Hearty Welcomes & Salutations! Originally an action-packed travel blog from a globe-trotting Scotsman, An Ache for the Distance has, over the years, slowed down (I post less often), mellowed out (domestic life has found it's way way on here) and become more of an expat/photo blog. Take a look around, leave a comment and share the love if you like something.
Stuart Mathieson, Lübeck, Germany

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Currency Clichés

Last week I meandered over the border into Switzerland for the day and in Lugano got my hands on some Swiss francs for the first time.

As with any new currency, I took a minute to give it the once over and it dawned on me how much the local money actually says about a country.  Whether it's euros or rupees, I realised that every type of currency gives you a little insight into the country and it's mentality and to prove my point, I spent a Sunday morning compiling a list and dribbling egg yolk on my keyboard...

  • The Swiss Franc

Cuckoo clocks, toblerones, army knives, bank accounts and neutrality are all things the Swiss are extremely good at. Deciding on a single colour for their banknotes is a bit more demanding.  Much like the country's non-committal approach to military affairs or a single language, Swiss francs can't quite decide what colour they want to be.  What colour is a 10 franc note? Yellow, with blue...and white...and orange...a little violet...and maybe a smudge of green...

Non-committal but very pretty....

  • The Pound Sterling

Regal by appearance but inherently weak.  Put a fiver in the washing machine and the Queen comes out the other end looking like Ghandi.  One of the few currencies where sellotape plays a vital role and is widely accepted.  Although if it's a Scottish or Northern Irish pound then forget spending it in England, sellotaped or not...

  • The Euro

Stylish pastel shades, classical motifs and durability...The old world in money form.  The Eurocrats in Brussels came up with notes that not only represent old Europe but also the new.  Size and denomination show the power divide as the financial big boys in Frankfurt thumb through giant 50's and 100's whilst the monetary minnows are left with midget sized 5's.  However, if they really want to articulate modern Europe then the Greek & the Irish coins should probably snap in half every now and again...

  • New Zealand Dollar
The kiwi dollar is a piece of 1970's New Zealand.  From a time when mutton and butter dominated the kiwi economy and life was beige in extremus.  Exotic life was hinted at with pictures of Hillary & Everest but cardigans were king.

  • Australian Dollar

The Aussie dollar, simple, sturdy and instantly recognisable for what it is, just like an outback dunny.  A little see-through window provides hours of potential entertainment and it's plastic coating means you can go for a swim with your cash.  Extremely practical...

  • U.S. Dollar

If banknotes were a representation of a country then America would be the land of long, skinny, elderly white men with bad hair. Disneyland Florida proves the skinny part to be unfounded and Obama has given America a new face which leaves the dollar looking slightly archaic.

Perhaps the US treasury should consider the hoax article on the weekly world news website (Obama on New Dollar Bill) for a bit of a revamp...

  • Iraqi Dinar
A few years ago I had an unexpected stopover in Bahrain and found myself in the markets in Manama haggling over an Iraqi banknote featuring Saddam Hussein.  I had no intention of going to Iraq but wanted the note simply because it was big, pretentious, full of moustache and the perfect representation of a dictator...

  • Indian Rupee
The Rupee, like many Indian institutions, has some British characteristics.  If the Queen looks like Ghandi after a washing machine spin then Ghandi looks like Mother Theresa after a few years of passing between sweaty hands in tropical climes.  Some rupees in circulation are limper than a dead mans wrist and others are so worn and battered that even Indians refuse to accept them. Despite the wear and tear, Ghandi is always smiling and with ever increasing worth, just like the country.

  • Cambodian Riel

Once a giant in SouthEast Asia, the Riel revels in past Cambodian glories with a depiction of the 12th century temple complex, Angkor Wat.  Still officially the largest religious structure in the world, Angkor Wat is the shining jewel in an otherwise impoverished crown.  Cambodia is one of the poorest countries in the world and the Riel reflects this by acting as small change to the US dollar. At the time of writing, $1USD was worth about 4,000 riel, meaning a $1.50 meal would be paid with one dollar and 2,000 riel.

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