Who needs cash when you can pay by card?

There are so many stories I could tell about Sweden or especially Lund. As it is one of the two big student cities in Sweden (besides Uppsala), student life has a whole different position in everyday life here than in other cities, like for example Bern, where my home university is. Everything revolves around university. A sign for this is that the nicest buildings in the city are University buildings like the breathtaking main library, which ist often seen on postcards or pictures of Lund, or the stunning main building of the student’s society AF Bostäder. The city, especially the centre of it, is full of university buildings like the lecture buildings or the 26 libraries of the different faculties.
Living in the middle of the enigneer’s campus, I’d also be able to tell stories about that (especially for the general image of engineers as “nerds”) untypically wild engineer’s party life going on here nearly every day since day one. Partybeats sometimes blaring through the window from 9.30 in the morning till late in the evening. I thought that might be over after the first two introduction weeks, but seems like truly I underestimated them. I’d be able to tell about the Nations which are, like in Uppsala, a crucial part of student life here in Lund. Joining a Nation is voluntary, but if you wanna enjoy student life, and not just be here to mark time, there’s just not better way than to do so. I might also talk about the obsession this city has with bicycles. As a rather small city, bicycles are the mean of transport number one. Simply a must-have for every student.

But no; I’m gonna talk about a whole different subject. One that probably applies not only to Lund, but to whole Sweden: The extinction of cash. This country is obsessed with credit card payment. Not just that it’s more and more common to pay by card, which is slowly but steadyily the same trend in Switzerland, no, you even get some strange glares if you try to pay by cash. Doesn’t matter if you’re 20 or 60, if you pay 5 Kronas or 500; you’re expected to pay by card.

As a non-EU-citizen with a Swiss bank account, I pay some fees for every transaction I do with my card. I also pay a fee every time I withdraw some money at an ATM. the cheapest way for me here is to withdraw a large amount at once and try to get along with that as long as possible, so; cash-payment. I managed to do so for more or less the first two weeks. But sooner or later you can’t resist the urge to use your credit card anymore. You indirectly get forced to use it. Like when there’s a huge queue at the checkout in the grocery store, because only two of the five checkouts are engaged, whilst there are multiple free self-checkouts beside them, which, of course, just allow payment by credit card. Or simply when it’s break between two lessons and you feel a little dry in your throat. So you go out to get a drink from the vending machine around the corner, but after looking for the coin slot for 5 minutes you just have to admit that there is none and you pay your 5 Krona-water (like 50 Rappen) by card. And like I mentioned; the people in the stores expect you to pay by card. It’s just become the usual payment for them. After telling you the price he’s just giving you this puzzled look when instead of your shiny plastic bank card you take out some old rotten bills and coins. And you even feel a bit sorry the moment you see that he has already typed in the payment on the card reader.

With these kinds of experiences you start using your credit card more and more, because you don’t want to be this “guy from a backward country who still uses bills and coins”. You integrate into their daily payment routine. Resistance is futile. Sooner or later, the country’s custom gets you. And I guess sooner or later this custom will also be the usual one in Switzerland and the rest of Europe and maybe one day the whole world. I don’t know if I personally like this development. I like cash and I think you can calculate your expenses way better with cash than by just taking out your card and slipping it through the crack. But if I like it or not; at least after this Sweden experience I can say; I’m already used to it.

Severin Siegenthaler

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