Money is Money

AustralianMoneyMoney is a sacred topic. Those of us who are lovers of life, we value many meaningful aspects of living; and we don’t always like to think of money as sacred. But there is no denying that it is an important part of living, especially during this time of the year when gift giving is part of the holiday season.

If you have ever traveled to a foreign country, you are immediately faced with new currency, and its value, when your jet lands. It may not look like your valued money, but it is, and the sooner you adapt, the better off you’ll be. That goes for any part of the culture change:  the sooner you adapt the better.

I like to write books in different places around the world and share the many wonders of the world with my readers. Prior to my first trip to Australia, I thought it would be a fairly similar sort of place as America. English is the dominant language, they also have dollar currency, I assumed it would be similar enough that I would figure it out and slip into the culture pretty quickly. Australia is not similar to America. The first indication of this different way of Aussie life was within the first half hour after landing. Still in the Sydney airport, I went to the bathroom. At the risk of being a bit intimate here, when I closed my stall door I was surprised to see printed advertisements everywhere on the door and walls. I was glad I could read the language, but when I read the ads, I was even more shocked. The ads were all about diarrhea. And they were tactless, gross ads. Okay, got it, not in America.

The next stop:  the ATM.

Sometimes when you’re travelling in a foreign country, even though they have a different currency, the American dollar is still acceptable. This depends on the country as well as the current value. In some places the American dollar is a popular item on the black market, so you can pay for things with the local currency or the American currency. (And on an aside note, in some countries where they take the American dollar, they will only take the bills if they are free of folds, tears, and markings. To us, the dollar is a dollar. To them, no matter how much explaining you do, if the bill has a tear or too many folds, they won’t take it.)

In Australia, all they deal with is Australian currency. This was a gleeful experience at the ATM because the money popping out of that slot was absolutely beautiful.

When you are in another country and it’s no longer your greenbacks, it takes on the curious feel of play money. As you might imagine, this is a dangerous feeling. Australian currency especially looks like play money because it is in pastel colors. There’s something airy and less serious about pastel-colored money; pastels seem more appropriate for baby clothes, not money.

Their bills feature many heroes. Queen Elizabeth II, their queen, stands out as someone we readily recognize (on the pink five pictured here). The other bills in this image feature such Australian heroes as David Unaipon on one side of the $50, an Aboriginal writer and inventor, and on the other side of the 50 is Edith Cowan, the first woman elected to Parliament and an advocate for women’s rights. Also pictured here on the 20 is Reverend John Flynn who founded The Flying Doctor (medical services for rural areas) and on the 10 is the poet Banjo Paterson (who wrote “Waltzing Matilda”).

Except for the Queen, all the people on these bills are strangers to a foreigner. Strange faces and a rainbow of pastels, yep, looking like play money. But there’s more. The money feels different, it’s slippery. There are also little shiny spots and the bills are so clean. What makes the bills so clean and slippery is that they are not paper.

We have some natty bills in America. People write on them, fold them into mini hats and rings. The bills get worn and torn, tattered. They are paper, fibrous, and it wears down after it has passed through several thousand hands.

The Australian dollars are actually made of plastic. They are made of a polymer blend that helps with the note’s longevity as well as counterfeiting. They have a slickness to their feel, and are also less rumpled.

Besides the bills, there are also coins. The small coin with the 2 on it pictured here, is counter-intuitively the more highly valued coin at two dollars. The bigger coin next to it is a one dollar value. Big coin has less value than the little coin, and slippery, shiny pastel dollar bills. You see why this seems like pretend money to a foreigner.

It’s not cool to get a bundle of money out of the ATM and then start jumping up and down with fistfuls of money because it’s so unusually beautiful. We tuck it quickly into pockets so we don’t look like the goofy tourists that we are. But when in the privacy of the hotel room, we spread it out on the desktop, study it, take pictures.

The money value in the big worldly picture is another story. The American dollar and its value is currently a troubled topic. But today is Christmas Eve. Even our president is vacationing right now. So we won’t talk about the value of any money for today. We’ll just marvel at the beauty of the Australian money and revel in diversity. Best wishes, mate.

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