Kak, Ada Duit Kecik Tak?

One of the things I’ve noticed while living here is that I’ve never (so far, at least) encountered a cashier or shopkeeper who didn’t have change. It wouldn’t matter whether I was paying with a 10-franc note or a 200-franc note; there was always enough change in the till. It also wouldn’t matter if I visited the neighbourhood bakery at 7am and paid for my morning Gipfeli with a 100-franc note; the friendly lady at the counter would hand me my change without batting an eyelid.

It’s a slightly different story back home. “Kak, ada duit kecik tak?”, or “Kak, takde duit kecik lah…” are phrases I hear far too often. Sometimes this is accompanied by an apologetic look from the cashier, which at least softens me a bit. On other occasions the cashier says this in an accusatory tone, complete with a Medusa stare and pursed lips; as if paying with a 50-ringgit note was the highest form of inconvenience a person could ever dump on her small shoulders.

It’s still legal tender, honey. Do you want me to dump a balang-ful of 1-sen coins on the counter?

I don’t say that out loud, of course. Just in my mind, as I imagine her being buried under an avalanche of coins and small change. Death by nickel brass clad copper. So very deeply satisfying.

Anyways, I’ve always appreciated the fact that so far, I haven’t had to worry about having exact change when making transactions. This may be a small detail in the bigger scheme of things, but it’s one of those small things which makes life that much easier.

Earlier this evening, I was browsing in a bookshop in Bern, about an hour before closing time. As I was perusing the shelves, I overheard the cashier say to her colleague, “We’re running out of 10-franc notes. Even though we only have an hour left, we should still get some more.” Her colleague agreed, and when I turned to look a few seconds later, only one of the ladies was at the counter. The other had presumably gone to get more notes.

That was when I realised it.

“Even though we only have an hour left, we should still get some more.”

It’s all in the attitude, in the work ethic.

It’s as simple as that.

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