Albanians are very welcoming. Elder men, more than the rest of the Balkans, demand to be treated with dignity because of their age. Men in the family, in particular, must be respected. Shake hands with them and avoid arguing about religion or politics. Certain subjects are absolutely forbidden, even if they are acceptable in the United States or other nations. One excellent example is homosexuality. Don’t ever bring up the subject of homosexual rights. Just keep in mind that the situation varies greatly depending on where you are (village or city) and who you are speaking with. Of course, avoid subjects that are beyond local comprehension in the hidden north, but be assured that the inhabitants of Tirana are as cosmopolitan and receptive to new ideas as the residents of Western Europe. There is nothing to be concerned about; all you need to remember is to respect the locals as much as you do at home.
If you stay in someone’s home for a night or two, don’t be shocked if you see a huge, antique AK-47 Kalashnikov hanging on the wall. It’s very common for Albanians to have firearms in their homes.
It’s customary in Albania to kiss the cheeks of guys your age or younger (if you’re a man), even if it’s the first time you encounter them. This is particularly true in Fier, Tepelena, Vlora, and Gjirokastra. In Northern Albania, you will just kiss each other’s cheeks rather than kissing them. Women kiss each other as well, sometimes from the first moment they meet, but men and women do not kiss each other on the cheek until they have been friends for a long time. Kissing cheeks amongst 15–20-year-olds is, nevertheless, extremely frequent. If there is a baby in the family, always ask to visit him or her and don’t forget to praise him or her (usually “qenka I shendetshem, me jete te gjate” or “what a sweet baby” works best). If you are a guy or a woman in a company of men, do not praise ladies unless they are under the age of 10–12 years. If you don’t know English but do speak a language where “you” in singular and “you” in plural are not the same (such as Italian, Greek, German, and so on), be aware that some Albanians do not use the plural form. If the journalist is a friend of the prime minister, he may be addressed with “ti” (you in singular, “tu” in Italian, “Du” in German, or “Esi” in Greek). However, when meeting someone for the first time, it is preferable to address them in plural, even though they will quickly urge you to call them in single. Police officers in Albania are often courteous. They almost seldom stop foreign vehicles, but if you hire a car, they may. However, if they see you are a foreign visitor, they will quickly advise you to proceed (usually with a “ec, ec, rruge te mbare” which can be translated in “go on, have a nice trip”). When this occurs, it is very polite to reply with a “faleminderit” (thank you in Albanian).
Albanians like dancing, particularly during weddings. Don’t be scared to dance if you’re going to a party! You may not be familiar with the traditional dances, but attempt to learn them.