language confusion even for Albanians themselves. I hope I will be clear enough with my English for people who might read it, to understand what I mean. I have good knowledge in Albanian, as for profession, but not in English. :)

    Albanians have other words and methods for being polite in saying “please”, without using the translated version of the exact word “please”, i.e “faleminderit”, which is actually not a natural word in Albanian. Now let me explain this.

    To say “please”, Our natural method is by using the words “pak”, “a little bit”, or “po te desh qejfi”, which means “if you’re willing to”, with an adequate tone of voice.

    For example, if one stands in your way, unaware that he is blocking your path on a bus and you want to go through, you say “Mund te kaloj pak?” “Can I go through a little bit”? That “little bit” is the equivalent of “Can I go through, please?”, and it is accompanied with an adequate tone of voice. If you don’t say “a little bit”, it’s the same as if you don’t say “please”, and that makes you rude in Albania, same as it makes you rude in America if you don’t use “please”.

    If your request is bigger than just moving away to free the path, but it might take the other person to do something more bothering, we ad “po te desh qejfi”. For example, if someone has parked his car and blocked the way for you to carry a furniture through that space, and if he is having a coffee in a bar nearby, to make him take the effort to move the car and get up from his coffee table, we use both “pak” and “po te desh qejfi”, like: “Mund ta levizesh pak makinen, po te desh qejfi?”, meaning “Can you move the car a little bit, if you’re willing?”. That is the most possible polite request in Albanian, without using “te lutem” at all. And this is our natural way. “Please” is an intrusion from the foreign world.

    “Te lutem”, is the word per word translation of “please”, because it is the same verb “to plead” and “te lutesh”. And because Albanians have always been bombarded by translated foreign literature in the past and by translated foreign media now, that word has always been translated literally, “please”, “te lutem”, to the point of making Albanians who read wanting other Albanians to use this exact word, “te lutem”, rather than the traditional ones. But it doesn’t come natural, and they are already being polite in their natural way.

    • When I said “without using the translated version of the exact word “please”, i.e “faleminderit”,”, I meant “i.e, te lutem”

    • Yes we do say “te lutem” and “faleminderit’ u can hear it more and more everywhere and in small towns,rude people have everywhere, in US too, i have been there, and trust me that i have done things for them and i haven’t hear ‘please’ or ‘thank you’

  30. Kate, this is just hilarious. I was born in Tirana and live in NY for the past 15 years, and you are spot on…from their “scary staring” to the finger waging etc….it took me years to adjust here in the States and learn how to smile constantly and say “thank you” and “please”…and all you guys that are taking it personally, sorry but you haven’t changed much. You need to be a bit more open minded.

  31. These words are the best I have heard to so far in an attempt to address some behaviors of Albanians. Kate I can sense a lot of appreciation and love for us as you go through the things that are indeed characteristic and different compared to other nationalities. I always think that learning another culture is the way to personal enlightenment. Very good article

  32. haha this was so funny lol . I enjoyed your article. like every nation in the world we have our virtues and defects, none is perfect. I wish you all the best Kate

  33. Pingback: Gazeta e Durrësit – Një amerikane në Shqipëri- 10 zakonet që ka fituar Kate, vullnetarja nga Amerika·

  34. “Ey shpirti” Didnt YOU say if u re engaged or not…!?Sorryfor the informal way but I am Albo. :) and you seem soo kind ;)

  35. so many of them are true but as an albanian who lived around Europe for a while, I have to say that I would always wait in line while the french or spanish would cut every single time or would make multiple other lines. I really think that isnt just just an albanian thing or an albanian thing at all

  36. Pingback: 10 Albanian Habits That Are Making Me A Rude American | Animon·

  37. Nice job, Kate. I am an Albanian and I really enjoyed every line. You are a keen observer and everything you say is absolutely true.

Comments are closed.