Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Doing Business in Albania



Albania is located on the Southeast coast of the Mediterranean Sea, with Italy to the West and Greece to the South. Albania has a population of about 3 million people, with Tirana, the capital of Albania, home to more than 1 million Albanians.
Albania is considered a Muslim country, with 70% of the population following this religion. Orthodox Christians make up approximately 20% of the population, and Catholic Christians 10%. 




The dominant and official language is Albanian, a revised and merged form of the country’s two main dialects, Gheg and Tosk. Some useful Albanian phrases to remember for your trip include:

C'kemi, si jeni?
Hello, how are you?
Gezohem qe te takova
Pleased to meet you 
Kam ardhur këtu me punë
I’m here on business
Si mund të shkoj X?
How can I get to X?
Mirupafshim së shpejti!
See you soon!

There is a minority of Greeks residing in Albania, who also speak a certain dialect of Greek. Other languages spoken by ethnic minorities in Albania include Aromanian, Serbian, Macedonian, Bulgarian, Gorani, and Roma.


Business etiquette


Meeting etiquette


Albanians shake hands when meeting strangers and they kiss or hug the men and women they consider close acquaintances or good friends. Sometimes these circles will include the potential foreign business partners they have just met. Business cards are not mandatory and there is no custom of exchanging business cards at either the beginning or the end of a meeting. 


Communications and negotiations


Most young Albanians (younger than 35 years old) speak fluent English and often other languages, mainly Italian. Most government officials speak English or some other European language (French, Italian, German or Greek) to some extent. However, this may not always be true with private enterprises. In any case, interpreters are widely used for all types of meetings, and sometimes the interpreter also works as the assistant or secretary of the Albanian entrepreneur/businessman. There are many able Albanian translators and interpreters who may be hired at hourly or daily rates.

One useful point to remember is that a nod of the head in Albania means “no” and shaking of the head means “yes”. This can be confusing, and it is therefore safer to ask that your business acquaintance verbalises what is meant when asked a “yes” or “no” question.




Bank transfers and credit card payments are possible, although most Albanians prefer cash. The Euro and the U.S. dollar are two preferred currencies used for payments. In stores and markets foreigners may be charged more than locals, especially since most items may not have their prices advertised. Use of the old and new “lek”, which is the local currency in Albania can be confusing so it may be worth seeking further advice on this.


Eating etiquette


Albanian cuisine has been influenced by Greek, Turkish and Italian cuisines, having been occupied by these countries at various periods in history.  The main meal in Albania is the midday meal, which is usually accompanied by a salad of fresh vegetables.

Albanians take pride in one of their most well-known spirit “raki” – (pronounced “raikee”), made of grape juice and as strong as vodka – and will insist that their foreign guests at least try some of this drink.  It is considered impolite to refuse at least a taste of this Albanian speciality.

Albanians usually pay for their guests’ meals the first time they are having lunch or dinner with guests. There is a tacit understanding that the second time, their guests will repay this courtesy. 




Gifts are very important for Albanians and are generally expected of special guests. Money or flowers are not generally given as gifts. Good gifts include works of art from your home country, such as small paintings, sculptures, and other memorabilia suitable for decorating your business associate’s office.


Cultural awareness


In 2007, Albania adopted a smoking ban for closed public areas. However, although the law technically forbids smoking in public spaces like restaurants, bars and work places etc, Albanians regularly smoke in these areas.

This post has, hopefully, taught you something about the intricacies of Albanian business culture. There is, however, a lot more to learn: a professional lifetime’s worth. At TJC Global, our interpreters are experts in Albanian practice as much as they are experts in the language. To find out how our services can assist you on your next business trip to Albania, visit TJC Oxford, or contact us.

Friday, 27 April 2012

Doing Business in Romania

Romania is situated in the south-eastern part of Europe and shares borders with Hungary, Serbia, Bulgaria, the Black Sea, Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova. It has a population of about 21,700,000, making it the seventh largest population of the European Union. This population is 89% Romanian, over 7% Hungarian and over 2% Romani. The overwhelming majority of the population identifies as Orthodox Christian although Romania itself is a secular State and has no official religion.  

Most visitors consider Romania one of the most friendliest and hospitable countries in Europe. Romanians are fun loving, warm, hospitable, and playful people, with an innate sense of humour and especially self-irony.

Romanian Language

Romanian is a Latin based language, very closed to the language of the ancient Roman Empire, even closer than Italian. A 31-letter Latin alphabet is used and Romanian is the only Romance language where definite articles are enclitic: that is, attached to the end of the noun (as in Scandinavian, Bulgarian and Macedonian), instead of in front, proclitic.
Some useful phrases to remember when visiting Romania include:

-                      "Bună ziua"
-                      (BOO-nuh zee-wah)
-                      Hello
-                      "Ce mai faci?"
-                      (cheh my FAHTCH)
-                      How are you?
-                      "Mulţumesc, bine"
-                      (mool-tzu-MESK BEE-nay)
-                      Fine, thank you.
-                      "Îmi pare bine"
-                      (OOHM pah-reh BEE-neh)
-                      Nice to meet you.
-                      "Mulţumesc mult"
-                      (mool-tzoo-MESK moolt)
-                      Thank you very much.
-                      “La revedere”
-                      (lah reh-veh-DEH-reh)
-                      Good bye.

It is also important to remember to address people in Romania by their Romanian honorific title: ‘Domnul’ for men, and ‘Doamna’ for women, followed by their surname. While friends may address each other using the honorific title followed by the first name, only close friends and family will use the first name without appending the honorific title. 

Hungarian, Romani, Ukrainian, German and Russian are the most spoken other languages in the country.

