August 4, 2023

This isn't a question you typically hear in the states.

At least, not in in polite conversation.

You don't hear it in Albania, either.

Sometimes, though, during a conversation you will get asked,

"What are you?"

But, I'll save that for another time.

And if you've been following my blog,

you know that I am learning Albanian.

But, I keep screwing up.

Sometimes more.

Sometimes less.

From an English speaker's point of view, 

words move their letters around as they please.

And with 5 grammatical cases,

one misstep can send you in the wrong direction.

It's like a fun house of mirrors but without the fun. 

So what does this have to do with how much money a person makes?

I'll get to that.

But first, something you need to know about Albania.

Haircuts are important here.

Like really important.

On average, Albanian men get a haircut every 1-3 weeks.

And 3 weeks is pushing it.

Fresh buzz cuts are the norm.

You see close-cropped hair on the street every day.

Any guy looking to succeed has that look. 

Outside of that, good luck with fitting in.

Luckily, there is a barbershop down the street from me. 

Actually, there are three within a one block radius from my apartment.

And just so you know, I'm particular about my barbers.

When i sit in a barbershop chair, I like to chat.

It's therapeutic.

And I figure, while the barber is working on the outside of my head

I'll talk about what's on the inside.

In the US, barbers are almost like therapists or switchboard operators.

An American barber basically knows everything about everyone.

You want to know the neighborhood gossip?

Go to the barbershop. 

Because contrary to popular belief, guys do talk.

So, when I walked into my first Albanian barbershop,

I wasn't sure what to expect.

There was American pop music on the radio,

there were sounds of scissors quickly snipping away,

but no one was talking.

The walls were covered with motivational quotes like

"Compete against yourself" and "They can't catch what they can't see."

Plus, some photos of American musicians like Axel Rose, Jimi Hendrix, and Depeche Mode.

Near the entrance was a sign with a list of services and their prices.

A haircut for $5.00.

Not bad. 

So, in the chair I went. 

And when i looked at the barber in the mirror, I figured a friendly hello was in order.

"Sa eshte dita jote?"

Which I thought meant, "How is your day?"

I repeated it when the barber looked at me without answering.

"Sa eshte dita jote?"

This time the other barbers and their clients turned around.  

I was confused.

So, I asked in English,

"How is your day?"

"Good." he replied.

"Is that not what I asked?" thinking I had nailed my inquiry.


Now I was wondering what awful thing had I said.

"Well, what did I say?" 

"You asked me, 'How much do you make in a day?' "


I sat quiet for a second.

"Yeah, sorry. That's not what I wanted to know."

Awkward silence.

Then he asked,

"So, what do you do in Tirana?"

"I'm a writer."

"What do you write?"

"Blogs. Websites. Emails. That sort of thing. 

It's not bad.

I can live anywhere.

No boss. No coworkers."

"And you get paid to do that?"

"Yeah. Not the greatest pay, but not the worst."

He smiled, then looked at me. 

"So, how much do you make in a day?"

  So, how much do you make in a day?