Friday, March 30, 2012
"Europe is not the third world..."
The photo to the left is a restaurant down the street from us. On the blackboard it says: "Dear guests, we do not accept any EC card or Visa cards, Danke." Most smaller restaurants only accept cash, and these are the kinds of places you want to eat at when you're traveling and experiencing Europe! (Also smaller hotels will only accept cash, or sometimes bank transfer. Again: these are probably nicer and have more character than the chains that accept credit cards!)
It's a big cultural difference: Americans like their plastic. We're used to using cards for everything. But sorry, when you come to Europe you need to carry cash. I know it's inconvenient with the currency transfer and everything, but it's a big difference between the US and Germany (I won't speak for the rest of Europe here, but maybe it's valid most places). They have a lot more smaller, local and family-owned businesses and shops, and credit card machines rack up fees. It's also symptomatic of a larger difference between American culture and European culture (I think): In the US everything is consumer-centered, please the customer, and in Europe it's also more centered on the employers and workers (I think having Sundays and holidays off is another example of this). And is it not possibly also a sign of our credit economy? That we are used to using plastic forms bad spending habits...and maybe the German tendency to pay in cash also helps people be more aware of their spending limits? This is speculation...What do you think?
On a side note: Most grocery stores and drugstores will accept cards, but often only the more technologically advanced European cards, that have a computer chip in them. They think American cards are very unsafe and old-fashioned (just with the magnetic strip). If you're traveling in Germany, it's good to know that bigger grocery stores like Kaisers or Rewe will take credit cards. Otherwise, in most stores (and also vending machine-type things) you have to have the chip! For example, buying train tickets from a machine.
Another side note: The review above says that "electronic payments" are the way of the future. In this way, Germany is waaay more advanced than the US! I think I've mentioned before how people use bank transfers here for anything and everything, and it's super super easy to pay bills. You can also pay private persons with online banking. No one writes checks for anything anymore!