Ages ago I ranted about my inability to break a 50 euro bill at a French bank, a bank at which I am a paying client. (Yes, there's really no such thing as free banking in France. But maybe that's the way things are going all over.) Since then, I've heard other expats with the same beef, boiling over with frustration at ATMs that dispense 50 euro bills like candy, bills that if presented at your local boulangerie, news kiosk, or grocery will be met with raised eyebrows, pursed lips, and request for a smaller bill.
But then this week, I heard another story that got to me to thinking. An acquaintance, who is the treasurer for a local volunteer organization, was explaining that her bank will not allow her to deposit cash. Actually she used to be able to make deposits but during a recent renovation, the branch lost its facilities for securing large sums of cash. So "checks only" is now the order of the day; if she must deposit cash, she has to go to the one location near the Opera (one of the most touristy areas of Paris and one where pickpockets are hard at work) to do so. Yes, that's right. A bank that doesn't accept cash because apparently it doesn't have a real safe.
Aha! It was a light bulb moment. They can't give you cash because they haven't got any. Makes sense right?
Perhaps only in some alternate universe that we will just call "France."
On further reflection, it was one of the moments when I realized that while I am slowly beginning to understand how this country works, I still don't get it.