Walk around the airy streets of the capital Tirana and ask people what they think about the United States, and you will be met with almost uniform responses of admiration, respect and gratitude.
Just as uniform is the reaction to the U.S. presidential election.
Albanians say they are not following the primaries closely, but they react without hesitation when they hear the name “Trump,” with some laughing, some shaking their heads, and others wincing. Most have not heard of Ted Cruz, and seem enthusiastic about a possible Hillary Clinton presidency. But when it comes to Trump, reaction is a mixture of disbelief, amusement and revulsion. “He seems a little crazy, but clever,” Aurora Xhixha, a microbiologist, told me. “Selfish,” is how Endri Hasanaj described him.
Discussing Trump’s call to stop Muslims from entering the United States, Adelina Bego, a doctor, sounded pained. “Here in Albania we live together, without considering religious differences,” she said. “We have seen America as the symbol of democracy, a symbol to emulate.” Trump’s proposal, she said, would destroy that symbol.