Saturday, 12 March 2011

Money, it's a gas

Helen mentioned "a hefty sum of Franken" in her last post so I thought I'd dwell on that subject a little.

In the UK, my paper cash carrying progression started quite young with crinkly blue notes and mild awe at anything with a '0' on it.

As a student, a purple beer voucher was an aspirational concept and my favourite cash machines were those that allowed me to withdraw ten pounds in two notes.

As a working man, the purple beer voucher played a more frequent role in my life but that is the end of the escalation.

The fifty pound note has remained an almost mythical entity.

And so to Switzerland. Where they love their money. And I don't just mean money in a conceptual, sitting in a bank, way. I mean actual physical money. Cash.

To start with we have the CHF10, CHF20 and CHF50 notes. These are easy to work with. The fifty pound note may be almost mythical but these foreign notes are colourful and reminiscent of money from board games. So the CHF50 note is still quite easy to work with. It's worth about £33.50 today so it's not such a big mental stretch as from £20 to £50.

Next though, we have the CHF100 note. This is worth (quick, do the maths) in the region of £67. That's a lot of money for one piece of paper. But when you take into account the cost of things here and the efficiency of the cash machines meeting your withdrawal request with the fewest possible pieces of paper, it's a common note.

Elsewhere on continental Europe I have asked the nearest cash machine for 50 or 100 Euros and received one note. Then, I have taken that single note to perform a small transaction and received scorn for not having anything smaller with which to pay.

Not so in Switzerland. It is perfectly acceptable to pay, for example, for a packet of chewing gum (CHF1.60) with a CHF100 note. No-one will even blink at this. No-one will scowl at you for draining their cash float.

Then there's the CHF200 note. It's a very light way to carry so much money. Efficient? Yes. Mildly unnerving? Also yes.

But we are not finished yet.

Yes, that's right. That is a CHF1000 note. That is one piece of paper with a value equivalent to about £670. That's scary stuff. Imagine leaving that in your pocket when putting your trousers through the wash!

Although that would never happen here. Money is to be respected. To be carefully stowed in a wallet or purse. No decrepit fivers here.

N.B. no money was harmed in the production of this blog post and all participating notes were obtained purely in the process of paying a month's rent in advance in cash (that was a whole month's rent in a mere eight bank notes!!).

(I'm allright Jack, keep your hands off my stack.)

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