Each time when I arrive at a new country I must do one procedure – exchange money. Seems what so special about it? But after dealing with this task in some countries, I noticed, how my expectations differ from what actually happens.
I cannot be prepared for everything that happens on the way, sometimes I need to follow because it not always goes the normal way. So, here is my story.
Money exchange at home
To understand what happened, first you need to know how I do this at home – what I considered to be normal.
Money in my country can be exchanged only in banks. So, I check the best rates on the internet and choose a bank to go. There I give them money and say the currency I need. They give me the currency and the receipt. I count the money, if it is OK I say thank you and goodbye.
Everything is supersimple. So, I expect it to be like this in other places. And usually it is.
Money exchange in Japan
But then there is Japan. I exchanged money at the airport in a booth of a certain bank.
First there is paperwork – I needed to fill the blank indicating the amount of currency I sell, and the one I expect to buy. I also needed to fill additional information like my passport number and similar formalities.
When I approached, the old guy stood from his chair and bowed to me. I was amazed by his politeness and stood for a moment staring at him, but then woke up and put the blank and the money on the table. He took them and calculated the amount of yen I will receive. This amount he announced to me asking if it is OK. Of course OK.
Then, he put the money in the small box, stood, bowed and held out the box with the money to me holding it with BOTH hands.
I took the money with ONE hand, but this time I bowed too and said “thank you” in Japanese (arigato). The old man bowed again. TWICE. I said “arigato” again.
This was one of my first encounters with Japanese culture. I could write a separate article about it, but now let’s talk only about money.
Money in Japan
When I come to a certain tourist agency to buy my discount train tickets to mount Fuji, I realized that I did not get the lesson about money well.
After long procedure of choosing the times, filling the papers and booking the trains I was announced the price: go sen go hyaku en (5500 yen).
I knew the price in advance, so I had the money ready. I quickly pulled them out of my pocket and throw them on the table. That was not right.
The girl at the counter looked at me with her big confused eyes saying without words, that it is wrong and she is not sure what to do now because I violated the procedure. She slowly pulled the box for money from under the table, so I quickly grabbed the money back and put them into the box with BOTH hands. She bowed me.
Money is treated with respect there. They are given and received with both hands and usually with a bow.
Money exchange in Bulgaria
And now let’s go back to Eastern Europe. In Bulgaria, you can exchange currency in many places, not only banks.
So I give my precious 200 euro banknote to the fat guy with long hair and beard sitting in a booth of a certain currency exchange office inside the supermarket. The 200 euro banknote is so precious, it covers all my expenses for two weeks, so I give it with respect, though with ONE hand.
He took it like one takes garbage from the table, like used tissue. Put it into his drawer, without words counted the necessary amount of lev and throw them on the table, like saying “take it if you want”. I said “thank you” in Bulgarian (blagodarya), but he looked at me and smiled. Seems he thought about me: “what a funny guy”.
Normal or not?
Seems that each country has money, and each country needs to respect them. Because they are earned with hard work or special talent, and they provide us the means for living.
But no, in Bulgaria it seems they are treated like some pieces of paper! Is my impression correct?
In Japan, they are treated maybe with too much respect, like more concentrating on those pieces of paper itself than on the value they carry. Is my impression correct?
Of course not. Because I consider the customs in my country as normal, and everything what different as exotic travel experiences.
That is the magic of travelling, because, after some trips, I understand that the world “normal” does not mean anything. In each country, “normal” is different. If I expect something to be “normal”, that means I do not expect everything to happen in the most convenient way, but just like at home.
Sometimes I meet people who work in international companies or have business partners abroad. For them, all foreign countries seem not normal. Nor Western Europe, nor Asia, nor the United States, nor even neighbour Eastern European countries. All of them have crazy procedures and crazy accounting rules. But not us.
It is not the right way of thinking. I am trying to get rid of the word “normal” now. Better to use “I like it” or “I am used to it”.
I understand that I am used to many things. And what I am used to is not necessary the best way of doing things. So, let’s be open to new ideas, even if they are not normal!