I was lucky enough to be working with some Albanian students amongst the volunteers, and learned a lot about Albanian history and culture from them. I also managed to pick up just enough of the language to get by!
A few Albanian phrases:
(ë is pronouced 'uh')
Po - yes
Jo - no
Faleminderit - Thankyou
Mirëmëngjes - Good Morning
Mirë Dita - Good Day (Don't use after about 5pm or you'll get strange looks and be firmly told 'Mirëm brëma'!)
Mirëm brëma - Good evening
Natën e mirë - Good night
Tungjatjeta - Hello (but this is very formal, and rarely used. I read somewhere it means 'May you have a long life'. Kosovans apparently use a shortened version 'Tung', but most just say good morning/day/evening.)
Mirupafshim - Goodbye
si jeni - how are you (formal)
C'kemi - how's it going (informal; the c is pronounced half way between ch and sh)
C'ka - more or less ok (in response to above)
poi jo - and you?
Gëzuar - cheers, a toast.
Sa kushton - how much (this is what I was told, but sa e:shte: may also be right)
molla - apple (this was the surname of one of the girls I worked with!)
avash - a turkish loan word, meaning slow down, take it easy! Usually doubled (avash, avash)
ik orë - go away
shqo para - go ahead (this is something I was told, not sure about the spelling)
një - 1
dy (pronounced du) - 2
tre - 3
katër - 4
pesë - 5
When albanians get married, the married couple tends to drive through town in a decorated car while they hunk the horn constantly.
They will have some freinds following in their cars and they will make as much noise as possible too.
I have seen that in a few countries, but what struck me in Albania is that there is always a car driving next to them with a guy who is video filming it all.
Usually he is hanging out of the sun roof.
I did not spend much time in Albania but i have good experience about something and that is - people. Didnt find single person which i would call impolite. Everyone was willing to help. Since i am flag collector i wanted a flag of Albania for me. I asked one man in his store where can i buy myself Albanian flag and he left his store and all things in it and went to search with me. When we found it he was as happy as me! Really great experience. Same was with anyone else!
Basically everyone i talked to spoke (bad) english, but hey, thats more than nothing isn't it? :-)
In Albania peacefully exist four religious Muslim Sunni, Bektashy ,Greek Orthodox Christians on south,and Catholics on north country,we sought in Albania towns mosques and churches one near another, that is only European country ,were no one Jew was murdered or sent to Germans death camps,since local people gave them shelter in mountain villages, and hided them in another safe places.
I will not give here a class of Albanian, which I would be unable to do anyway! All guidebooks give basic sentences useful when you visit the country. However, visitors must know that Albanian is a language with declinations.
Moreover, in most languages the definite and indefinite form of words are given by an article: in English, “the” for definite and “a” for indefinite. In Albanian it is also a declination that identifies definite and indefinite. Visitors would not pay attention if that did not apply also to place names. Thus the name of each place can be written in two different ways. I will give in the following respectively the definite and the indefinite form for a dozen Albanian cities. When speaking in a foreign language, Albanians use the definite form. Guide books do not always follow this rule!
Berati/Berat, Berat in English
Butrinti/Butrint, Buthrot in Greek, Butrint in Italian and in English
Durrësi/Durrës, Durrazzo in Italian, Dyrrachion in Greek, Durrës in English
Dhërmiu/Dhërmi, Dhërmi in English
Elbasani/Elbasan, Elbasan in English
Fieri/Fier, Fier in English
Gjirokastra/Gjirokastër, Argirokastro in Greek, Gjirokastër in English
Korça/Korcë, Koritsa in Greek, Korça in English
Kruja/Krujë, Kruja in English
Ksamili/Ksamil, Haxamilion in Greek, Ksamil in English
Lezha/Lezhë, Alessio in Italian, Lezha in English
Saranda/Saranda, Santi Quaranti in Italian, Aya Saranda in Greek, Saranda in English
Shkodra/Shkodër, Scutari in Italian, Shkodra in English
Tirana/Tiranë, Tirana in Italian and in Greek, Tirana in English
Vlora/Vlorë, Valona in Italian, Avlon in Greek, Vlora in English
The Indo-European group of languages is usually divided into 9 sub-groups. One puts together the Romance languages (Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Rumanian, etc…) that derivate from Latin. Another one, the Germanic languages (German, English, Dutch, Scandinavian languages, etc…). Another again the Balto-Slavic sub group of languages divided itself between the Baltic sub-sub group (Latvian, Lithuanian, etc…) and the Slavic sub-sub group (Russian, /…/, Serbian, Croatian, Slovene, etc…). Modern Greek derivates from Ancient Greek and is the only language of its sub group.
Albanian (shqip in Albanian) belongs to the Thrace (or Daco-Thrace) subgroup and derivates from the ancient Illyrian. The only other living language of the Thrace group is Armenian, though not closely related. No other language derivates from the ancient Illyrian.
Albanian has burrowed a lot of words to its neighbors (Latin and Italian, Slavic languages, Greek). It has also words also found in Rumanian and in Armenian.
Albanian has two main dialects.
Gheg, in Gheg gegnisht, in standard Albanian gegërishte, is spoken in the Northern part of Albania, in Kosovo, in Eastern Montenegro and in Western Macedonia.
Tosk,, in Albanian toskërishte, has 3 millions speakers in the south of Albania, in Epire (Çamëria in Albanian) and in southern Macedonia.
The Albanian that emigrated in the 15th century in Southern Italy speak Arbëresh, a variety of Tosk
In Albania, the limit between Gheg and Tosk is drawn by river Shkumbin.
Standard Albanian is mainly based on Tosk.
When communicating with elderly Albanians, keep in mind that traditionally the shaking of one's head from side to side indicates an answer of "yes," while the shaking of one's head up and down indicates an answer of "no." This is completely opposite from the mannerisms of most other countries, including the USA, and can be quite confusing!
This does not as much apply with Albanians in the younger generations, as they have grown accustom to western mannerisms in recent years.
We saw lots of partially-built houses. All were patriotically flying the Albanian flag. They also had a doll (or even a teddy bear) attached to the roof. We were told this was to ward off the evil eye.
Driving on Albanian roads will be a kind of adventure. The driving habits are not really what they are in other parts of Europe. Although its forbidden to drink and drive the police is not checking intensively on that. Plenty of small memorials are reminding the traveller of road fatlities.
In Tirana you will see little kids coming round with boxes selling all kinds of stuff from cigarettes, phone cards, roasted nuts rolled in a newspaper cone etc... There are loads of them and they are all running trying to get there before the other one, then the bar staff come out and chase them off!!! If they keep coming up to you you just need to tell them to go away if you don't want anything.
When i first arrived when people were asking if i wanted something and i didnt i would be shaking my head, then i could see them getting it (a drink for example) then my husband would be saying to them no no she doesnt want one so :
if you want to say Yes shake your head
if you want to say No nod your head
although it is mainly the older generation who think like this.
or you could just say
Po - Yes
Jo - No
On one of the bumpy landrover journeys back from site, driving between the villages of Xarra and Vrina, we saw an old woman on the road spinning wool - an absolutely fascinating sight, it really makes you feel that you're in another time.
Sadly I didn't get a photo, but this picture shows you a similar character to the lady I saw.
Gestures are an important part of conversation in Albania. There is the famous confusion over head gestures for yes and no (see my other tip for more detail), but certain other gestures are worth a mention too.
To place the flat of the hand on the chest is to say 'thank you' (see my Sarande tip).
To stroke the shoulder lightly means 'good luck'.
Much of Albanian cuisine is typical of the Balkans and indeed the Mediterranean, with heavy influence from Greek, Italian and Turkish cooking in the south of the country. Seafood is very common in the coastal areas, such as around Saranda.
The daily diet seems to almost always include cheese, bread and vegetables. Meat (particularly lamb), aubergines, peppers, olives and tomatoes are frequently part of local dishes, and feta cheese is ubiquitous.
One particular speciality, apparently originating in Turkey and no doubt spread by the Ottoman empire, is 'byrek', made of layers of phyllo pastry, generally filled with cheese (most commonly feta), meat (most commonly ground beef), or vegetables (most commonly spinach).
For breakfast, we were always provided with bread, feta, jam or honey, and tea. For lunch, there was more bread and feta, with tomatoes, cucumber, olives, eggs, and usually byrek.
The Tepelene and Glina mineral waters are very good.
One of the nicest customs I saw in Albania was the evening promenade. Everyone in the town puts on nice clothes and goes to the town square, or main street, strolling along visiting with everyone they see. This lasts from early evening until dark.
Having spent approximately 5 months in the Sheraton-Tirana, I know the "ins" and the "outs" of the...more
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Satisfaction: Very Good
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Satisfaction: Very Good
Good for: Solo
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