Albania is a small eastern European country nestled among beautiful foothills and the majestic Mediterranean Sea. When traveling to Albania for business or pleasure, there are few customs and traditions that you should become familiar with before your trip. Mastering business etiquette in Albania can help you build strong, lasting relationships and help you establish a supportive business network within the country.
Albania is home to more than 3 million people. At least one third or Albania’s residents call the capital of Tiran home. The most commonly spoken language in Albania is Greek, but Vlach, Slovanic, and Romani dialects are also quite common. About 70% of Albanians are Muslim and 30% are Christian; therefore when traveling to Albania be sure to become familiar with the religious regulations governing both.
Proper greetings are extremely important especially when conducting business abroad. First impressions are everything, so properly greeting your Albanian business counterpart or superior is essential. When greeting a man, it is important to extend your hand for a handshake while maintaining eye contact continuously. When greeting a woman, a light handshake will do.
Albanians take great pride in how they look; therefore it is important to dress formally when meeting for business. Men should wear a business suit and tie and it is acceptable for women to wear a business suit, dress, or tailored shirt and skirt. For both men and women, darker colors for business meetings are best.
Business Cards & Titles
Albanians take pride in the titles they have earned. This means when greeting someone or addressing someone with a title, the title should be included in the greeting. For business cards there is no specific protocol, if you have a business card you may offer it when it is appropriate.
Business Meetings & Presentations
Business meetings in Albania are considered formal, especially if held in an office or board room setting. When a high ranking official enters the room, subordinates and guests should stand. When giving a presentation or kicking off a meeting, the leader or presenter should begin with a short speech. Always introduce yourself or have a friend introduce you to each person attending the meeting or presentation, higher ranking officials first. Promptness is respected in Albania so be sure to show up early for a meeting. It is common for business meetings to be held later in the day than first thing in the morning.
If you are not fluent in the language spoken by your counterparts, you should hire a translator for negotiations. Haggling is a common practice in Albania, so when negotiating price be sure to include everything from product to shipping costs. Decisions about negotiations are often made by top officials and are carefully considered sometimes for long periods of time before a final decision is made. Offering new solutions to problems during negotiations is looked down upon, Albanians do not appreciate suggestions which are not backed by hard facts and tried and true methods.
Gifts are appreciated but not expected. The most prized gifts are tokens from your home country such as small figurines, postcards, and other trinkets. Gifts are usually presented in private and should be nicely wrapped. If you receive a gift, you are expected to return one.
When attending dinner or lunch you may be offered an alcoholic beverage, it is important to accept this gesture especially if it is "raki," an Albanian favorite. Albanians often like to pay for the first meal and expect you to return the gesture if you are asked out again.
In some parts of Albania shaking your head means "yes", nodding means "no," so be sure to adjust accordingly. Albanians are very expressive and use their hands to communicate often. For example, shaking your pointer finger back and forth while muttering means you do not want what is being offered. If you are unsure of the proper gesture, be sure to speak commands clearly.
When making small talk, it is acceptable to include anecdotes about home since Albanians are very interested in learning about other countries and places. Be sure when negotiating price to specifically state which currency will facilitate the transaction.
When traveling to Albania for business, mastering these simple tips will ensure you have a productive and enjoyable trip.