Thursday, May 04, 2006


Yesterday I took our dog out for a long and lovely walk around the block and stopped for fresh bread just out of the oven . There was a little line-up of about 5 ladies so I joined it and happily waited for my turn at the window. Suddenly an elderly man (NOT a gentleman by any stretch) came along and walked right up to the front of the line and plucked down his coins and was handed his bread.

"Hummmmmph" I thought, "Something's just not right about this".

"Excuse me Sir, don't you think you should go to the back of the line and wait your turn just like everyone else????" I asked. In English. Everyone turned around and looked at me, a big, blond, foreign women ranting and wagging her pointer finger.

"Madam" I asked the ladies around me, "Why do you put up with this treatment, this- this lack of respect?"

"Po, po," (something in Albanian about "Yes, yes we get no respect"), muttered one sweet old lady.

Aha, thought I-- I am on the right track about this.

A young woman looked at me and asked "What is your name?" I wondered to myself what the heck did she want to know that for, but I told her my name anyway. Then I thought what's fair is fair and I asked her for her name. "Luciana" she said. "So Luciana, do you speak English?" "No" she replied. So that ended that.
Then again- another man came along and went right to the front of the line. I tapped him on his shoulder and once again asked him what he thought he was doing. The ladies all murmered 'prapa', the Albanian word for behind. But it fell on deaf ears and the man walked away. I was fuming and quickly thinking of starting an Albanian Feminist Movement.

I finally got my bread and walked home feling quite thrilled with my little therapeutic temper tantrum.

Later in the afternoon my cleaning girl arrived and I told her what I had experienced. "Why do you Albanian women put up with this kind of treatment? I asked.

"Mrs. Kim", she replied, "In our tradition we have two lines for bread, one for the men, and one for the women. And we take turns, man- woman, man-woman."

"Oh" said I, "That's logical."

And I felt rather silly for having made such a scene on the street.


The SeaWitch said...

I don't see how that's logical considering that there are probably 5 women to every 1 man who buys bread. This little 'tradition' seems to serve the purpose of facilitating men. Otherwise, the women wouldn't have had to stand in the line-up while the men got served first. I could be wrong since I haven't stood in a bread lineup in Albania. But I have stood in them in Greece and I guarantee you, I wouldn't keep silent for any tradition that kept me waiting longer than a man.

Anonymous said...

During communism bread and milk were very scarce in Albania and people would wake up at 4 in the morning and go and stand in line for a bottle of milk and a loaf of bread before they left for work. In most families husbands and wives would take turns going and standing in separate lines, and sometimes both of them would go and stand in line just to make sure that at least one of the two was able to secure the milk for their children. That is when this so called "tradition" started. I think it's time for Miss Kim and her friends to change this little tradition. :)

Anonymous said...

I dont think this favors man any more than women. Like the poster above me mentioned, it generates from the communist days where some specific foods were scarce.

It works like this:
There are supposedly two lines. One for men and one for women. The seller will serve one customer from the women's line, and then serve one customer the men's line, and then again one from the womens line and one from the men's line, and so on and so on. The number of people on each line is purely random. There could be more men or there could be more women on each line.
It favors the shorter line, but it does NOT favor a specific gender. If there are a lot of men waiting in line but no women, and a woman comes in, she can jump in front of them and do her business without waiting in line.

Also this "tradition" is not practiced everywhere. It depends on the neighborhood and how many rednecks live there. :)

Dixie said...

Interesting tradition. You'd think they'd change it though.

ITS said...

Yeah, I mildly agree with the two compadres above. The male-female line separation is only the tip of the iceberg.

What we inherited from communism was the feeling that everything was scarce. People were always trying to cut through the line so they wouldn't be the ones to go home without that loaf of bread.

Presently, there is a general lack of respect for fellow citizens. Somehow, everybody believes that they are more important than the people waiting in line, and will cut them off.

Therefore, as sad as it makes me to admit, Albanian people have no civic responsibility of holding a line. Whether it's at the bakery, or trying to board a public buss, mobs of people will create with the physically strongest getting served first.

Last year, I almost got in a fist-fight at the police station's passport office counter, when a man who came 20 minutes after me tried to cut me off.

I think the EU should make it a foremost requirement for us (Albanians) to learn to respect the queue, before we can join in...

This subject pisses me off badly, and Kim, I am sorry you had to experience it. (But rest assured that this is NOT a feminist issue at ALL!)

Kim/Thomas said...

