Although locals in your host country will likely be understanding and not take offense at social blunders, provided they arise from ignorance rather than malice, you will be far more comfortable and welcomed if you acquaint yourself with local ways of doing things. As a guest in your host country you must adapt to the customs and social behavior of the region – not the other way round.
- Kosovo is a very young country and there are many young people out and about and inexpensive activities year round including dance clubs, concerts (both popular and classical), film festivals, coffee and tea festivals, and outdoor excursions especially hiking and skiing.
- Athletic activities are growing in popularity, though these activities tend to be practiced in specifically designated areas and parks. Very few local people run or jog on the street.
- When you enter a private home you are always expected to take off your shoes at the entrance (you may be offered a pair of slippers).
- It is customary to bring a small gift (ex. chocolates) when visiting a private home for the first time.
- In traditional Albanian culture, when you visit someone’s home, you, as the guest may be given a small gift as you are leaving (chocolate or sweets). It is considered rude to refuse such a gift.
- When you visit a home, you will always be offered at least coffee or tea, and very often food as well. It is considered rude to not drink or eat a little bit.
- Smoking is prohibited in most public places. If you are a smoker, please check the signs or ask someone before you smoke.
- Blowing your nose or sneezing loud in public is considered extremely rude, especially in a restaurant or at a dinner table. It’s best to leave the room if you need to blow your nose.
- Locals are friendly with visitors and will go out of their way to help you. If you ask someone directions you may inevitably be taken to your destination and should they not know the way they’ll phone a friend who does.
- Texting (SMS) is the most common (and cheapest) mode of communication as most people use prepaid phone plans.
- Support from the U.S. and Great Britain in the liberation of the Albanian population during the war was regarded as the most successful example of western intervention in recent history. This means Americans and Brits are welcomed with open armed gratitude and you may be thanked personally.
- Breakfast is similar to that in the United States. Lunch is typically the main meal and dinner is smaller than an American dinner.
- Kosovo enjoys a robust coffee culture, in which it is common to spend hours at a café drinking coffee. Macchiatos (little lattes) are the most common and tasty coffee option.
- Your local hosts may offer you an alcoholic beverage of raki, however remember though that it can be quite strong, so sip slowly.
- Be aware that some places in Kosovo may only accept cash, particularly in cafes, bars and small restaurants.
- There are many cafes that offer relatively inexpensive “continental” cuisine (pastas, pizza, grill) and many fast food options.
- A sit down restaurants with a server, tipping is not expected. 5%-10% on your bill is typical. There is no rule that you have to top, but it is considered good etiquette if you do. If you are paying with a credit card, leave the tip in cash.
- Although Kosovo's majority are Muslims, most citizens do drink alcohol.
- Kosovo is very safe for travelers, street crime and petty theft is generally low. The U.S. Embassy advises all U.S. citizens to take the same security precautions in Kosovo that one would practice in the U.S. or any large city abroad.
- If you tend to venture off the beaten path, beware of unexploded minefields that are left over from the war, particularly in inland or remote areas. Most land mines are now well-known and marked either by signs, fencing, or red paint. It is important to stay away from marked mine area and is best to stay on well-marked paths when running, walking or exploring.
- There is no official religion in Kosovo, although the country is about 90% Muslim with the remaining population Serb Orthodox or Albanian Catholic. Kosovo is tolerant of different faiths.
- As a Muslim dominated country, fasting may be observed during Ramadan so it is important to be respectful when it comes to eating in front of those observing the fast.
- Dress in Kosovo is fairly informal.
- When visiting and mosques or monasteries in Kosovo, you should dress more modestly in long pants or below the knee skirts (instead of shorts) and shirts or t-shirts that cover your shoulders (instead of tank tops/sleeveless shirts). Women may be asked to wear something to cover the head.
- Kosovars shake hands when meeting for the first time and on leaving and greeting people they already know.
- Close friends and relatives, men and women, also exchange kisses.
- A sign of respect or to express happiness at seeing a person, men sometimes place their left hand on their heart and bow forward a little while shaking your hand.
- Kosovars may also hold onto your hand while asking you how you are or where you are from.
- When greeting friends and colleagues, it is customary to ask not only how they are doing but also, to ask about the well-being of their family members.
- Sometimes Albanians simultaneously rock their heads, click their tongues, and wag their forefingers.
- In some areas, especially more rural areas, people will touch their nose when they say something good about someone, especially children. This is intended to avert any “bad luck.” It is similar to the expression “knock on wood”.
- Placing the left hand over the chest and moving the head slightly shows appreciation.
- Showing both hands with open fingers and palms up means “our conversation is over.”
- Unlike some places in the U.S., it is not a common practice to smile and say hello to strangers on the street.
Topics to Avoid
- Discussing inter-ethnic issues related to Serbian and Albanian nationalities are sensitive topics and might be better to avoid.
- Do not refer to Kosovo as Yugoslavia or to an Albanian/Kosovar as ‘Yugoslavian’.
- Discussing national politics with Kosovars can be sensitive because of widespread nationalistic views. Discussing other ethnicities of Yugoslavia, as well as religious issues in casual conversation are considered taboo.
After the dissolution of Yugoslavia in 1991, countries such as Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Croatia gained independence, however the southern Serbian region of Kosovo remained part of Serbia. The Kosovo Liberation Army fought Serbian forces and a war of independence took place from 1998-1999. In June of 1999, a NATO peacekeeping effort provided Kosovo with some autonomy over Serbia, however Kosovo’s desire for full independence grew. On February 17, 2008, Kosovo unanimously voted to declare independence from Serbia. Although the United States and most members of the European Union (EU) recognized Kosovo’s independence, Serbia, Russia, and a few other countries did not. As of 2017, 114 governments have recognized Kosovo as a sovereign state, including 22 countries of the European Union, as well as the U.S. Today Kosovo has emerged as Europe’s newest democracy and is known as the country of “Young Europeans” with 70% of the population being under the age of 35.
Kosovo has a continental climate, with hot summers and cold winters. During the months of May, June, July and September you are most likely to experience good weather with pleasant average temperatures. Late fall can be rainy and the coolest month is typically January. Occasional snow can fall in late fall, winter and early spring.
- Winter average temperature: 34 degrees F
- Summer average temperature 73 degrees F