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#83 Exchange Rates

August 19, 2011

submitted by Graham Sowa who blogs at

Novice Expat Aid Workers quickly learn that arriving to their new post with a pocket full of whatever foreign currency is a great way to win the smirks and unsolicited advice of their peers.

“Oh, well if you changed money in the U.S. you got ripped off!” Yes, there is nothing wrong with telling that novice EAW how much money he or she wasted by not waiting until arriving “in country” to haggle greenbacks on the street.

Veteran EAWs take great pride in their money changing prowess.

“Oh, I was on Delmas 31 and changed 100 USD for 3,400 Goudes! That is such a better rate than I was getting from the guy on the corner by the Sun Shop last week.” Never mind that they were tipped off to the good rate by their driver.

Talking about exchange rates among themselves lets Expat Aid Workers get a glimpse of who has the most veteran status. The person with the best rate is often deemed the most street savvy and is assumed to be the most in tune with local culture. Watch out for that EAW that even gives exchange rate advice to locals. This person is a true badass.

If the novice EAW feels like a schmuck, they should. Everyone knows that changing money on the street shows just how in touch you are with the local economy. Never mind that you just exchanged as much money as the locals make in a year.

Besides, if there is anything that EAWs hate, it is standing in line with the locals at the bank. To prove this point just go to any major bank in a developing country and look for the patron gritting their teeth, making exaggerated body movements to express frustration and commenting to no one in particular about just how long it takes to do stuff here. You have probably found an Expat Aid Worker.

A hand to hand exchange out the car window, or even on the street, just feels so much more real. Besides, at the bank you don’t get to haggle over the price of your much sought after dollars.

The EAW has no time for lines, loves a good bargain, and is constantly seeking to prove his or her local knowledge; so money changing is almost a pastime.

But then this begs the question, why, in a world where just about everyone can use a credit card for everything, would you need a pocket full of dirty local currency? Well, what else would you buy street food with?

Watch for an upcoming post on another thing Expat Aid Workers like: currency!

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