Chronicles of a writer abroad

In which I forget how money works


I’ve been feeling a little…weighed down, lately. And no, thank you for asking, but it isn’t the extra-flesh-courtesy-of-cheese-and-chocolate making my person feel heavy (okay, there is some of that, but who wants to discuss it? certainly not me) — it’s my wallet, which is full of change. The other day, I dumped the coins out of their compartment, and discovered this:

Thaaat’s right – what we have here is over 17 CHF in change. We have 5 CHF (the largest and heaviest coin), 2 CHF (next largest), 1 CHF, 1/2 franc (irritatingly, this is smaller than the 20 or 10 rp coin), 20 rappen, 10 rappen, and 5 rappen (thankfully, there is no equivalent for the penny).

A brilliant mathematician, such as my sister, and probably even a lesser intellectual being, could have told you that this much change is unnecessary: if I had the opportunity to gather so much change, I should have had the opportunity to spend at least some of it. A smart person wouldn’t have amassed so much change. Or, at least, a person who remembered how money worked.

In Canada, I never carried cash. Anything I bought could be paid for with those magical pieces of plastic, the debit and credit card. But in Switzerland, things are different. Credit cards are not used very much, debit processing can be slow and painful, and in some cases the only option is to pay cash (this is how we ended up stranded in the outer reaches of the solar system a few weeks ago). I routinely pay for groceries with cash — but I’ve just realized that I routinely pay with bills only, meaning that I am always getting coins back, and never spending them.

So, to avoid being that lady who counts out her entire purchase in coins someday, I have to remember that using money means using a combinatio of bills and coins. Thank you, Switzerland, for refreshing this basic concept for me.


These are not going to help me get any lighter. But I don’t care; they were (are) worth each and every calorie.

If chocolate chip cookies are wrong, I don’t want to be right.


3 thoughts on “In which I forget how money works

  1. They look wonderful. And fancy Switzerland being a country that doesn’t use plastic much! Eminently sensible…

  2. Every time I’ve been in Europe, I’ve used my loose change towards transit fares and things seem to work out pretty well in the long run. The ticket machines usually accept coins, and won’t embarrass you when you dump in 40 coins to pay your fare. I’ve also produced a landslide of coins when boarding buses or trams but then I had to put up with a weird look from the driver!

    Is it easy to use small change when you get on a tram? Do you have a transit pass?

    In a place like Switzerland that has a denomination bigger than your typical fare, I might throw in the occasional fancy coffee.

    • Yes, we can use change to buy transit tickets: the system here is that you buy them from a machine before you even get on the tram/train. I don’t have a pass, but I actually walk most places rather than taking the tram, so I don’t get to put my coins towards tickets.

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