Recent Economic and Business History 

During the 2000s (decade), Romania enjoyed one of the highest economic growth rates in Europe and has been referred to as "the Tiger of Eastern Europe." This has been accompanied by a significant improvement in human development. The country has been successful in reducing internal poverty and establishing a functional democracy
The country made a number of government reforms in order to satisfy the conditions of EU membership, which it obtained in January 2007. Now the requirements of membership – including EU directives – make up one of the driving forces in Romania’s program of reform, modernization and investment in infrastructure. More significantly, these directives are accompanied by funding from the EU in the form of Structural Adjustment Funds and other programs to enable the new members to align their economies with the rest of the EU.
Romania has not yet entered the "Eurozone," but has set 2014 as the target year to adopt the euro. The current currency is the leu. 

Why do Business in Romania?

A marketplace of 22 million, 37 million acres of arable land, a vibrant oil and gas industry, breathtaking landscapes, an expanding economy, a well-educated workforce with more than 50,000 specialists in information technology, access to the Black Sea and Asia; these features of Romania have attracted investors from many different sectors worldwide. Other advantages to doing business in Romania include: one of the largest markets in Central and Eastern Europe (ranking 7th, with over 21 million inhabitants); EU unique market gateway (acess to approximately 500 million consumers); rich natural resources, including surface and underground waters and fertile agricultural land; high potential for tourism and NATO membership. 

Romanian Business Culture and Etiquette

Romanians are also very famous for their hospitality. Business meetings are, in the majority of cases, very warm and friendly. It is also very common to conduct business meetings over lunch. Work colleagues, after a hard day, especially in multinational companies, often socialise together in the evening at a local bar. It is quite uncommon for a Romanian to invite foreign business people to their homes or do business in a residential place.  
Business appointments are necessary and should be planned two to three weeks in advance within the traditional working hours of 9:00am to 17:00pm. Summer or other holiday periods (particularly Christmas and Easter) should be avoided.

Meeting schedules are not rigid in Romania. There may be an agenda, but it serves as a guideline for the discussion and can act as a springboard to other business. Remain flexible in your approach when doing business in Romania.

This post has, hopefully, taught you something about the intricacies of Romanian business culture. There is, however, a lot more to learn: a professional lifetime’s worth. At TJC Global, our interpreters are experts in Romanian practice as much as they are experts in the language. To find out how our services can assist you on your next business trip to Romania, visit TJC Oxford, or contact us.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Doing Business in Belarus

Belarus is a former Soviet Union republic which became an independent country in 1991. It is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe, bordering Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia. The population of Belarus is 10 million people, with 2 million living in the capital Minsk. In the past Belarus has experienced centuries of invasion and conquest. Between 1941 and 1944 the country was occupied by the Nazis, and it has lost 2.2 million people, including most of its large Jewish population. 

Nowadays, Belarus is an important transit route for Russian gas supplies to parts of Western Europe. Belarus is also a major exporter of machinery, chemical and petroleum products. Today Belarus is still largely unexploited by the world’s businessman, but its convenient geographical location between Europe and Russia and plenty of intellectual potential provide an excellent environment for successful business. In turbulent economic times, the Belarus economy has also been less affected than those which rely on global markets, and market analysts predict a robust growth for the economy of Belarus. Setting up and doing business in this country will be challenging, but do not be afraid of the hard work, as your efforts will pay off in the end. 


The Belarusian language (also known as White Russian) has been the official language since 1990, before which it was Russian. The majority of the population speaks both Russian and Belarusian, and in addition many people also speak Ukrainian and Polish. A number of businessmen are fluent in English, but because the legal system of the country is quite complicated, it is strongly recommended that a professional interpreter is employed when one is doing business in Belarus.

Meeting People

The Belarusians are often referred to as ‘the most patient Slavs’. Rather than getting involved in conflict, they would prefer to sort out any kind of problem through peaceful negotiation. In public, Belarussians are quite restrained. However, if you are greeted very enthusiastically and with a hug and/or a kiss, then you know that a good relationship has been established.

One of the typical weekend activities for Belarusians is working at their ‘dachas’ (country houses) growing fruit and vegetables. If you are travelling around by car, try to avoid driving on Friday nights especially during the summer, as roads are jammed with lots of people on their way to ‘dachas’ outside the cities. Belarusians are very proud of their plots of land, so do not be surprised by the excitement of a successful local businessman when showing you his tomato plants!

Belarusian Business

Business meetings in Belarus are quite formal. It is essential to make an appointment with your partner before your visit to Belarus. Avoid doing business in the first week of May as it has several public holidays. All foreigners staying in Belarus, whether on a short visit or on a work permit, are required to register with the local department of the Office of Visas and Registration (OVIR) within three days of arrival in Belarus. If you are staying in a hotel they will arrange this for you.

As bureaucracy is still very cumbersome in the country, to speed things up you can try to find a third party (preferably someone local with a good reputation and a good network of associates) who can act as your guarantor. As the level of taxation is quite high and legal regulations are quite complicated, it may also be worth looking into hiring a local lawyer or independent legal consultant.
Patience during business negotiations will always pay off. It is important to be open to concessions and be prepared to concede at least some minor things.

The Belarusian ruble (BR) is the only currency that can be used for any transactions that take place in Belarus. To account for potential currency fluctuations, business-to-business negotiations are often carried out in US dollars or euros, particularly if a foreign party is involved. But once agreed, payment is made in BR at the current exchange rate. Payments in other currencies are only permissible if made from outside Belarus.

This post has, hopefully, taught you something about the intricacies of Belarusian business culture. There is, however, a lot more to learn: a professional lifetime’s worth. At TJC Global, our interpreters are experts in Belarusian practice as much as they are experts in the language. To find out how our services can assist you on your next business trip to Belarus, visit TJC Oxford, or contact us.