YOU CRACK ME UP, REALLY! I WOULD HAVE DONE THE SAME THING (i can stop yelling and laughing loudly) I always am sticking up for everyone, and usually putting my foot in my mouth, as I usually speak before I actually assess the situation:):)
that is what makes life so funny and interesting, and I love it when the frog rolls his loving eyes at me:)

Anonymous said...

This is hilarious; I'd actually forgotten this myself but now it is all comming back. Thank you for 5 minutes of continous laughter :)


Miss Kim said...

Wow... fabulous comments on this post- thank you- esp. the Albanians who add more information to my experience. I wish I had one of you as my shadow here in Tirana!
ITS... I've been thinking about this lack of respect and civic responsibility for a while now and I do think it is probably the #1 problem in Albania. Just think how different things would be here if this wasn't the case!

Anonymous said...

traveller one,
i am albanian too. just want to add one more thing to the list of reasons why this man/woman thing is the case. when food was scarce, people started to find all sorts of ways to cut through lines. one of the ways was creating two lines for men/women, so that couples would line up in both in hopes that one line would get there earlier.

i was visiting my parents last christmas and had to line up for meat coz if my mom had lined up, it would take us forever...

thx for the story. beautifully written.

christina said...

Oooops! Well, chalk that one up to experience. What an interesting concept. I find it fascinating that people will still hold on to stuff like that even when the need is gone.

In Germany people are terrible at standing in line and it's usually the guy with the sharpets elbows who wins. Old ladies in the supermarket will cut in front of you or shove you from the back and think nothing of it. I don't think it comes from a lack of respect, it seems to be a total unawareness of ones surroundings.

Cynthia Rae said...

I have one say thing say to you, "You GO GIRL"! There should be one line and ONE LINE ONLY. And that should be a first come first serve! What day and age do we live in anyway?

ps. At least you have lines. Here in Italy there is no such thing...

Writer and Nomad said...

wow, sex-separated bread lines. now there's a concept that never even crossed my mind. amazing the things that people come up with.

have you seen more things of this nature that make you feel albanian women really need a movement?

ITS said...


Let me assure you that the Albanian women are some of the loudest mouths in the world, comparatively speaking.

Under communism women were given all rights equal to men. True enough, both genders were oppressed, but equally oppressed nevertheless.

Albanian women occupy high profile jobs, government positions, and run multimillion dollar companies. They dominate the media, and the showbiz.

I would say that the average Albanian woman is more educated than the average man.

Of course there are women caught in bad situations or ones that live in backwards rural areas. Isn't that the case everywhere in the world though?

The last thing Albania needs is a feminist movement. God help us from loudmouths... It's "bad" enough as it is... :D

Corrie said...

wow--you've really started something here! I think it's awesome that you stood up for yourself, even if there is a 'tradition' behind the bread line. It's interesting hearing more about the gender issues there in Albania, especially since I've got a couple of American friends who married Albanian men.


Alison said...

Line jumpers are my pet peeve! As a Canadian I am used to waiting my turn but here in europe lines seem to be a free-for-all. Belgians seem to be big line jumpers. Despite the 'tradion' in Albania, I'd be pissed off too :)

verniciousknids said...

In Japan it's believed that people from Tokyo line up in an orderly fashion and respect the rules of the queue, while those from Osaka take a more relaxed approach to lining up (i.e. they break the rules). Perhaps this stems from Osaka's merchant tradition and Tokyo's samurai tradition? Personally, I've found that Japanese all across the country are patient queuers!

Anonymous said...

Becouse of long lines during communisim it just did not stand to reason that men and women would squeeze their bodies against one another for hours on end.

Think of personal space and how invasive this sardine squeeze business would be to most women.
It was out of respect and properness that man and women divided the line on account of the sexes.

There is nothing exeotic abot this line if you really ponder it. As the lines have died, so will the tradition.

Lily said...

Well, you learn something new everyday. I didn't even know about this male/female queue thing. It seems silly that it should still exist though, I don't see how it's fair for anyone.
Albania still has many gender issues, but I dont think this is one of them.
Oh, and contrary to some people's beliefs(see above) we are not "loudmouths", if anything we should be more opinionated, which is a more positive word I would say. Albania does need a feminist movement, although it would be really funny if it originated from a bread line....:D

Tracie P. said...

separate lines?? i guess it's an albanian thing ;)

Anonymous said...

Women in Albania have the same rights as man, dammit. It is ignorant to think otherwise. One good thing that communism did was enforcing equal rights and respect for both women and men. If you were to VERBALLY insult an woman during those days, you were jailed.

Heck, Albania gave women voting rights before many Western European countries did. Here is a reference link:

We do not need a movement in Albania, unless women want MORE rights than men. o_O

Any civilized person respects women the same as men.

If the uncivilized few maloks (or rednecks as you call them) do not respect them, then a movement will surely not change their mind. Do you ladies in the USA protest in the streets, so that the southern rednecks respect you more?


Lily said...

Yes, the albanian men have decided we do NOT need a feminist movement as we have enough rights, therefore we must just shut out mouths and be thankful for what we have...;)

I would answer the above points, but I don't want to turn this into a debate out of respect for the host.
Great post Kim, learning new things about Albania through your blog even though I have lived there half my life.:)

PS: Just a couple of points, which may or may not be of interest. Women's emancipation/movements/rights/whatever don't always have to do with government legislation but also with geneal attitudes. Secondly, those maloks/rednecks or whatever (wrong) derogatory terms people like using unfortunately make up more than half the country...
Good day.

Anonymous said...

@ londonlily:

I do not represent the Albanian men. I only represent myself.

Look, I am as liberal and open minded as a guy can get. I am pro gay marriages, equal rights for everyone, etc etc. But I do not think that gender issues are that major or widespread in Albania as to require a movement.

I have to repeat that what Kim experienced was NOT gender related.

And no, those rednecks do not make up most of the country. Maybe countrymen make up more than half of Albania, but not all countrymen are rednecks.

Anonymous said...

You cannot take a country as backwards as Albania was, throw it into Communism, take it out and expect it to have the same views on gender equality. Just because there are laws that say we are equal, this equality, unfortunately, is not etched into the minds of all. When 1/3 of Albanian women report abuse, that should be the loudest voice heard. You can have equal rights written in stone, but as long as those few ignorant, arrogant few exist, there is no equality. Stop clinching to the law, and look at the reality of the situation(to those who believe there is equality). There is plenty of room for improvement.

Anonymous said...

A feminist movement is not the most imporant. Albania has plenty of issues to deal with first but one cannot say that there is the genereal equality that you imply.

Anonymous said...

My hat off to Genci, if you are indeed as liberal as you say. I put my prejudice aside that Albanian men are homophobic.

ITS said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
ITS said...

Ladies and Gentleman,

We have a flame war on our hands. Also the last anonymous x3 user seems to be, what in Internet lingo we call a TROLL!

I am sick of people pulling statistics out of their asses. Half of Albanian men are rednecks? 1/3 of Albanian women report abuse? Albanian men are homophobic?

The above statements display ignorance and bigotry.

I stand firm on my previous comments that there is equality and harmony between men and women in Albania. This is not by law, but by common observations. Albanian women enjoy the same rights and privileges as all Western women do in their respective countries.

There will never be perfect equality between men and women, until women can grow a penis, develop upper body strength, or stop nagging us about the toilet seat (by the way should I leave it up or down -- never got this one right).

So stop the ridiculous arguments about this matter.

Anyone can contribute on how to make people more respectful at standing in lines, be them men or women?

... on a second thought, that will take a couple of generations.

The Meksi Clan said...

Kim, you can help start a new tradition. Instead of two lines, you can start a three line for men, one for women, and the last one for foreigners. I think that favor you quite a bit :-)

In all seriousness, anybody that believes that there is no equality between genders in Albania, is a fool. A bigger fool is the one that believes that Albanians are not homophobic.

Unknown said...

Very very odd! Same goes for older women in Switzerland. They are so rude and have a hard time standing in line. This lady tried to cut in front of us after we waited 30 plus minutes for a boat and with our Swiss German friend there too. She cut in front of us in a tiff. We made her go to the end of the line and she thought she was special because she was older than us 30 somethinger's... No respect! I hate that and well I would have said what I could have if I were alone...

Anonymous said...

te me fali kjo zonja qe s'di anglisht,por me beri pershtypje se sa "ishte ndjere keq"per "zgjidhjen" qe ne shqipetaret i kemi bere rradhes.Pse s'ndihet keq kjo zonja kur ne aeroport ne nje sportel jane 100 shqipetare(dhe sa cudi,burra dhe gra bashke :)),ndersa ne sportelin tjeter vetem ajo (ose ndonje tjeter moralist si ajo),jo se s'kemi nevoje per te njohur difektet tona,por dhe te te bejne moral "per qimen(ne syrin e tjetrit) pa pare trarin" ne syte e tyre,s'me duket me vend.
ju uroj shendet dhe suksese ne punen tuaj zonje.eduart rustemaj

Miss Kim said...

