Sunday, September 14, 2014

A Penny For Your Thoughts

The EU loves their change.  I'm not talking political change or lifestyle changes, I'm talking monetary change - like nickels and dimes and quarters kind of change.  And boy do we have a lot of it here. While in the US we have just 4 primary coins (since you rarely see a Susan B Anthony dollar these days) - penny, nickel, dime and quarter.  Here we have EIGHT, yes 8 coins.  One cent, 2 cents, 5 cents, 10 cents, 20 cents, 50 cents, 1 euro and 2 euros.  Between the 1 and 2 euro coins alone, you could have 20 euros in your pocket and not even realize it!  Not to mention it weighs a ton!!

This stuff adds up.  We always had a change jar in Barcelona for the small coins.  By the time we were getting ready to leave Spain, we had 4 decent sized jars of these coins.  I made it my mission to get rid of all of them in the case that we were moving back to the States.  And even if we weren't moving home, there was no way I was having movers pack up 4 jars of coins.

And so every day I would take my little coin purse and use as many coins as I could.  I gave exact change whenever possible.  I used 5 cent coins for parking (one day using so many that the machine freaked out and then tried to spit them back out at me only there were so many it clogged the flap on the change part of the machine).  I actually used up just about every coin in those jars, ending up down to just one coin purse full of change before we left.

For the last few weeks, I have been just giving bills or using my debit card when paying for goods - I haven't bothered with exact change.  But in an attempt to not have a repeat of change jars, the other day I went to give exact change at the grocery store.  But when I gave her 2 - one cent coins, the cashier looked at me and said, "I'm sorry, I can't take this".  At first I thought, hmmmm maybe I gave her US change accidentally.  But then I realized that she was talking about the European 1 cent coins.

Since when are 1 cent coins not taken?  I mean, I was in the US for 5 weeks this summer.  Could something have happened while I was gone and just didn't realize?  Nope, not the case at all. Apparently, in the Netherlands, they don't take the 1 and 2 cent coins.  They round everything up and down to be either a 5 or a zero.  This must be fabulous for accountants countrywide as not everything ends up this way (obviously since my total the other day came to 0.42).  I can't imagine what their bookkeeping must be like.

I just gave her the necessary amount she requested and moved about my day.  But a few days later I was at the coffee place in the Vesting getting my license picture taken (because don't all cafes also do license pictures?) and I went to pay in exact amounts again and since there was no one behind me in line, I inquired a little further into this line of inquiry.

Apparently years ago, before becoming a part of the EU, the Dutch had found they had too much change.  And so like the US has said many times (but never actually followed through on), they decided to stop using some of the smaller change.  When they became a part of the EU, many were shocked by how much change they had in their pockets and after much debate, they decided they would no longer use these small coins.

But they are not banished completely.  Most places will not take them.  But the coffee guy says that the bank comes to collect money each day from him and often people leave the 1 and 2 cent coins in the tip jar and so if I want to bring any in, he's happy to convert them for me and hand over the 1 and 2 cents to the bank.  Super nice of him to do, but really, I don't have all that many to ask him to do it.  And, I can still use them in the majority of other countries here in the EU.

So nothing earth shattering in this entry, more just about the differences here are still different than what we had in both Spain and in the US.  And so I will start up my little change jar again and then just try to remember to bring all that little change with us when we go on vacation!!


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