I went to talk breakfast and they gave me grappa…

A young boy runs through his village in Tirana sporting his country’s flag with pride.

Albania is like the American version of ‘whatever’—they care, but they don’t care, they prefer, but they don’t mind and they love, but they fight.

After being here for a month on my au pair family’s holiday, I am finally beginning to comprehend, appreciate and even self-integrate Albanian communication.

Overall, Albanians live a quiet, joyful life mostly surrounded by family and friends.  Their overall disposition is friendly, pleasant and for anything unusual, they are actively curious, but accepting.

If the Albanian women are not skinny and fit beyond comprehension, they are pleasantly plump to an envious degree.  And for men and women alike, they live off of their daily conversation–if it was not for their love of the social, political and personal grapevine, they would have nothing to talk about.

Witnessing an Albanian conversation is a bit frightening, at first—their speech is rapid, their arm gestures combine the breast stroke and doggie paddle and their tone is expressed with unyielding passion.  It does not matter whether the conversation is between grandparents, family members, the wait staff or the taxi cab driver—conversation is harsh.

Not to worry though, that is just the Albanian way.

My boss’s brother-in-law explained it best, “Albanians greet with a kiss, stab knives into each other for a few hours, then laugh and kiss goodbye.”

It turns out, Albanians are the friendliest Europeans I have met thus far—not to mention, they love everything about America.  Don’t believe me?  I have already been proposed to five times, and once was by a girl—all of these proposals have the hope of an American visa behind them since this is a very difficult and expensive paper for them to obtain.

I moved into a hotel after a week of being here and went to ask the front desk about breakfast options.  Fortunate for me, the married couple that owns the place speaks fluent English and before I could say faleminderit (thank you), there were three different kinds of Albanian grappa set before me to sample—as I staggered out, my lungs were warm and my mind was happy knowing I had just made my first group of Albanian friends.

It was not long before I discovered the free Wi-Fi bar, Bellavista, which I noticed was run by a swarm of good-looking Albanian men.   My first night there, as I’m launching into my second Tirana birra (beer) and third email, the power went out.  I decided to hang out and listen to the foreign chatter until they rebooted and/or I finished my birra—within ten minutes, I coincidentally met the only fluent English speaker in the bar followed by the rest of the staff.  Three birras later, I left in a jolly sway upon making my second group of Albanian friends.

Although Albanians have a friendly demeanor and live an easy-going lifestyle, they come chockfull of provincial judgments due to Albania’s lack of diversity and their idea of social class.

I recently found out that my au pair profession should be viewed as shameful.  Because Albanians like to gossip, my boss is constantly approached and asked about me, “the American.”  She explains that I am their nanny and the responses have been something like, “Really, and she is not ashamed?” or, “But she is so young, attractive and energetic.” Or my favorite, “But she’s American, how can that be?!

It is important to mention that our beach house is located amongst many of the wealthy Albanians—reporters, publishers, politicians, factory owners, etc.  According to my boss, Albanians would never approve of a “servant position” for their children.  This is a small depiction of the narrow-mindedness of Albanians due to their lack of incoming, worldly diversity.  After all, Albania (like Russia) was a communist country until 1992.

Regardless, I have had an enlightening experience as an au pair, and as an aspiring journalist while in Albania.  My next stop is Greece and according to the Albanian hotel owner, the Greek mantra is “There are Greeks, then there is everyone else.”

However, I have also been told that Albanians hate the Greeks (and vice versa) with an undeniable passion are not ashamed to admit they have no reason for it.  This should be an interesting comparison of viewpoints between enemies.


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