I’ve just realised I have not blogged about one of the most fascinating points of Russian life. This is (drum roll please)…. Giving the correct change in shops.
This was first brought to my attention 2 years ago when I studied in Petrozavodsk. Back then I spoke little Russian and so whenever I went to pay for something in the supermarket I could not comprehend why exactly they were shouting ‘2 ROUBLES’ at me. After spending 6 months in Moscow I have finally learnt: Paying with incorrect change is a crime punishable by death. Almost.
A few days ago I tried to pay for something that cost 250 roubles (£5) with a 1000 rouble (£20) note. The cashier looked at me like I had just eaten her child and just said a long, harsh ‘No.’ Why? Because she had no change.
Shops appear to take the change out of their tills as soon as they receive it. No idea why, that’s just the way it seems to work. But this means that every time I need to pay for something with a dreaded 1000 rouble (£20) note I must make sure I have all the little bits of change they will need to willingly hand over the change I am owed. For example if I buy something that costs 217 roubles I MUST give 1017 roubles, or there is no way I am going to be able to pay.
At first this was just another ‘hilarious’ Russian thing, it then turned into a massive hassle every time I went food shopping. I’ve now taken to carrying 2 purses… one for notes and one for change, which has led to my new favourite game: paying for everything in coins. Today I spent 50 roubles on some food and handed over ten 5 rouble coins to the cashier. She looked at me like she wanted to kill, but could not tell me off as I was paying with the correct change. HA. Take that stupid Russian change system.