Culture Shock and Anxiety; Joy and Adventure — Why I Took a Bus, a Bath, and a Break

Karen Espig
Expat Notebooks
Published in
6 min readApr 12, 2022

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Experiences of a new expat in Albania

Photo by Cosiela Borta on Unsplash

I recently moved from Canada to Albania and applied for residency. I have learned many valuable things over the past 48 days, not the least of which is that it is easier to be a tourist than a newcomer.

As a tourist, the rules are more or less known. You arrive in a place, see the sights, try the food, and learn how to say “please,” “thank you,” “where is the toilet,” and “I do not understand.” When you move to a place, you survey the neighbourhood you’ve chosen (in my case, arbitrarily, as I had never been to Albania), buy groceries labelled in a foreign language, and hope the few words you know mean what you intend and get you what you need. There is also internal pressure to find your way into your new community.

When you are a tourist, you expect to be stared at in curiosity and amusement. It is not a concern when you know that in a few days or weeks, you will be back in your comfortable surroundings, interacting with people you know.

When you relocate, however, to a new town in a new country, it is very different. You are viewed the same way by locals at first, but when you start buying pots and towels, they realize you will be staying — and then you can bet you are being spoken…

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Karen Espig
Expat Notebooks

I am a contemporary figure painter. I am also a Canadian Expat currently in France. I write about expat life, relationships, and online dating.