I spent some time earlier in July in Ohio with some family that flew in from the Philippines, and had an insightful conversation with my 23-year-old cousin who was trying to buy some food with cash.
“I hate your coins here,” he said, as he picked through a bunch of pennies, dimes, nickels and quarters in his hand.
“Why?” I asked.
“How do foreigners know a quarter is 25 cents? All other countries have numbers on their coins. Your coins are too assuming.”
I took a closer look at each of our coins and realized he had a valid point: American coins don’t have numbers on them.
The penny says “ONE CENT,” the nickel says “FIVE CENTS,” the dime says “ONE DIME,” and the quarter says “QUARTER DOLLAR.”
I guess those words help people identify them, but what if tourists don’t know how what a dime is? What about people who may not necessarily read English and don’t know what “five” or “one” means when it’s written out?
While I initially found it amusing that my cousin had to ask me how much each coin was, I felt the exact opposite after he made his point: he had good reason to ask me how much a dime was worth. I’ve paid with American coins for years so I never thought about the absence of numbers on them, or how even the size of our metal currency isn’t an indicator of its value (for example, the penny is worth the least amount but it’s bigger than our ten-cent dime).
In addition to our “assuming” currency, my cousin called out some “wasteful” American habits, particularly with food servings and how he saw so many SUVs with only one person in the car. What was the point of having a car that big if only one person was in it?
My cousin may have bashed two specific things about the United States, but it was nice getting someone else’s perspective on the country.