Monday, April 30, 2007

I went down to my post office to send a letter to a friend back home (for some reason, she likes to send real letters rather than email). I walked into the post office and heard an American accent boom out, "We had to walk two kilometers to get Euros!!!". This would not be a problem except that the post office counter is at the back of the store and I entered through the front and I had my headphones turned all the way up. Well, his American accent continued in his self-righteous tones as I moved up the line, which was rather long. When I finally got to the head of the line, what do I see? A man with one of those hippy beards and a green (probably eco-friendly) polar fleece (one of those fuzzy zip-up things). I would have to guess now that he is, in fact, not as liberal and cool with it as I would have imagined someone who dressed like that would be. While I was getting my stamp to put my letter in the mail, he asked the guy behind the counter twice about the exchange rate between USD and Euros and was generally loud and obnoxious.

I relate this story because either I am more sensitive to the way Americans conduct themselves over here or I am now some kind of elitist snob. The myth of the ugly American seems to be alive and well, however. Edinburgh is a tourist town and they generally know how to deal with tourists and their sometimes baffling attitudes about Scotland and Edinburgh. I am sure the guy behind the counter has had to deal with tourists like this before.

In any case, I will tell everyone now: the banks in the UK suck and will do nothing for you and, in fact, will get in your way as much as they can. Thus, when you come to the UK and are in a tourist town go to the post office to do your transactions for cash. The post offices in non-tourist areas will not provide this kind of service. If you are in an area without that kind of service, use the ATMs and get money directly from your account in the US. It is easier and cheaper than taking traveler's checks (in fact, most banks have no clue what to do with traveler's checks as this gentleman in my story found out with the Royal Bank of Scotland).

Oh, just as an aside, they still use miles here so emphasizing kilometers will just makes you sound silly. The government officially uses metric system but everything is still in miles especially cars and road signs. Anyway, that is all the tourist help information that I have for you today.

posted by Chris  #3:20 PM | 2 comments |