Gender Issuses

Albanians have a very strong view of what men do and what women do. The men sit in the locales and drink coffee, beer and raki while the women do everything else. This seems to be a hold-over from the days when the men were responsible for protecting the family and village. Now, as they sit in the locales, the are very conscientious of any slight, thereby carrying on the ancient and honored tradition of protecting the family. With these strict and deeply embedded mores, it is always a delicate walk to not offend and still offer a different way of sharing responsibilities. For instance…..

Around the house, Criss vacuums and mops the floors while Carol handles the other cleaning. Now “work in the house” as it is called here, is strictly for the women, so when the daughter of the landlord came over and found Criss mopping, she said, “Oh Criss, you are a good man to help Carol with her work”. It was easier to smile and agree than to try to explain sharing duties.


We don’t have access to internet at the our offices, so any of our work that involves getting information from the web is done at home. For Criss, much of his work, finding device drivers, getting virus removal tools, or looking for fixes, requires him to access the internet and so a couple days a week he works from home. You can imagine the looks and comments as he tells people he is “working in the house”. (Language Note: In Albanian, as far as we understand, the preposition for in and at are the same – so in the house and at the house are said the same way.


While packing for our trip to Albania, we had to make several decisions about what to bring and what to leave. One thing we did not bring was an umbrella. So of course, one of the first purchases we had to make was an umbrella. It is actually one of the high points of our training service as it was the first time we went to a store unassisted by a translator and actually acquired the item we were looking for. Carol took the green umbrella and Criss took the red and for 18 months we have been very content with our purchases. Then a couple of weeks ago, one of Criss’ friends asked him why he carried a woman’s umbrella. After a few questions, we determined that men only carried black umbrellas and red was definitely feminine. Now please understand, umbrella color rules were being explained by a young man in a powder blue and pink shirt. Regardless, Criss has stopped carrying the red umbrella.

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