Two Bakeries, two Countries, two Cultures

Zur deutschen Fassung.

Today, at the bakery in Germany:

I purchase three pieces of cake. They cost 5 euros and 13 cents.

I have 12 cents in coins, otherwise only bills.

“That’s not enough,” the bakery lady says with mathematical precision, so I have to hand her a 10-euro bill and she has to hand me a bunch of coins.

That’s how it works, perfectly correct.

A few years ago, in Bolivia:

I am walking through the neighborhood in Cochabamba, discover a small bakery, have two pieces of cake wrapped up for take-away, which costs 14 bolivianos (= 1.70 euros).

Unfortunately, I do not have the right change, but only a 50-boliviano bill. That equals only 6 euros, but is enough to embarrass the bakery lady, because she doesn’t have enough change. It’s a family bakery, tucked away in a residential neighborhood, not too busy.

“No problem,” I offer, “I’ll quickly go to the supermarket and buy something to drink, so I can get some change.”

“Do you live around here?” asks the bakery lady, who has seen me for the first time and must have noticed that I am not Bolivian.

“Yes, a few blocks away. Lucas Mendoza Street.”

“Then just pay whenever you come by again. Better enjoy the cake now!”

That’s how it works, perfectly human.


About Andreas Moser

Travelling the world and writing about it. I have degrees in law and philosophy, but I'd much rather be a writer, a spy or a hobo.
This entry was posted in Bolivia, Economics, Food, Germany and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Two Bakeries, two Countries, two Cultures

  1. Pingback: Zwei Bäcker, zwei Länder, zwei Kulturen | Der reisende Reporter

  2. Martin Crellin says:

    That reminds me of my year as a teacher in northern Greece. I once approached a market stall for some garlic. He asked how many bulbs? Posso? I said one. Ena. He laughed, threw it at me, and waved me away. Greeks never buy ONE clove. And towards the end of my stay, I needed to buy an expensive plane ticket to Germany for a job interview. I would go in every week and hand over most of my wages. After 3 weeks, the lady said: You’re coming back, right? Me: Yeeees. Her: They’re going to give you the money, right? Me: Yeeees. Her: Pay me when you get back. I will never forget either encounter.

    • I had similar encounters to your first one when I wanted one lemon in Sicily. Later I discovered that I can just pick them from the trees, as long as I don’t overdo it.

      On the second story: Wow!!
      (I lost a lot of money as a lawyer when I told people that they could pay me later. But I guess other people are better at judging your and my character.)

    • Oh, and I had the opposite shopping experience in Mollendo, a small seaside town in Peru:
      I wanted to buy cigarettes from a street vendor.
      How many? she asked. Just one pack, I replied, because I don’t really like cigarettes. They just serve to pass the time until I would find cheap cigars again.
      She opened the pack and there were 10 or 12 cigarettes left. I said I didn’t mind and I would simply buy the half-pack, then.
      She replied that she couldn’t sell me all the cigarettes she had, because she needed to keep some for her other customers. So I walked off with one cigarette.

  3. It’s still possible in neighborhood markets. But cash is pretty rare anymore. Even using a card is seen as passé. People pay with their phones. I still always carry some cash. I can’t give the homeless enough for a meal or whatever with my phone 😉

    • I can see the day coming when I will go hungry not for lack of cash, but for lack of somebody accepting it. :/

      And it also concerns me that new payment systems are being rolled out without even considering those most in need. This whole tech-bubble can’t even consider that there are people who don’t have a so-called smartphone, who don’t get a bank account, who can’t find electricity, why don’t know how to use it or who may simply not some company to know where and when they bought how much of what.

    • I see that a lot living close to the Mexican border. There are lots of people who do the jobs that American citizens are too good to do, but don’t have all the correct papers. The wind up paying more because they try to stay out of government data bases.
      They may not pay income tax on their illegal wages, but they pay sales tax on everything they buy.
      But US immigration is a whole different can of worms.

    • On the issue of US immigration, I remember having written about it many years ago:
      It’s probably completely outdated by now.

      It’s strange how many of the countries claiming to be rich have to rely on cheap, undocumented, illegal labor. In Germany, it’s just legal because everyone from the EU can come here to work, but the exploitation of (mostly Romanian and Bulgarian) farm laborers and employees in slaughterhouses is the same:

      Same for domestic work, especially care work for the elderly. This is often done by ladies from Poland, but also the Ukraine (who have to work illegally), with exploitation, abuse and human trafficking involved.

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