Part 1. Culture Profile: Everyday Life
1. I am meeting someone for the first time and I want to make a good impression. What would be good discussion topics?
To make a good impression, when meeting an Albanian, you ought to smile, have a happy face (in an appropriate situation), shake hands firmly and thank the counterpart for meeting and discussing with you. In addition, it is also important to have a neat appearance. Furthermore, the use of some Albanian words in a conversation, help to make a good impression. In a family situation, since Albanians base their morale on values of the family, you can openly talk about your origin, life and family and your childhood. However, you should avoid talking about personal relationships with a girl or boy, otherwise this would have a negative impact on ones first encounter. The reason for this is because the morale in Albania is based on family values where both parents and children care for one another. Therefore, Albanians do not feel comfortable sharing their history of dating, as they feel it could hinder the development of their family; especially for females, sharing this kind of information would lead to harmful shame. Moreover, in a family situation, business talk should be short, as it is not relevant to discuss this subject in a family situation. You are welcome to talk about the beauty of nature, foods, music, gardening, and movies. Depending on an situation, you can be humorous and you can tell funny things from your experience. Albanians like to smile, laugh and be amused. Always show the proper respect to the elderly people, women and children (Government of Canada, Foreign Affairs Trade and Development Canada…Learning).
2. What do I need to know about verbal and non-verbal communications?
The necessary information about verbal and non-verbal communications in Albania is, that when you are speaking to someone, the acceptable distance is similar to a North American distance, and you should avoid touching someone when speaking to him/her. When you are talking, maintain eye contact without staring, and make sure your voice is clear and directed to the listener. It is possible that, while in Albania you might see people talking and conveying a body language at the same time, usually with hands. Therefore, while you are talking you should try to make gestures and facial expressions that are normal and not tensed. Additionally, while talking to someone, try to understand or remember your situation, why you are there, what values you are exchanging, what type of person is the counterpart, and the value of establishing a future trustworthy friendship or acquaintance. Moreover, a valuable non-verbal communication to know about is, that a nod of the head means ‘no’ and shaking one’s head means ‘yes’. Furthermore, greeting and saying goodbye can both be done with a kiss on the right cheek between women and between women and men. However, handshaking is also another accepted form of greeting, if this your preference. (Government of Canada, Foreign Affairs Trade and Development Canada…Learning).
3. Are public displays of affection, anger or other emotions acceptable?
In Albania, public displays of anger and loud expressions of emotions are not advisable. In public, it is appropriate to shake hands, nod your head, wave your hand, or hug someone you are close with. Overall, it is culturally appropriate to express strong emotions, only when among those familiar to you. Therefore, it is not recommended to convey any strong emotions among people who are not recognizable to you (Government of Canada, Foreign Affairs Trade and Development Canada…Learning).
4. What should I know about the workplace environment (deadlines, dress, formality, etc.)?
Albanian people enjoy dressing up and they tend to follow the most current styles. In the office, it is typical for people to wear formal clothes, suits and uniforms. Additionally, seeing well dressed people on the street, is not an uncommon sight. Although, after working hours when you have leisure time, it is acceptable to wear casual clothes. Furthermore, while at work it is advisable to address colleagues in a casual but respectful way, using their first name. However, when you are involved in a conversation with people with your superiors or non-colleagues you should address them in a formal way, using Mr. (Zoti), Ms. (Zonja), Prof., or Dr. followed by their first name. In all situations, for the sake of maintaining prestige and authority, it is advisable to be punctual and meet all deadlines. It is important that you show productivity in your assigned tasks and that you are a valuable person. Moreover, in the workplace, deadlines are set with the intent of them being met, however there is a degree of flexibility when it comes to setting these deadlines. Additionally, professionals usually carry cell phones, so it is considered polite to call ahead to indicate a change in scheduled appointments. Lastly, Albanians tend to work a standard 5 or 6 day workweek (Government of Canada, Foreign Affairs Trade and Development Canada…Learning).
5. a. Briefly describe the local cultures attitudes regarding the following : Gender, Class, Religion, and Ethnicity
Gender: Albanian citizens regard both men and women equally (with regards to what Albanians believe equally means). It is typical to see men and women in workplaces, but it is the men who have the harder careers and professions. This is because the men are the ones who lead the family and women are the ones who are responsible for taking care of the home. Women work to keep a clean and warm home. Furthermore, women are responsible, along with their husband, for closely caring after their children (Government of Canada, Foreign Affairs Trade and Development Canada…Learning).
Religion: For the most part, Albanians are not very religious people and they do not judge other people with religious convictions. For them, faith is an outside matter that is typically not taught at home. Therefore, since religion doesn’t play a huge role in society, it is customary to see marriages between people of different religions, names or backgrounds. This has allowed there to be a peaceful co-existence of different religions (Government of Canada, Foreign Affairs Trade and Development Canada…Learning).
