Chats, Chums, and Cherry Compote — Loving Life as an Expatriate

Karen Espig
7 min readJun 14, 2022

Updates and tips on living as an expat in Albania

Photo by the author — Vincent, the expat-cat enjoying the garden in Pogradec (June 2022)

About two months ago, I wrote an article about my experience and challenges as a new expatriate. The struggle definitely continues and evolves, but I can feel the progress of the time in-between.

The response to that article has been wonderful. Thank you to the many people who took the time to reach out to me with responses of, “you’ve got this” or, “this is me, right now!” I am glad that I shared how I was feeling, and honoured that some have shared their similar experiences with me.

So here I am again, with updates, some thoughts on integrating, and maybe even some inspiration.

Happily, the weather has much improved since I first arrived in February. With the warmer temperature and coming tourist season, Pogradec has transformed. There are wild and cultivated flowers and trees blooming in quick succession, and more businesses opening up. The park area is now a sequence of outdoor patios that overlook the water. It is marvellous and healing.

Photo by the author — The temporary patio for Sherlock Pub in Pogradec

Learning the language

Of course, if you are not staying in one place, you likely won’t be fluent anywhere you go; but I think one should at least learn the basics: “hello/goodbye,” “please/thank-you,” and the really vital “I do not understand,” and “where is the toilet?”. If you are staying long-term, I believe it is important (and respectful) to learn more, even just some grocery items and a few more phrases. There are a few apps (free and otherwise) and plenty of YouTube videos available, and of course finding new friends who are native speakers is even better.

Once I decided that Albania would be my destination country, I began online language lessons with Luli Thomai, a native Albanian speaker and English language teacher. This continues to be a worthwhile investment as she teaches me, not only grammar, but also about the regional culture and history. I won’t lie — it is not easy and sometimes it feels like my brain is going to melt, but I try…

Karen Espig

I am a contemporary figure painter, working primarily in oils. I am also a Canadian Expat currently in Albania. Follow my art and travel journey.