Sunday, 24 October 2010

Paper or Plastic... or... metal things

Europe seems to be awash with cash -- wonderful greenbacks, that aren't actually green, and come in a whole bunch of different colors... and sizes (psst... your wallet might not fit the larger denominations very well)... and material. I learned relatively quickly that my Chase Visa wasn't going to cut it at every establishment that I would visit and, as a result, I carry cash, and only use plastic when they I to make larger purchases.

I only use mine to buy jeans and vacuum cleaners...

Culture shock. Handing my card to a bartender in Seattle and saying "Leave it open" doesn't work the same way out here. Not only is that just a weird thing to do here, but the rest of the world is using a technology called "Chip and Pin" on their cards, which isn't available in the United States as of today. I learned this the hard way during a date in the French Riviera city of La Ciotat, where none of my cards were expected, though my companion's were...

So she bought us dinner...

Oddly enough, American Express has a Chip and Pin option available, but not for their American customers... which is really weird.

Culture shock. My pockets are always full of coins. These jokers have coins that are actually worth something. Puts a new meaning to the phrase "a pretty penny". This isn't a problem if you carry a purse. I don't carry a purse though, so my trousers (STOP. THE WORD "PANTS" MEANS SOMETHING DIFFERENT HERE. DON'T USE IT IN PLACE OF TROUSERS, WHICH I THINK IS A STUPID SOUNDING WORD) are constantly weighed down by thick coins. The more coins the better. I never throw these into fountains, and I've given up on making wishes altogether.

Not carrying cash around has its advantages. If I go to a city in the United States, I know that I can comfortably buy shoes, some drinks, and dinner. If I go to Poland, I have to know how much things will cost before I withdraw money, otherwise I'll be in a situation where I either have too much or not enough cash, and neither of these are situations you want to be in, because you'll ultimately have the choice of spending all of that money at the end of your trip, or converting it back to sterling, in which case you'll pay a conversion cost. You could also just... hold onto them, which is what I do... but now I'm stuck with a desk drawer full of Norwegian krones.


In case you're coming to London for a short trip, pints of beer cost between £2 and £4. Believe me, I wish I knew that before I moved here. I especially wish I had known where to find £2 variety. Look for pubs that serve "Sam Smith's" brews... we appropriately call these pubs "Sam Smiths' Pubs". There's also a chain of bars operated by a company called "J D Weatherspoon" (we call these, "Weatherspoon's Pubs"), and they're cheap as well, but I'd advise against going to one because they lack character. I'm going to write that into the Wikitravel page some day.

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