Money, honey you ain’t got no respect–thank you, Bay City Rollers

It’s very easy to spend money in America. That’s another thing I’ve taken from the European expat thing.

In Italy, the Middle East, North Africa and Eastern Europe, credit and debit cards are not as ubiquitous as they are here. Even in Northern Europe, credit and debit card use is not as widespread. In many of the independent, mom-and-pop cafes (and let’s be honest, most of them ARE mom-and-pop-owned) cash is the order of the day.

Most of the time, you are out of luck if you try to pay for anything with a credit/debit card. And give it up in the bazaars where there’s fresh produce, kitchenwares, clothing, etc. It is strictly a cash-only basis. Here in America no one bats an eye if you pay for a $1.29 pack of Mentos with a credit card. In the areas mentioned above, you’d get a dirty look.

Without that convenience, it makes it a bit harder to spend money because one has to always have cash on hand. It explains yet another reason for such a moribund economy. In America, where a large part of the economy is from consumer spending, limiting access to funds would be devastating for any business. In these other countries, they have no problem with the non-acceptance of credit cards.

And I see the benefit of both sides. Now that I’m back in America, it is so easy to spend money. First off, everything is available whenever you want it. if you have no money on hand, no problem. Plasticize it. I rarely use credit cards. I only try to spend the money I have. But the ease of use of a debit card can cause a person to spend money in a more willy-nilly fashion.

Whereby in Europe, one is prevented from spending impulsively, the economic model in America more or less demands it. Want that eclair? Plasticize it. Want to grab a bite to eat? Plasticize it. Want a facelift? Plasticize it. OK, maybe the last one was a bit of an embellishment.

Such an ethic serves to keep the economy humming, but it also weighs on the pocketbook. It also weighs (pardon the pun) on the waistline. I’m sure it’s because it is so easy to just grab a bite of food and use my debit card. Deli sandwiches, coffee, those damnable pastries, my arch nemesis, are all easily accessible now. After losing nearly twenty pounds during my tenure in Europe, I’ve not put back seven pounds. I try to ease my conscience by telling myself that it is from the weightlifting. Unfortunately, my arms and my chest state something different.

And along those lines, sometimes establishments don’t have internet, thereby negating their ability to offer credit/debit card acceptance. In my favorite spaghetti bistro, the internet went out within two months of my arrival. When I left last month, the internet still was not working–they were only accepting cash. Unbelievable.

For decades, economists and pundits have been predicting the crash of cash–a totally cashless society. Perhaps it’s coming here. But not to Italy, Eastern Europe, the Middle East or North Africa.

It would appear that money, here, ain’t got no respect.




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