Friday, 30 September 2016

Spend your new fiver on a Chinese takeaway

Follow the chronicles of an American expat in her new brand new life in London

Written by Lindsay Robinson
Last week, I briefly spoke of my challenges when it comes to UK currency. This has embarrassingly been quite the stumbling block for me as I continue to stand at the till, holding a palm of coins out in my hand each day. I'm usually met with an impatient teller who claws at the necessary change he or she needs for my purchase. I sulk home to yet again line the coins up in a row on my desk and toss them about, hoping to memorize each one's worth.

This is just the process of learning a new land and becoming a true resident - which obviously takes a little more brain power for some. One thing that I do wish I knew before arriving is the hidden value of one bill in particular; one very shiny, untearable, washable, Churchill clad, clean plastic product which goes by the street name, "fiver".
During the first couple days of my new British life, the teller at the chemist down the street raved to me about wanting to find the new five pound bill which apparently was just recently produced and released. I had no idea what she was talking about and had only just learned the term "fiver". I smiled at her expressions and imagined that I had entered Willy Wonka land, being the only resident in the village to not be seeking this golden (or blue?) ticket.

Life briefly returned to normal until I uncovered an interesting looking bill in my purse that was given to me by a family member before I had left the States. It said five on it and so did the chicken and fried rice price tag at Sticky Rice (the day I dared to return to Westfield). I presented my bill to two young girls behind the till who immediately started screaming and jumping. They were thrilled by my presentation of the new fiver, and quickly cast me off as they tucked it gently and securely away in the cash register. I stood to the side, hesitantly asking for my bill back if it was such an important and special gift. They had none of it and the joy of the gift was quickly brushed off as they tried to get me to leave their presence and enjoy the rice bowl. I sat in silence that afternoon, pondering my choices over steaming hot Chinese take away.

I decided to research information on the bill a couple of days later, and quickly wish I hadn't. News articles streamed across my screen with headlines revealing the true worth of Britain's new fiver which flung me out of my chair, gripping my cold heart on the floor. Someone had recently sold their bill on Ebay for a whopping £550. As a student who is thousands of US dollars in debt from an education bill, one can only assume the heartbreak and frequent anxiety attacks that arise from that fateful day. This is the ultimate process of living, learning, and dreaming of the many Kinder eggs that I could have purchased with that pretty chunk of change.

Follow Lindsay on Twitter @Linds_Robins and Instagram @Linds_Robins



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