Monday, January 23, 2012

Life in Albania

  • An estimated 70% of Albanians are Muslim, though many follow Islam only by tradition and do not practice it devoutly.  Other prominent religions include Catholicism and Eastern Orthodox. 
  • The mountains are truly stunning.  My cousin likes to say that if all the mountains in Albania were ironed out, the country would be the size of Russia.
  • Albania has a rich history that goes back thousands and thousands of years.  It's so different from America, which is a relatively new country!  There are many historical sites from as far back as  before Greek and Roman times, and I would love to know what history is buried beneath some of the major cities.
  • The story behind the two-headed eagle on the Albanian flag can be found here:
  • Very few people obey the traffic laws.  Stoplights are irrelevant, everyone makes their own lanes, and the policemen who stand on the side of the road and wave their arms are almost completely ineffective.
  • Albania is known as the most hospitable country in Europe.
  • We have to filter all the drinking water so we don't get parasites.
  • Everyone throws their trash in the streets.  Several times, we've passed a huge trash pile on the ground...right next to an empty dumpster.
  • Crossing the streets is like being in a game of Frogger.
  • We bleach all the fruits and vegetables that we buy from open markets because it's hard to know how clean they are.  My aunt once saw a rat crawling over all the tomatoes.
  • One word: "Opa!"
  • Kolonat is the Albanian equivalent of McDonald's, and AFC is the Albanian knock-off of KFC.
  • Personal space does not exist.
  • Albanian cuisine can be summed up in three words: kos (yogurt), olives, lamb.
  • Shaking your head side to side means "yes."
  • When you meet elderly ladies, they like to pinch your cheeks and then plan your wedding with their son.
  • Castles, castles, castles!
  • New Year's is the most celebrated holiday.  Christmas was not celebrated in Albanian during communism, and, though it is celebrated now, is not as big of a deal as New Year's Eve.  It is when they give gifts, visit family, and shoot off millions of fireworks that would be illegal in the States.
  • In most cities, the Muslim Call to Prayer can clearly be heard. 
  • Everyone you meet invites you out for coffee.  In fact, we drink so much coffee that if I were to get cut, I'm sure I would bleed coffee.
  • Skanderbeg is the most famous national hero in Albania.  He is known for fighting off the invading Ottoman Turks in the 1400's.  His statues stands in the center of Tirana, the capitol.  Kolonat even has a burger named after him: the Skanderburger!
  • There are 36 letters in the Albanian alphabet.  However, reading Albanian is relatively simple - each letter always makes the same sound, very much unlike English! 
  • Popular foods include byrek, sufflaqe, fli, and lamb head roasted on a spit (You don't eat no meat?! Ok, I make lamb :)

  • In fact, watch "My Big Fat Greek Wedding."  That pretty much sums it all up.
  • Albanian culture includes a myriad of blessings and curses ("bless your hands," "may you have a long life," etc.)  One curse is literally translated as "May the skin on your elbows dry up!"
  • Leke is the currency used.  It's easy to convert: 100 leke almost exactly equals $1.  So a cheeseburger at Kolonat is about 200 leke.
  • In the Bible, "Illyricm" was ancient Albania.  Romans 15:19, "They were convinced by the power of miraculous signs and wonders and by the power of God's Spirit.  In this way, I have fully presented the Good News of Christ from Jerusalem all the way to Illyricum." 


  1. Sounds like a positively fascinating culture! I know very little about Albania, sadly (although I know quite a bit more now than I did ten minutes ago!).
    I'm your newest follower, btw--thank you so much for following my blog! I am praying that God will use you mightily as you seek to serve Him in a foreign country!