Global Education

Countering Stereotypes: Albania

By Lorena Murati
Published: December 2010

When Americans hear about Albania they don’t really know where it is located, what language we speak or anything about our culture. Americans don’t even stereotype Albanians, because they don’t know of any stereotypes.
But here’s a description of some false stereotypes:
First, we are not communists. We were once associated with Russia, but since 1991 we’ve become a democratic state.
There’s freedom of press, speech, political thought just like in every democratic country. 
We are not drug dealers. Yes, the drug trade has been an issue, but that doesn’t mean all Albanians are drug dealers. The decisions of individuals shouldn’t taint a country’s reputation.
75% of Albanians are Muslims because the country was conquered by the Ottoman Empire over 500 hundred years ago, and the rulers of the empire forced the citizens to convert to Islam. We are by no means religious extremists. A variety of religions live happily with each other and there haven’t been conflicts between religions. 
So, about the problems we have with Greece and Serbia: Which two neighbors actually get along perfectly? None. Neighbors will always dispute; it’s just how it goes. We need to make an effort to get along better though.
People believe Albanians are short tempered. But we are not that highly tempered compared to other countries, we just have a low tolerance when dealing with things.
South of Italy, Greeks and Turks alike share our tempers and viewpoints- maybe it has to do with the warm weather. People who live in the North are calmer, whereas people who live in the South get heated in arguments faster.
A reputation that is true, however, is that Albanian schools are extremely hard, especially compared to the American ones. We start learning biology, physics, chemistry, geography, and a foreign language starting in third or fourth grade. We had to take all of those subjects, including math, history, and language arts, in the same school year.
I had to study and memorize everything in the book. We didn’t have to write so many essays, but there are many written and oral tests.
Every day, the teacher comes to class and asks you what you studied the night before and you needed to “recite what the chapter was about word for word from the book. You also needed to know previous chapters… I know, INTENSE!
There is corruption going on in the country, especially because we are still transitioning from our communist past to the new democratic era.
We were a closed nation for many years under the rule of Enver Hoxha, and corruption didn’t exist in those days. Nowadays, however, you can get a degree or pass a class just by paying the teacher!
As awful as that sounds, many people do it, especially the ones who know that they can’t pass the school year. Corruption is also prevalent in courts where the judge can be bribed quite easily. 
We’re working on getting better with this issue though!
Oh and by the way for all of those who don’t know where Albania is:
It is bordered by Montenegro to the Northwest, Kosovo to the Northeast, Macedonia to the East and Greece to the South and Southeast. It has a coast on the Adriatic Sea to the West, and on the Ionian Sea to the Southwest. See you there!

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