There are countless guides out there on Albanian culture. When researching this article, we found some that were 10000+ words plus! So instead of painstakingly breaking down Albanian culture, I thought I'd give you some quirky pieces of information and allow you to build the bigger picture yourself. Let's take a look.
Albania is one of the only countries where the amount of people living outside Albania far outstrips the number of people within its borders. There are many reasons for this; probably the biggest was that when Communism failed, many left the country in the hope of finding better work opportunities.
Tirana is one of the only capital cities in the world that doesn't have a Mcdonald's.
A brand called Kolonat is a copy, but it isn't as popular as you might think. Many people put it down to that fast food doesn't compare to Albanian cuisine. Traditional Albanian food consists of high-quality ingredients only.
Side note on Albanian food: The most traditional Albanian food is byrek- a pastry that can be made both sweet and savor
Besa means 'pledge of honor.' The Engish equivalent would be something like shaking hands over an oath. Its central tenet is tribal loyalty towards your friends and family.
Besa is encapsulated in customary law or 'Kanun.' One way to think of it is that besa is the philosophy, and kanun is the rulebook.
As we've already discussed, Albania has a large diaspora. Often when immigrants come to foreign countries from Albania, they have to work extra hard to establish themselves. For example, mother Teresa(born in what is now North Macedonia) devoted her entire life to the needy and is recognized by the catholic church as one of the most important spiritual figures of the 20th century.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is British singer Dua Lipa, born to Kosovan-Albanian parents. Her name 'dua' means love in Albanian.
Today Albania is one of the most religiously diverse and tolerant countries in the world. However, in the 1960s, the communist government outlawed religion, the leader going as far too proudly claim that 'Albania is the world's first atheist country.' It was even forbidden to say Merry Christmas.
Like the Spanish, the Albanians also enjoy a siesta, or as it's called there 'koha e pushimit.' Many shops, especially in smaller towns, close for the afternoon and then open again in the evening. Albania is big on late-night snacking and drinking, as we'll see shortly. Expect to see Albanian families on the streets well after bedtime in northern Europe.
Raki is the national alcohol of Albania. It is made from grapes(with plum and walnut variations) and is usually harvested in late summer and fermented through the winter.
A strange and dark aspect of Albanian society and history was the rule of communist dictator Enver Hoxha. He pledged to make a bunker for every citizen and almost achieved his target with 750,000 in total. They are dotted throughout the cities and speak of the leader's paranoia that the country would be invaded. The amount of money and manpower spent is staggering. Construction workers toiled 24 hours a day for 13 years, finally stopping in 1989 when Communism began to fall apart. Many of these bunkers today have been repurposed into coffee shops and other small stores.
Albania occupies its branch on the Indo-European language tree. Amazingly, a country surrounded by great empires was able to maintain the integrity of its language.
Smoking rates in Albania are sky-high. About 40% of Albanian people are smokers, and it is part of everyday Albanian life. The famous King Zog was purported to smoke 200 cigarettes a day! Smoking often goes hand in hand with coffee(smoking is not illegal indoors in Albania). The country is sandwiched between Italy and Turkey, and most stores either sell Turkish-style coffee or Italian-style espresso. There is no such thing as a coffee curfew in Albania. People drink it late into the night along with some tasty snacks like the byrek as mentioned above and qofte (meatballs).
The country's literature goes back 500 years. The oldest example is a religious text called 'Formula e pagëzimit' (Baptismal formula) recorded by the Bishop of Durrës in 1462.
More recently, the poems of Gjergj Fishta have blended poetry with a sense of Albanian nationalism.
Did you enjoy learning about Albanian culture? I hope that guide was as fun to read as it was to write. Albania has one of the most unique and absorbing cultures in the world.
That is why we have devoted an entire blog to it. We have information on everything from the dynamics of the Albanian family, to love phrases in Albanian.
Within the blogs, you can find subcategories on Albanian art, examples of ethnic culture, and how Albania has been influenced by Italian culture and the Ottoman Empire.
Here at Ling, we have designed an Albanian course that goes unrivaled. Get reading, speaking, and listening practice from authentic Albanian native speakers.
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Come on over to our website and start learning the Albanian language today. It's too good of an opportunity to miss.
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