Class: In Albania, class is often determined by family background and by the level of education. For instance, someone who comes from a family with a city education would be more respected and viewed as a more valuable person to know, than a someone who has a farming background. Furthermore, it is in cities that the differences between classes are visible. Additionally, since Albania’s economy is in transition (as a result of Albania starting to transition into Stage 3 of the Demographic Transition Model), more emphasis is being placed on class as it relates to money and the growing economy (Government of Canada, Foreign Affairs Trade and Development Canada…Learning).
Ethnicity: For the most part, Albanians are open-minded and receptive. However, preconceived notions about people of color are not uncommon in Albania. For the most part, Albanians do not harass people due to their ethnicity and are relatively complaisant (Government of Canada, Foreign Affairs Trade and Development Canada…Learning).
5. b. What impact would the above attitudes have on the workplace?
Albanians do not harass people due to any feature that is associated with social structure. In Albania, the attitudes regarding gender, religion, class and ethnicity do not have any impact on the workplace, where the productivity, teamwork and respect lead the efforts.(Government of Canada, Foreign Affairs Trade and Development Canada…Learning),
6. When in this country, I want to learn more about the culture(s) and people. What activities can you recommend?
The Albanian culture is rooted in their old language, which the Albanians had to fight to preserve. Additionally, Albanians inherited a very wide range of folk customs, clothes and songs. This allows for every town or village, in Albania, to have its own distinctive characteristics. In order to experience and learn more about this unique culture, you can take part in the various entertainment events like, classical and modern concerts, ballet, opera, theatre, comedy shows, museums, archaeological sites, and public shows. Moreover, you can watch TV, tune into the radio ( which is mostly in FM) and read the popular newspapers, which are dominated independents, such as Shekulli, Panorama, Gazeta Shqiptare, etc. Furthermore, you can drink very delicious coffee in the various cafes in Albania, and experience Albanian culture first hand by engaging in friendly conversations at the local cafes (Government of Canada, Foreign Affairs Trade and Development Canada…Learning).
7. Who are this country’s national heroes? Why are they heroes?
Albanians have many national heroes that they praise. One of these heroes is, George Castriot Scanderbeg (Gjergj Kastrioti Skënderbeu) who is known for, 550 years ago, forging the Albanian identity, leading the united Albanians to fight against Ottoman invaders, keeping Albania a free land and protecting the European civilization from its destruction. Another national Albanian hero is, Mother Theresa (Gonxhe Bojaxhiu), a recently beautified Saint and a symbol of peace and benevolence. Additionally, in Albania there is a long list of Albanian heroes who greatly contributed to the achievement of independence and freedom, the Renaissance period literature enrichment, and Enlightenment of Albanian generations to come. The most dignified, of these types of heroes, are: Ismail Qemali, Frashëri Brothers, Hasan Prishtina, Isa Boletini, Fan Noli, Faik Konica, and Adem Jashari(Government of Canada, Foreign Affairs Trade and Development Canada…Learning).
8. What is family life like in this country?
Albanias have a unique family life. Albanian families tend to be small, with the average being two children. The Albanian husband does not generally do housework, as the women are the ones that are responsible for keeping to a clean house. Both husband and wife, in Albania, look after their children with affection. Additionally, Elderly parents often live with their children, where they are treated with honor and respect. Furthermore, some Albanian families will train their eldest son to become the head of the family, when his father dies(“World Culture Encyclopedia”).
9. Describe work in this country.
One of the jobs that is preformed in Albania, is agriculture. Agriculture played a major role in the economy up until the 1990’s, since Albania had a socialist economy. During this time food was in short supply, and despite communist propaganda, the country never achieved self-sufficiency. This lead to many people in Albania, to have barley enough food to feed themselves and their family. Some farming surplus has reached urban markets in recent years, but food imports still remain essential. After Albania gained independence it was able to move towards more non-agricultural practices. Albania has jobs for people in mines that involve extracting and producing chrome. Additionally, Albania has many construction jobs, since this part of the economic sector is doing well. The availability of local market and foreign market building materials, has made it possible for many people to participate in making new building and constructing more homes(” World Culture Encyclopedia”).
8. What types of sports and recreation activities are popular here?
There are many sports and recreational activities that are practiced in Albania. The most common and widely played sport in Albania is football(commonly called soccer in the United States). Second to football is volleyball, in which both men’s and women’s teams have become regional champions. Furthermore, the sports of basketball and tennis are becoming more and more popular in Albania. Moreover, for children the game of chess is commonly played. The recreational activates that Albanias participate in are leisurely strolls along the wide streets, usually on their way to meet friends and relatives for a late dinner. Additionally, Albanians love storytelling. In coffee shops throughout Albania, men can be found entertaining each other with humorous stories or heroic tales. Furthermore, Television programs broadcast from Italy are also very popular and therefore many people will spend their free time watching television. Moreover, for teenager and young adults in Albania going to a disco(club) is a popular way to spend their free time(“World Culture Encyclopedia”).
