Cross-cultural Relationship: Money Matters (2004)

 

“Send me a postcard!” asks my Englishman’s mother on the rare occasions I meet her. In a long-distance relationship between England and Austria, there is always too little time to see each other’s kin frequently. So we have to recourse towards other means of communication. Since Austria is so rich in beautiful spots, I send picture postcards with great pride. But as soon as I set my foot into the post office to buy stamps, I hesitate and consider delivering an email instead. The once most colourful Austrian stamps have gone dull, or even worse!


Envelopes and cards are no longer ornated by Klimt’s and Hundertwasser’s magnificent pieces of art. Gone are the glorious days of Johann Strauss, Wipa 2000 and Sydney Olympics. Instead I’m forced to lick outmoded Austrian farmhouses in bleached colours. When and why did that happen? Since I know that few Britons are keen on changing from their quid to the Euro, it might not be especially clever to admit that the deplorable decrease of Austrian stamps’ beauty was connected with the leaving our Schilling currency behind. “Stop this self-laceration”, I tell myself.


Whenever I buy stamps in England I realise that they have changed for the worse as well, though their traditional currency has not been left.  Why don’t they show the stamp’s value any longer? I sympathise with stamp collectors who desperately try to include ‘1st’ and ‘2nd’ properly in a neat line of ascending or descending sequence.

 

My postcards and any other written communication I keep signing with, ‘Susanne’, even knowing that the correct pronounciation of my first name challenges British tongues to the utmost. So far I have not given in to my partner’s attempts to call me ‘Susannah’, ‘Suzanna’, ‘Susan’, ‘Suzy’ or ‘Sue’. Stubbornly I insist on being ‘Susanne’ to family and friends.

 

The case is different when dealing with business partners. I try to make their lives a bit easier, since my surname seems to be even worse for their tongues. You will agree to this the minute you’ve tracked down my name in the credits: ‘Krejsa’ is not immediately understood when heard for the first time. This is also true in my native country, Austria, though the ending ‘-sa’ is quite common in names of Czech origin. Instead of trying to spell the name on the phone, letter by letter, and so puzzling my audience even more, I usually tend to spell it in words. In German this would be: ‘Karl-Richard-Emil-Jakob-Susanne-Anton’. Even if I admit that it’s not exactly the official German spelling alphabet (since I don’t know it) this solution works great with Austrians.


As soon as I tried this formula on some English contacts, it didn’t work at all. The more I tried, the more bewilderment I produced. I discussed this problem with my Englishman, whose response puzzled me. He knew his respective spelling alphabet immediately and assured me that in this regard he is not an exception: The spelling alphabet is basic knowledge for British people. Then why don’t they use it for spelling difficult names? Neither “King-Robert-Edward-Jack-Samuel-Alfred” (British spelling alphabet) nor “Kilogramme-Roma-Edison-Jerusalem-Santiago-Amsterdam” (International spelling alphabet) builds up in their heads to the required ‘Krejsa’.


Financial matters are an issue in each relationship, and not the less in ours, which spans two countries with such a difference in the level of salaries and prices. Theoretically,  I am on friendly terms with the Pound Sterling currency, since it is so easy to convert into the good old Austrian Schilling: Roughly 20 Schillings to the Pound. Like many Austrians, I still calculate in Schillings, especially for larger amounts, and because of the complicated converting between Schilling and Euro. An example: 13,7603 Schillings equal 1 Euro. Nobody has taught me an easy and quick way of mental arithmetic, multiplying or dividing by 13,7603. The Germans, for example, are much better off with the Euro since their traditional Deutschmark currency has obtained the juicy conversion rate of roughly 2:1.


Whenever the family discussion turns towards the pros and cons of adopting the Euro, I mention that, quite contrary to the stamp business--where one Euro-country’s production is still not applicable for any other Euro-country’s, the Euro as currency has gained acceptance in the majority of European nations, A to V: Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Monaco, Netherlands, Portugal, San Marino, Spain and Vatican City…with more to come. Few people from outside the continent have realised that only the face of the coins is a collective one; the reverse side’s design is free and at each country’s discretion. So I entertain my boyfriend’s British mob with turning over large and small Euro-coins and showing the sometimes beautiful motifs. This is true, for example, for Italy’s displaying the drawing by Leonardo da Vinci showing the ideal proportions of the human body; Finland’s pretty cloudberries and cloudberry flowers or Spain’s impressive Miguel de Cervantes, revered father of Spanish literature.


Austria provides the world with a bit of Mozart (1 Euro coin), world-famous Schoenbrunn castle (20 Cents) and Alpine Edelweiss (2 Cents).

 

Since no one should expect such enlightenment for free, my partner and his travelling clan were obliged to hunt in my favour for Euro coins from Andorra, Monaco, San Marino and Vatican City. Since these coins are so sought after, so often immediately winding up in the grasp of collectors upon their release, certainly they’ve never found their way to me. But - true love will make it happen!