Could some kind Albanian please translate the above comment for me? Thank you :)

(I am enjoying the dialogue on this post tremendously and will try to respond with a few of my thoughts later today).

Anonymous said...

Violence against women in Albania

Now, I am the last person in the world to blindly believe any statistic that is published, but my dear friend ITS, I certaintly didn't pull those numbers out of nowhere. I was wrong, appareantly it's 40% of women and not 1/3 as I previously stated. You can believe whatever you want. You can turn a blind eye to abuse, but it doesn't mean it's not there.

As far as homophobia as shown by Albanians, I won't even start an argument there. I don't know who you are, but it seems that everything you suggest is from a personal basis. Maybe you consider yourself open-minded and treat women with respect, but please, open your eyes, not all Albanians are the same as you. So much for your observations. You only note what you want to see.

But this has gotten out of hand and onto a completely different issue.

This ignorant bigot wishes all well.

Lily said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

"Could some kind Albanian please translate the above comment for me? Thank you :)"

OK I will try :):
I apologise to this lady for not knowing English, but I was suprised that she was "feeling bad" for the "solution" that we Albanians have given to waiting lines.

Why doesn't she feel bad, when in the airport there are 100 Albanians in one line (how amazing, men and women together :)), while in the other line it is only her (or maybe some other moralist like her)?
Aknowledging our defects is not wrong, but giving advice when you don't see the whole picture is inappropriate.

I wish you health and success at your job, ma'am.

Romerican said...

Zing! What a great story. I could imagine myself in your shoes every step of the way... and the resulting enlightenment was a perfect ending! I laughed out loud.

Of course, I still find the whole notion of gender-based lines to be an extremely silly way to organize things and I can clearly believe you would never have imagined such a preposterous state of affairs, but what a gas it was to read.

Ginnie said...

So see what you started , Kim? Somehow the title of your post now seems very apropos: "Nevermind!" Ha.

Actually, you don't want to get me started on airplane boarding lines in France!

Anonymous said...

This story shows that the lady has no appreciation and understanding of our culture/history. Many spoiled foreigners complain, complain, complain about anything in Albania, even when there is no need, like the line argument. You can make a living nowadays in the Western world by writing anything against the Albanians. I live in Canada. Canadians think they're nice and polite, but i think they aren't in many ways. Las summer i almost died on TTC(Toronto Transit Commission). The Square One bus was coming and people were crowding on the platform. (No line at all, jsut pushing each other in a big crowd)Someone pushed me and i was falling on the asphalt while the bus was half a second away.Thanks God that my mom pulled me back or i would die in the streets of Canada at a tender age away from my Land of the Eagles. Standing in 2 lines for bread is the law of the land and we will not change it or initiate political unrest because some Canadian says it! It's my 3rd year in university here and i haven't had a single anglophone woman as my prof! From my classes, in my first year we had a visiting female German prof and this year we had a woman prof from Quebec. Go home and fix your own feminist problems!

Anonymous said...

correction: it was not square one, Sherway Gardens

Miss Kim said...

Dear anonymous,
Thank you for your opinion. You obviously didn't READ my post, but if you did then your comprehension is sadly lacking. You are rude beyond belief and give all Albanians a bad reputation.I am most definitely NOT a SPOILED foreigner and I'm sorry if you nearly got hit by a bus in Canada. Here in Albania you might have been hit as well, but that's not specifically a Canadian experience is it?

My blog is about MY experience here in Albania. What I write about is what happens to ME.
Did you NOT see that my story is FUNNY? I make fun of myself and my own LACK of cultural understanding.

I've only lived here a year- should I know EVERYTHING about Albania? In my defense I have read every book I could find on YOUR country and have tried to learn as much as possible. BREAD LINES have NOT been discussed in books. Perhaps when you finish university YOU could write a book about Albania?
Please grow up.

Anonymous said...

in the story you don't make fun about yourself. you make fun of albanians with a Canadian sarcasm very familiar to me.
I am not ruining the reputation of Albania. i am defending it. Who are you to decide the reputation of Albania anyway?
just because you are canadian you dont' have the right to become bossy.
Canadians are in self denial. Some things are even worse in Canada than in Albania and you jsut can't take a little criticism.

