The Expats Ambassador
Moving to Albania? Here’s Where to Find the Info You Need
Moving to Albania is an adventure in so many ways and one that I highly recommend having taken the plunge myself four years ago. I was fortunate to have been a Peace Corps volunteer at the time and have that organization behind me to help navigate some of the nuances of living in Albania, many of which are waaayyyy…different than life back home in the United States.
Even with three months of language and culture training under my belt, I made plenty of mistakes and hit a number of avoidable roadblocks along the way.
One-stop-shop for information about Albania
If I were moving to Albania on my own today, however, Expats in Albania would be my primary resource. The website is loaded with tips about everyday life (shopping, travel, schools, food, etc.), housing options, immigration information, and much more. Through this website, you can get the basic info to go about things on your own or you can establish contact with a local expat that can assist you through all the key steps via the “Welcome Package” designed specifically for a newcomer.
Albania is a very friendly country but having someone on your side that knows well the local ‘pitfalls’ can help you avoid misunderstandings due to the language barrier or being taken advantage of by less scrupulous individuals.
In addition to free information, specialized consulting services at reasonable prices are available for more unique or challenging situations—or if you would simply like to have a native speaker interpret and help get you settled. This can come in particularly handy when negotiating a lease, making a business investment, or any number of situations.
Just so you know, the Albanian language (called shqip) is a difficult language that is unlike any other. There are two main dialects and many variations that differ from village to village. Even Albanians struggle to understand one another if they are from different parts of the country, so don’t assume that if you speak Italian or some other Latin language you’ll be able to muddle through. You won’t.
Sure, Albanians have adopted some words from other languages that might sound familiar, but it’s not enough especially if you are in a situation that requires specialized vocabulary.
Avoiding bumps in the road
Denisa Kaca Bradley, the founder of the “Expats in Albania” organization, says she knows of many situations expats have run into without reaching for local advice or guidance. Here are a few things to be aware of :
- prepaying a whole year’s rent upfront. While the benefit of this may be a slight discount if an issue occurs consider that refund almost impossible to get back.
- moving into a home to find out that ac units are the only means to heat up the place. While Albania is a Mediterranean country, winters can be cold in a brick and concrete building.
- not knowing the local market, a good price for your country does not mean that it’s a good price locally.
- as a foreigner, generally speaking, you are seen as an opportunity to earn some easy buck, so don’t expect ethics or mistake friendliness for authentic friendships
“Even though I am Albanian-Canadian, I’ve had my own personal and business challenges during the first years of my return to Albania. Jokingly and not, I say people saw ‘$ sign on my forehead’ when I first arrived. I’m sure I’ve paid double if not triple on anything I had to get done. On the other hand, the unfortunate labyrinths of the legal, political, and government systems here leave a way to problems that would never get solved,” Denisa said.
“Albania does not offer the protection that many Westerners are accustomed to. You want someone trustworthy and with good intentions on your side to lessen the probability of running into a ‘pitfall’. Situations are endless and we cannot guarantee immunity for anyone but what we can guarantee is our commitment to be on your side and help you prevent any issues that you will most likely run into by going at it on your own.”
Meeting and hanging out with other expats
The Expats in Albania Facebook group is very active and a great way of connecting with like-minded expats from Europe, the Americas, and other locations. Through Facebook (the primary tool used by Albanian businesses for promoting goods and services), Expats organizes hikes nearly every weekend with certified guides (English- and German-speaking) to villages and other natural wonders in the area. In addition, there are regular coffee and cocktail meet-ups at various locations around Tirana that are all posted on their Calendar of Events.
Members of the Expats Facebook group also freely share experiences, ask questions and organize impromptu get-togethers. A local friend and work colleague even met her husband through the site.
More about Expats in Albania
Expats in Albania is the brainchild of Denisa Kaca Bradley. She was born and raised in Tirana. At 17 years old, she was in one of the first groups to escape Albania in 1990 when she and several thousand other students stormed the Italian, French and German embassies, seeking political asylum from the brutal communist regime at that time.
This departure from her country and separation from her family was needless to say one of the hardest but most important things she did, which changed completely her life. Later in 1996, she managed to secure immigration to the US for her parents and brothers, today residing in Seattle, Washington, USA.
After four years in Italy and 18 years in Canada, where she gained citizenship and was involved in film production in Vancouver, BC, and eventually the owner-operator of three “Curves for Women” locations, Denisa is back in Albania. The economic downfall of 2008 made her realize that it was time for a simpler life with fewer economic obligations.
She more or less sold everything she had in her name and moved to Albania, where she has established herself and continues to grow her service business.
Armed with her life experience and the wish to bring something positive to Albania she explored several avenues while having launched on the side the Expats in Albania Facebook group to bridge the gap between the local community and the tourists and expats that started taking interest in the small country.
For two years she volunteered as an ambassador for Internations and helped establish the Tirana community, organizing networking events that grew and flourished.
Being always in touch with expats, Denisa realized the need for some key services, and most importantly the need to take it upon herself and make this a full-time commitment. Since then she launched the website expatsinalbania.com and is fully busy with servicing expats in several fronts and creating win-win situations like launching the “for rent by owner” platform to avoid agency fees and securing a “group rate” health insurance for expats etc. She is constantly looking for ways to improve expats experience in Albania and is always open to new ideas and suggestions.
Since its modest start, Expats in Albania has evolved into a vibrant community of interesting people from all walks of life and all over the world. Take the time to get acquainted with what it has to offer—it will improve your experience in Albania so you can more easily enjoy all that it has to offer.