“Sorry, cash only…” are the three words you’ll hear most often in Australian restaurants as an American addicted to only using her debit card for purchases. We weren’t forewarned about this concept before arriving, so it took quite a bit of adjusting to in the first week or so. Back in the States, Will and I, for the most part, only ever used our debit cards for buying literally everything — gas, groceries, going through the drive-thru, buying clothes, paying for parking, everything — it was always SO easy and convenient. I can’t even remember the last time I even had US dollars in my wallet, let alone loose change. We just figured Australia would be the same, right? WRONG. It’s amazing how many places here (mainly food establishments) only accept cash, so we’ve had instances where we’ve walked into a place, and were confronted with that “cash only” sign, and either 1) find a new place to eat or 2) find the closest ATM.
Now that we’ve been here for almost three months (where is time flying to?!), it’s become normal to us. Any mom & pops type places are more than likely going to be cash only, and even some franchises! Bigger chains like Nandos, or obviously, grocery stores, are more accommodating and allow you to use debit/credit cards. But our rule of thumb is to always have cash on hand. We’ve also, of course, had to get used to Australian currency as well. Back in the States, we had the basic coins, but they were all under $1. Here, their $1 and $2 currencies are coins, which really tripped us up for a while, because you can go into a store with $20, spend $12 and then (some places love doing this) get all coins back in change …which you’ll forget about and stuff into your bag, and then think later – why do I have no money left?! I’m so used to coins being of little to no worth, that I sometimes have to smack myself up the side of my head and remember that I have close to $15 in change lol. It’s quite a pain now having to carry around my handy-dandy coin purse (which is usually bulging with 10c & 20s coins, ugh), but it comes in handy when items aren’t even amounts, like $5.30 — I immediately break out the coins haha. Other than the coins, the paper notes are fairly simple to understand – $5, $10, $20, $50, $100 – and I suppose there are more as well. They’re also different colors (similar to South Africa’s), which is very helpful when you’re rummaging around in your wallet – the $5 is purple, $10 is blue, $20 is red/orange, $50 is yellowish, $100 is green.
Another thing we aren’t quite used to is some places do not let you split a bill, meaning if you and a group of 10 friends go out, have fun standing around and calculating how much each couple or person owes… oof, I’m still getting used to that. But, we’ve learned now to go to restaurants not only with cash, but with $5, $10 and $20 notes, so it makes it easier for you to pay your portion of the bill. However, if it’s a group of 3 or 4 people, I’m sure it’s much easier to take care of. We’ve experienced both situations, and it’s been a learning experience, to say the least :) I just leave the math up to Will, ha!
I understand it’s a brand new country, and it’s so easy to become ethnocentric (dropping those sociology words on you! lol), so we’re just embracing the different way of life here, and not allowing our own way of growing up or life in the U.S. to seem “better” or more important than Australia’s — because no one way of doing something is better than someone else’s. Who knows? It may even be more financially sound to be a cash only establishment! I’m certainly not some know-all entrepreneur. So, we just continue to adjust & deal with all the coins ;-)
Until next time!