Monday, August 4, 2014

Money (the Beatles), Money, Money (Cabaret) Money, Money, Money (ABBA)

We have done a fair amount of travelling since returning to the states: Gull Lake, Chicago, Pennsylvania (Greensburg), Beaver Island. The trips have all been fun and were opportunities to see/spend time with good friends. Time spent with friends is time well-spent: good food, preparing meals together, new recipes to share, new wine discoveries and, this year, stories about the winter of the Polar Vortex (compared to our mild but rainy winter in France).

During our travels, I was struck by the ways in which we pay for things – and the differences between money/payments here and in France.

Obviously, the currencies are different. France is part of the European Union so currency is Euros. Euros are easier to use than dollars as the sizes of the bills change based on the value. There is a small note for five euros, a larger note for 10 €, the 20 € bill is bigger still and the 50 € note is about three times the size of the five euro note. In addition to differences in size, the bills are different colors. There are no one € notes. There are coins in values from two € to one centime. (2 €, 1 €, 50 centimes, 20 centimes, 10 centimes, 5 centimes, 2 centimes and 1 centime.)

When we first moved to France, I seemed to end a day carrying about five kilograms (ten pounds) of coins. It was easier to get out a bill and take the change rather than work though the coins to find exact change – though I was sure that I had it.

Credit cards are accepted in most stores but European credit cards now have a security chip that is still rare in American credit cards. The credit cards with a security chips require a pin number much like our debit cards. Friends who came to visit last spring got to Marseille, rented a car and started their trip to Vaison la Romaine only to discover that the toll booths at the expressway exits require cash or European credit cards with-the-security-chip. Luckily, they had come with a small amount of euros and were able to exit the roadway after they dug the cash out of the bag in the back of the car – much to the chagrin of the always impatient French drivers in line behind them.

Checks are still popular in France. At the big grocery stores, I often see the cashier telling the customer the total amount. The customer then tears out a check and hands the blank check to the cashier. The big stores have machines that print all of the necessary information on the check. The cashier gives the check back to the customer for her/his review and then signature.

When Europeans rent our apartment, they most often pay with a bank transfer called a RIB. (RelevĂ© d’IdentitĂ© Bancaire). When Americans rent our apartment, they use PayPal.

Whether it’s cash, cowry shells or credit card, the song title by Lefty Frizzell seems the appropriate way to end this post: "If you’ve got the money, I’ve got the time".

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