Are there dollars in your pocket, or are you just pleased to see me?

When you’re a Brit exiled in America, it’s difficult to avoid the fact that the dollar has about as much value as the Zambian kwacha. For a start, whenever your friends come to visit, you have to endure the tales of how they spent sixteen straight hours shopping, and bought two pairs of jeans for the price of a bag of Maltesers. If I hear the cry of “of course, everything’s so cheap over here” one more time, I swear I will shove their over-active credit card where the sun doesn’t – and more importantly, wouldn’t want to – shine.

The flipside, of course, is that when you earn your salary in dollars and you spend any time in the UK (as I am doing for work at the moment), you find that buying a sandwich costs about as much as a Paul Smith suit. And don’t even think about having that bag of crispschips to go with it. It’s no wonder Americans don’t leave the country that often.

But the fact that the dollar is barely worth the paper it’s printed on isn’t my only problem with the US currency.

When I got to the UK earlier this week, I collected up all my dollar bills, carefully folded them up and placed them neatly in my wallet. OK, that’s a lie. I grabbed them all, scrunched them into a ball as I normally do, and stuffed them into my jeans. My pockets bulged in a frankly inappropriate fashion, such was the sheer amount of paper involved. Though I hadn’t counted it, I was fairly sure that the cash would be enough to get me a taxi home from the airport at the weekend, and still leave me change for a bagel.

Having changed jeans this morning, I totalled up the cash and found $13. It’s barely enough to get me out of the environs of JFK, let alone to buy me breakfast at the end of my journey.

It’s fair to say that the United States has an obsession with paper currency. If ever the country decides to get its arseass in gear about saving the environment, they could do worse than look at the amount of paper used to create their notes. And given that every TomBrad, DickDirk and HarryLarry in bars and restaurants gives you your change in dollar bills to ensure that you’ve got no possible excuse for not tipping, walking around after a night out can sometimes feel like going for a stroll with a ream of company letterhead in your back pocket.

Personally I’d love the US to abandon the dollar bill in favour of a coin, yet repeated attempts to introduce the dollar coin into general US circulation have failed. Probably because you’d need to be an Olympic standard clean-and-jerk weightlifting specialist to carry round all your change after an evening in a bar.

Sadly I think we’re stuck with one dollar notes for a considerable time for come. I’m seriously considering getting a large rucksackbackpack to carry around a week’s worth of change in.

Maybe when it’s full, I’ll be able to use the cash to buy a single round of drinks in Britain?

I can but dream.

8 thoughts on “Are there dollars in your pocket, or are you just pleased to see me?

  1. Melanie Seasons

    Personally, I hate the idea of dollar coins. When I was in London last week, I couldn’t even fully close my wallet due to the thickness of the £1 coins. (Environment aside, of course. You do have a point there.)

    P.S. Too bad you weren’t there last week! Would have been great to grab a coffee!

  2. fishwithoutbicycle

    Hey Dylan, I’m envious you are in London 🙂 I’m kind of resistant to the dollar coin too. I’m so used to having to tip in bars in New York that I find it weird not to do it in London. The only thing that stops me from leaving a £1’s on the bar is the fact that it’s a coin in England and a note in the US.

  3. Nat

    The most confusing thing I found about the banknotes when I visited the states was the fact that they were all the same size and colour and that you had to look quite closely to make sure of the denomination!

    I have to say – I loathe pound coins… I find something strangely satisfying about folded bills!

  4. Sarah

    I am not looking forward at all to the monetary side of my next trip back to ‘Blighty’, the exchange rate is a killer!

    I also get sick of visitors here going on and on and on about ‘how cheap’ it all is!

    Not sure about a $ coin, I still have to stare hard at the coins to get them right, they have so damn many…lol

  5. Flowers On A Friday

    the only good thing about pound coins is that you can collect them in a jar then after a while count them up and buy a discount air ticket to somewhere in europe. psychologically it’s a bit like someone else paying for it. lovely.

    i work in poland and earn in poland so i can appreciate the decimating effect going back to england has on the old wallet. it’s a sad situation.

  6. Expatmum

    Are you kidding – those bloody coins weigh a ton. I have to have a coin purse when I go to England as well as the regular one with the credit cards and paper money in. And don’t even start me off about the weight of my shoulder bag with the brolly AND the coin purse. I usually need physio (or physical) therapy when i cone back to the US.

  7. Cocktails

    Just wanted to say that I lurk around your blog a bit and really enjoy it.

    I can relate to this post in reverse – I’m from Sydney, but living in London, and my friends and family can’t resist reminding me how ridiculously expensive the UK is and how they should have gone to the States instead…

  8. Dylan

    Glad you made a brief foray out of lurkdom, Cocktails, and thanks for the comments…much appreciated.

    Expatmum/Sarah/Fish – come on, pound coins are SO much better than dollar bills. For a start you have less of them, given that they’re worth a bit (OK, a lot) more than the dollar (and there’s the £2 coin as well). And then there’s the fact that you don’t have to be the world’s Unravelling Origami champion just to pay for lunch. And perhaps if there was a dollar coin, I wouldn’t have 43 quarters in my pocket at the end of the day?!

    Flowers – you must have been flush when you were back in the UK. I used to stop my collecting at the 50 pence coin!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *