One of the things I love most about Albanians is that they are warm and affectionate in relating to others.
A friend who visited Albania just last week told this story about his trip from the airport to the hotel.
“When we arrived at the hotel, I got out of the cab and asked the man, who was perhaps in his 60’s, how much money I owed him. He showed me the hand signals to communicate 2500 Albanian ‘leke’ (about $27). I had a bunch of 500 bills, so I gave him 5 “500″ bills and asked him if that was correct. He got a big grin on his face and said with his limited vocabulary of English, ‘Per–fect!’ and then he grabbed my face with both hands, kissed me on the cheek and gave me a big hug. I was surprised by this outburst of affection and didn’t know if I had just greatly over-payed or if this was a common gesture in Albanian culture. I was glad my exact change made his day.”
As our friend shared his story I could easily picture this cab driver hugging and kissing him like that and I laughed as he shared this somewhat strange ‘cross-cultural’ experience. But it brings to light one of my favorite attributes of Albanians that I savor. Their affection and warmth is endearing and makes connecting with them simple and fun, even if you don’t know the language or are a newcomer to their country.