My first encounter with foreign money was in London. I pulled out some pounds from an ATM, having no idea what they would look like, and found myself thinking that I was holding colorful Monopoly play money. Only each “Monopoly” pound was worth approximately two of my own U.S. dollars at the time. (That small bottle of orange juice that cost 4 pounds? Yeah, that wasn’t happening…)
In Spain I used euros (I didn’t make it before they cashed in the peseta), which have their own charm. Not having to change money with each border you cross is convenient. But when I was in the Czech Republic, I enjoyed using the kroner, figuring out the system, and seeing the pictures of old kings displayed on the bills. Culture is more strongly tied to language and customs, but in keeping their money, the Czech Republic took a stand to keep something uniquely theirs.
This fall I am hoping to move to Switzerland. I don’t know what the Swiss Franc looks like. I could look on Google if I wanted, but I actually want to be surprised when I get to the ATM at the airport.
I am not someone who collects money or rare coins. It amuses me to see different types of currencies (like Canada’s awesome new plastic, literally plastic, bills), but it is a tool to be used. For me, using foreign currencies is like seeing a new flag: they both let you know that you are somewhere else. They wake you up from your somnolent routine, shouting, “Pay attention! You’re in another place! Enjoy it.”