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.

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