Credit Cards are like Shopping on Sundays

Hello everyone and hope you’re all having a great week so far! I was inspired by livingsimplyfree’s post “Facing Hostility” and by a discussion that got started on the subject of taking a mortgage. I had mentioned that taking a mortgage in Germany is not an expectation on a person. Another cultural difference that did not fit into this conversation, is something that took me by surprise when I moved here 5 years ago: not everyone here has a credit card. Especially young people, but also adults too.

That might come as a shock for people who live in places where it is normal to put everything on the credit card, from petrol to groceries to cinema tickets and beyond. Then they pay this back out of their paycheque. Here, people only look to get a credit card when they wish to spend a longer period of time abroad.

Until then, things such as large electrical items (if not paying cash) are purchased through financing through the retailer (by a monthly direct debit plan). Online transactions are offered through a bank giro and recently you are redirected to your bank’s website to authenticate by mobile phone automated number generation authentification. Everything else is paid for on a debit card or plain old cash. And that’s it!

This took a little getting used to, especially when I was just setting up home and needed to buy some large-ish electrical items, hauled them up to the till to find out that they don’t take visa and I had nothing in my current account. But you get used to it, and you have to change to adapt to the new system you’re confronted with. Department stores often offer visa, but some places where you would expect just don’t.

I liken this to shopping on Sundays. In Germany this is also not possible. “But how do the professionals and busy people who don’t have time to shop get their groceries?” I hear you ask. You just have to adapt and either go shopping one evening during the week after work, or on Saturdays with everyone else. Shops are only open a few Sundays a year, but not regularly. They are also not open on holy days or national holidays. So you just have to get organised and it takes a while, but now I really love the freedom of not running to the supermarket on Sunday :) If I need something that I’ve forgotten about, then I just make do or do without. I think it’s been a good life-lesson for me in fact.

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3 comments

  1. Very interesting. I didn’t know the credit card nor shopping on Sunday things about Germany. I kind of wish things were like that here in Canada! At least the no shopping on Sunday thing. Everyone needs a break from consumerism.

  2. In 2002 we moved across the country (US), i had lived in an area where credit cards were used mostly at the mall or online to an area where they were used for everything, like you mentioned. My son was hired in a fast food establishment and called me on break to tell me people were buying their meals with credit cards. We felt like fish out of water. Since returning to our home state the trend to shop with plastic has increased here to now match the western states.

    These peaks into the cultural differences are the highlights of my day. I wish we could go back to stores being closed on Sundays and holidays, I still remember not being able to buy gas for the cars on Sundays. Now we have 24/7 stores and even fast food that is open 24/7!

    I believe it will be countries like Germany that survive the recessions better, or at all, not those of us who learned to live by means of credit.

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