It often takes a holiday in another country to throw into relief the quirks of the one you live in. We returned recently from 10 days in Sweden (hence the blogging hiatus), where things are a bit different from France. In France, you may well be asked if you want to pay by cheque or cash in a shop or restaurant. In many Swedish establishments, people will look at you as if you have just descended from Mars if you try to pay by either of those methods.
In Sweden, payment by credit/debit card or by mobile phone is ubiquitous. They haven’t used cheques for years. We even had lunch in a bakery-cum-café where they didn’t take cash at all.
Cheque it out
Of course, many places in France accept cards, but a lot of people choose to pay by the more old-fashioned methods. I can remember waiting in the supermarket checkout queue before they had cheque-printing machines while someone searched for a pen for five minutes, gave up and borrowed the checkout employee’s pen, laboriously wrote out the cheque and then the cheque stub, pocketed the pen by mistake and then fished around for another couple of minutes to retrieve it. Okay, I’m not the most patient person on the planet.
However, because of the increase in cheque fraud and bounced cheques, many places refuse to accept them now. At one time, cheques were accepted without question as bona fide. This was because going overdrawn is illegal and you got a black mark from la Banque de France if you did it. When we arrived in France, we handed over a cheque for our new car and then drove off. Nowadays, the garage would insist on cashing it first.
When filling in a cheque in France you have to put the name of the place where you are writing it. Despite my researches, I can’t find out why you need to do this. Can anyone enlighten me?
Money, money, money
[Appropriately, the subheading above is an Abba song.] What about cash? The first paper money was issued in 1795 in France. Nonetheless, some people distrusted a bit of paper and preferred to stick with coins, which had a more tangible and durable appearance.
Even now, French people often prefer to pay with cash rather than a card. Attempts to substitute an “electronic wallet”, known as Moneo, for cash were unsuccessful. The idea was that you could use the Moneo card to pay for small purchases, making it quicker and easier for both the customer and the retailer.
The downsides were that the retailer had to pay an annual fee and buy a Moneo payment machine. The user had to pay an initial fee for the card and then an annual fee and ensure the card was topped up. The cards were not PIN-protected, either, so if you lost one, someone else could benefit. Nowadays, most bank cards are adapted to the Moneo system, so you don’t need to have an additional card or pay an extra fee.
A word of warning if you visit France on holiday: many rural restaurants still don’t accept cards, so check beforehand and make sure you have plenty of cash. If not, you will learn a new French phrase, “Faire la vaisselle” (doing the washing-up)…
You might also like
Copyright © 2017 Life on La Lune, all rights reserved