Anonymous said...

"have you seen more things of this nature that make you feel albanian women really need a movement?"

No there is no real need of a women movement in Albania. What for? Ruin the women just like the North American women are? No family values, sleep around easy w h o r e s, and turning men into manginas?

Miss. please don't go to a country and try to change what you don't like, or what suits to you personally. Back in the comunism day, in the infamous milk line, there were always more men than women, hence women were the one favorised with this concept.

This line thing, I haven't experienced it in a long time. Everytime I go and get my bread, there is only one line, or very few people in line anyways. There are plenty of bakeries, no need to wait for bread anymore.

Lily said...

I...must...refrain..myself from replying to comments such as the one above.
But I just can't help feeling very angry over all these comments from men that keep repeating "No there is no real need of a women movement in Albania." It's funny, and quite revealing, how that one little comment about organising a women's movement made everyone (who isn't female) so jumpy...

The PC said...

1.the gender separated line is NOT a sexist thing!

2.most of the reactions of the men to the post were pretty sexit!

3.albania needs a feminist movement. everyone needs one of those!

that is all i have to say about that. have a nice day.

The PC said...

albanians respect lines more than any place i've been in. (i've been to many places, where they had lines)

Miss Kim said...

I have always believed that ALL countries need a women's movement, as well as a men's movement. Until ALL human beings are treated as equals, none of us are free.

Anonymous said...

London Lily, please stay in London and don't come back. Ok? Never shave your armpits, or legs, or your thing, (as that is a service to men, right?), be as ugly and as fat as you can. Either turn lesbian or marry an ugly British dude and be happy with ugly kids. Just make sure to have a good divorce lawyer when the time to split from your hubby comes.

Modern Feminism has nothing to do about equality, but more about supremacy. It is nothing else but a supremacist movement orchestrated to put women in a power position in the society.

Here in the US (I have Canadian friends, and a Canadian female roommate also, so Canadian women are not much different), women are quick to scream about equality, and the right that they fought for during the feminism movement. But when it comes to stepping up to the plate, dating, and other thing that require effort, they are quick to say that they like a “Traditional Man”, a gentleman. It is plain hypocrisy.
I call them just feminist of convenience. Basically women want the cake, and eat it too.
Funny, is that one of the biggest complains you hear in here, is that men are not real men.

Sorry, LondonLily. Last thing I want to see when I go back home is a bunch of feminazis running around the country burning their bras, spread opening their legs, having no family values, and doing dope to get in touch with earth and nature.

If you read feminist books, the basic tenet is that Family and Marriage is prison. If you think so, then please just turn Lesbian and leave the rest of us alone.

I repeat, modern feminism has nothing to do with equality, and it is very different from the early true feminist movevement of the 19th century.

The PC said...

ardit, you are an idiot!

your experience is not universal.

you know nothing and understand even less about feminism.

I don't know where in Albania Satan laid the egg you came out of, but i will have that whole village disinfected!!!

where were your family values when my generation was being raped in the 1990s?

stop being rude to london lily, she's got fabulous eyebrows!!!!!

tropizma said...

this post was hilarious! thank you kim. i especially enjoyed the part where the woman asks you for your name, and you asks for hers, and it all dies there. while a basic need for knowledge and communication must be fulfilled, most people (and my fellow albs will jump on me, but most fellow albs) are either too lazy or simply incapable of pursuing knowledge and communication much further. it's kinda like eating ham when you come home from work - too hungry/lazy to make the sandwich, forget about actual cooking.

the feminism debate is intriguing. apparently the guys feel entitled to know 'the truth' about albanian women, about what they need and don't need. dear albos, do you remember your moms going to work? do you remember them cooking? do you remember them cleaning? do you remember them washing, ironing, feeding, pleasing your spoiled selves? do you remember them putting make-up on, heels on, tweezing their eyebrows, shaving here there and everywhere, wearing those weird nylons? do you remember your fathers reading the papers, reading the books, watching the news, in their comfy clothes, giving you a piece of advice or two (that was their tiring job of childrearing), drinking raki with the buddies with the nice mezes prepared by the moms? they all worked, of course, but chances are the mom was a teacher and the dad a principle, the mom a pediatrician and the dad a surgeon, the mom a specialist and the dad section head. all good and equal under the albanian constitution.

a feminist movement starting at the bread line is a good marxist joke.