Albania captivated me from the start. Within the first 72 hours of being in Albania, I knew there was a major change on the brink of occurring in my life. Most would say, umm yeah, moving to Albania that is quite a major change, and they are absolutely right.
However, there was a deeper meaning a brewing; a true awakening that would soon occur. Like any major change in ones’ life, having such an adjustment can call for a great metrophisis to take place. As liberating and free as that may sound, freedom often comes with a great price tag.
There is a call for adjustments, and with those adjusting moments one must be patient with themselves and their new surroundings.
I left my comfort zone of America and it’s western culture… all whilst being merely 14 days from being married to my Albanian partner. So a lot of groundbreaking moments were occurring at once. However, I did not buckle under the pressure right away.
I was too in awe to buckle under pressure or feel anxious or scared of my new surroundings. From the moment I arrived in albania I was welcomed by the eccentric colors that painted town and the meek and mild-manner temperament of the shqiptar people.
The friendly disposition of the villagers was very warming and welcoming to me. However, being an african american, I’ll admit I get quite a few stairs and head turns; which is only expected when being in a country that has very little to no exposure to the american way of life.
It was quite fascinating to see how the people lived so differently from me, what the culture was like, how they dressed, and talked. It was the unveiling of a world I never knew existed passed the permeriters of my western cultural ethos. Embarking on such a new territory required a “lay of the land”, luckily I had a husband who was very familiar with everything I need to know!
Here is a short synopsis on the Albanian culture as I know it to be :
- The people speak a language here called Shqip. Shqip is a unique language, as it is unrelated to any other language in the entire world.
- Tirana where I reside is built of small countryside villages and directly in the center of the city is Tirana.
- The coffee culture here is big, and yes, it’s an actual thing!
- Just a mere short 30 years ago, Albania broke free of Communist rule.Over the last two decades, the country is evidently still in revival and emancipation.
- The economy is steadily changing, traditional views meet modernism.
- Tradition, tradition, tradition! Albania is set on upholding traditional values without compromising too much to modernization.
What’s there not to like?
As living a decade or more as a digital nomad, I feel like I am just now embarking on the fruition of my journey. Not only is Tirana an affordable city for such a profession, its peaceful, quiet and friendly. There are many places where one can set and write and feel inspired or have the peace of mind required to do so. Durres Beach is a mere 40 minute commute if you fancy writing on the beach. Also, its neighboring countries Italy, Greece, and Macadamia are all just short commutes away. So if ever you want to take a weekend away, why not!
Although my reasoning for moving here was not centrally based around my career; it was a good selling point to say the least. My husband, then fiance sold me on the idea of a peaceful place to write and work. After doing my own research I was sold! His family has a beautiful property here so overhead cost would be relatively low for us. As newlyweds just starting out on our own that’s a major blessing!
You have the variation of the countryside and the city life. As a bonafide city girl who was birthed out of a small town in the usa suburbs, the combination could not be more perfect for me. Sometimes I need to unplug and unwind and the countryside gives that to me, its perfect , and its also where our villa is located.
Also, having access to city life only 20 minutes away; if I want to get dressed up and go for a nice glass of wine and have a good meal with my husband to escape the mundanity of being countryside we can do so. There is a good selection of restaurants I am still dying to try. Nightlife isn’t really big here; and also that time in my life has passed. My adventures seem to be more of , where can I get a nice glass of wine and a decent restaurant all while enjoying the atmosphere? Luckily for me, I can do that, and only for a mere 250lek per glass, and 1200lek per bottle on average. A meal for two cost well under $30
The language barrier is in fact that, a barrier! If you are not inside the city center, I’ve found it quite difficult to communicate, as a portion of the local villagers do not speak english at all. However, there is a growing epidemic of younger city locals who are able to speak english moderately, and some very well.
The Coffee Culture and Economy
With the big coffee culture, you will notice a plethora of coffee shops, some of which are stacked upon one another.Throughout the day well into the evening you will see cafes occupied fully. At first this was a bit of a shock to me. Coming from busy on-the-go cities such as New York and London, no one sets to have coffee rarely, its more a passed time.
To my surprise Albania offers very few “togo options “ as they are not a on-the-go crowd. To-go cups are almost non-existent and to some unheard of. My mother in-law was quite surprised to learn my starbucks reusable cup was in fact for coffee on the go! Coffee in America is a quick grab-and-go , not a social pleasure.
My husband explained to me how this derives from many things, one of which the elder men of the city have passed on through culture. It’s a time they can reflect and set with other men and pass the time away from work and family life.You will also see younger men occupying space at coffee shops. This surprised me as well. Coming from a western culture where young people, both men and women are at work during the hours of 9-5pm, how are these younger men able to set in a coffee shop all day?
My husband explained further the scarcity of work available for men here in general. A Lot of the younger men have left the country to find work in neighboring countries. In these countries they are able to make a living and provide for their families back home in Albania. I begin to understand certain aspects of the coffee culture better. People have family members working abroad and sending money home to provide a better life for all members of their family. That means their father, mother,siblings, and sadly many wives that are estranged. Although I find this quite admirable, I can sympathise with the young wives who do not get to enjoy the company of their husbands.
My next question is, does this help or hurt the work ethic of the people here? What does one do if they are not working for a living but having someone take care of them… will that affect the economy in the long run once it develops more and creates an opportunity for better paying jobs? Well that is a question that’s still looming, as one day …in the near future that’ll be an issue here if the worth ethic doesn’t match.
All in all, Albania, like any other country inclusive of the balkans is an acquired taste. One must be open minded and willing to step outside the comforts of their culture.
However, as Tirana begins to revive its city; the invitation of modernized views is helping to contribute to the economy and way of life here. The diversity of both worlds is evident. Half of the population still abides by the traditional way of living; which allows the humility and stability of the country to still have its bearings. However, the other half has been exposed to western day culture and have implemented such culuvations. This is evident in local businesses. They are now vying for the new market growth of influence that such cultural awareness has had on the neonate country.
As I look back now, it reminds of when I first moved to London, adjustments were required of me. It took me a bit of time to bypass being homesick. And now, here I am again, and that same amount of adjustment and patients are now required of me in this moment of my life; however, I am up for the challenge!
Note from author :
Please stay tuned as I will be blogging of updates and adventures of my new life here in Tirana. The challenges I will face, the growth I will endure. It’ll all be for your reading pleasure!