11. What healthcare is available to the people of this country?
The healthcare system in Albania is mostly public, while private practice is limited to a small market sector. Under Albanian law there is an equal access to healthcare for all citizens. Public healthcare in Albania is the main provider for various health services, health promotions, prevention, and diagnosis and treatments for the population of Albania. This public healthcare is primarily funded by the government of Albania, however some contributions come from eligible employers, employees and the self-employed. Additionally, since many people in Albania are not wealthy, failure to collect a substantial amount of contributions means that healthcare system in Albania is strongly reliant on charitable aid for medical supplies and drugs. Furthermore, the public healthcare system includes pharmaceutical and dental services as well as some clinics for specialized diagnoses, however these are mostly only available in the capital, Tirana. State insurance, however, does not cover medical costs incurred in the private sector, meaning that these services are only accessible to people who can afford to pay for them. Lastly, In Albania doctors and hospitals expect that payment will be made in cash, at the time of service(“Simplifying Health Insurance”).
12. Describe the educational system.
Albania has a commendable educational system, as there is an overall literacy rate of 97.6%. This is one of the highest literacy rates in the Balkan region. The country of Albania makes school mandatory from age seven through fifteen. The mandatory period of education is known as the primary education, which is 9 years of schooling which would follow the non-mandatory period of preschool. The academic year, is divided into two semesters, which begin in September/ October and ends in June/ July. Secondary education takes a further three years to conclude. This type of education is directed towards the preparation for universities. There is also vocational education programs, which is an alternative to the regular secondary education, and it allows one to get a simple diploma or full trade qualification. Lastly there is the tertiary education which involve attending a university, either public or private, and obtaining a mastery level education(Education Database- Countries).
What are the important holidays in this country and explain the purpose of each?
There are many important holidays that are celebrated in Albania, as a result of its religious tolerance and unique history. One important holiday, that is observed by Albanian Muslims, is Ramadan and the holy days of Islam. Ramadan, is a month of fasting from dawn to dusk, and it occurs in early January. The purpose of Ramadan is to submit to a higher authority(the creator) and to be grateful for what one has, since fasting makes one aware of the luxuries(food and drink) that one has. Albanian Christians celebrate traditional holidays such as Christmas and Easter, for the purpose of celebrating the birth and resurrection of Jesus, respectively. Another holiday, Dita e Verës (Spring Day), comes from an ancient pagan holiday and is still celebrated in mid-March. This holiday is intended to celebrate the end of winter, the rebirth of nature, and a rejuvenation of spirt among the Albanians. Albanians throughout the world commemorate November 28 as Albanian Independence Day ( Dita e Flamurit ). This holiday is celebrated for the purpose of expressing pride in Albania for becoming an independent country and thankfulness for those who fought to achieve this independence(“World Culture Encyclopedia”).
14. What arts and literature are important in this country?
There are many important works of literature that are important in Albania. The publication in 1635 of the first Albanian dictionary, written by Frang Bardhi, was a milestone in Albanian literature. Another praised Albanian writer is Jeronim(Girolamo) de Rada, who is regarded by some as the finest Romantic poet in the Albanian language. His major work, Këngët e Milosasos, is a Romantic ballad containing many patriotic sentiments. De Rafa was also the first Albanian periodical, he wrote Fiàmurk Arbërit(The Albanian Flag). Additionally, the renaissance literature, by Naim Frashëri is praised, as it helped to stir up national pride in Albania. However, the literature viewed as the most important, are the ones that criticized society. Konitza, was a pioneer figure in Albanian literary criticism. As the publisher of the review Albania, he exerted great influence on aspiring writers and the development of Albanian culture. The writer, Noli, is esteemed for his translations of William Shakespeare and Edgar Allan Poe. The most recent writer that has proved to be very important to Albania literature is Islami Kadare, who wrote the novel Gjenerali i ushtrisë së vdekur(The General of the Dead Army). Kadare was the only Albanian writers with a broad international reputation(Prifti).
Additionally, in Albania traditional Folk dance and song are widely practiced, and is very important to the Albanian people, since it provides a way for them to conserve their traditions and show their patriotism. Furthermore, the art found in churches in considered to be very important to Albanias, as it helps to reinforce their religious beliefs and traditions(“World Culture Encyclopedia”).
15. What types of food are popular in this country? What meals do they have and how are they usually served?
Albanian cooking is influenced by the years of Turkish rule. Albania has a Mediterranean cuisine with a strong influence from the Ottoman Empire, as in all Balkan countries. Albanians try to eat healthy food and families spend a lot of money on food, as it is top priority for parents to provide good meals for their children. Additionally, In Albania, Muslims do not eat pork or drink alcohol. Lamb, rather than beef or pork, is the most common meat. Lakror (LAHK-roar), a typical dish, is a mixture of eggs, vegetables or meat, and butter wrapped in thin, many-layered pastry sheets. Another type of typical Albanian food is fërgesë (FUHR-ges), a dish usually made with minced meat, eggs, and ricotta cheese. Along with these dishes, bread is a major part of the Albanian diet. In fact, the word for bread, bukë (bew-KUH), is the normal word for “meal.” (“World Culture Encyclopedia”).