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swiss saturdays: keep the change

June 26, 2010

No, seriously.  Make sure to keep your change in Switzerland.  It adds up…quickly.   Most everyone knows that the currency in Switzerland is the franc.  What’s less widely known is the name for their coins.  In fact, I think it took me a good 6 weeks after moving here to ask what they were called.  I just referred to them as “franc-ini”, my way of calling them “little francs” in Italian.  As fun as franc-ini is to say, it’s sadly not the name.  The proper name is “rappen” (rah-pen) and lest you be tempted to think it’s chump change, it’s not.

In the USA, you drop a few coins and you might be out a buck seventy-five at  most.  Here in Switzerland, you drop a few coins and you could be out a twenty.

Here’s the line-up:

For comparison purposes, the 1/2 franc coin is about the size of a dime, the 20 rappen coin is about the size of a nickel, and the 2 franc coin is about the size of a quarter.

A few things about them:

  • If you ever plan to live or even visit Switzerland, bring a coin purse of some sort.  I’ve been limping along with my wallet with a small coin pocket since moving here resisting change (no pun intended) and the poor thing looks like it’s aged 10 years from all the coins I continue to try to shove in.  I’m convinced that it secretly dumps them all over the bottom of my purse at night in protest.
  • Why on this green earth is the 1/2 franc (or 50 cents) coin the second smallest coin?!  It’s light, feels cheap and yet holds real value.  These are the guys that are going to send you to the poor house.  Lose too many of these and suddenly you’re wondering where your rent money went.
  • The 5 franc coin.  Ever muscle in me wants to hate this one.  It’s big, it’s bulky and it’s worth serious cash.  And yet, I love it.  It has heft to it, it’s a coin that says “I know I’m worth $5, what’s it to ya?”.  Not to mention, they always work in the automated machines (not always the case with the others–looking at you, 1 and 1/2 franc coins).

I once decided as an experiment to save our change for 2 weeks or so.  Just two weeks worth of emptying my coin pocket into a jar came out to a whopping 187 francs.  This place really takes the whole “penny saved is a penny earned” to all new levels.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. July 10, 2010 1:42 pm

    totally love this post. it’s so on the money. ha ha, another fun pun 😉

    olivier hates change so he always empties his pockets onto me, which is *totally* fine by me – i could make CHF 50 in a week !! it’s scary though, as if we don’t spend enough money in switzerland, it’s all too easy to spend just that much more. a few coins, voila CHF 35. ouch.

    and even after 2 years, i still have a hard time distinguishing between the 10, 20 and 50 rappen pieces in my change purse. that little 50 piece is indeed a sneaky one… 🙂

  2. Lawrence Eka permalink
    July 31, 2010 12:01 pm

    Is there a way to “change” those coins back to franc bills without too much hassle? I currently have 50 francs in forms of 10s and 20s, and I imagine that buying 1 daily pass ticket from ticket machine using twenty cent coins will take ages for me to insert them.

    • August 1, 2010 12:42 am

      I think your best bet is the bank. That’s where I took my coin collection after my 2-week coin experiment. It was fast and easy, but they do charge a small commission (3% I want to say?). Or you can just show up about an hour early to buy the day pass from the machine.

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