We all know that we don’t pat the back of a colleague in Korea to thank them for a “job well done”. Or eat with your left hand in India, or sip vodka in Russia. In many countries, these actions are harmless. But in others, they can give a wrong impression or cause offense.

In fact, whatever culture you’re from, it’s likely that you routinely do something that could cause offense somewhere else in the world. So here is:

A primer on how to avoid mistakes in Albania

While the relative majority of the people in Albania are of Muslim background, there are also large minorities of people with Christian (either Orthodox or Catholic) backgrounds. Many Albanians, regardless of their background may be agnostic, and religious observance as a whole is relaxed (recent polling shows that only 30 to 40 percent are observant). Marriages between people of different religious backgrounds are very common and in some places, even the rule. Traditional Albanian culture honors the role and person of the guest. In return for this place of honor, respect is expected from the guest. Albanians enjoy the long walks in the city streets, drinking coffee, and among the younger generations, participating in nightlife activities such as cafe lounging and dancing.

Albanians are very hospitable. Even more so than the rest of the Balkans, elder males expect to be shown respect on account of their age. Men of the family have to be respected in particular. Shake hands with them and do not argue about topics such as religion and politics.

Certain topics are strictly taboo, although they may be fine in the United States or other countries. Homosexuality is one good example. Don’t speak about gay rights, no matter what. Just remember that the situation changes a lot according to the location (village or city) and the people with whom you speak as well.

Of course, in the hidden north, avoid topics that go beyond local understanding, but be sure that in Tirana you will find very cosmopolitan people that are as open to new ideas as the citizens of Western Europe.

There is nothing particular to worry about; all you need to remember is to respect local people as much as you do back home. Sometimes, if you stay for a night or so at someone’s house, don’t be suprised if you see a big, old AK-47 Kalashnikov staying at the wall. It’s pretty normal for Albanians to keep guns in the house.

With this, you had the primer on key facts about Albania, and key facts on culture and customs. Another important part of the culture is the local food and the local drinks. Make sure you read our posts on Albania food and drinks:

Local food you should try in Albania and No miss drinks in Albania.

Other tips that you’d like to share on mistakes to avoid in Albania? Please comment below.