To earn in rupees and spend otherwise

I was giving directions to my friend who will be arriving to join the university soon and I said, "Okay, so the cost of the prepaid ride will be $15, and then give a tip of about 3 or 4$ to the driver who drops you there". My friend was shocked... "You want me to tip someone 200 Rupees??!!". And I smiled, a real amused smile. My reply was, "Welcome to America!".

The realization about the currency conversion rate had took over for the first time when I visited Scotland. One GBP was worth somewhere around 89-90 INR at that time, and therefore every single penny saved used to be worth a lot at that time. Our salaries used to be converted into Indian Rupees and deposited into our accounts in Mumbai, and our eyes would light up at the end of each month when the money came in: the figures simply spread cheer through the team! Every single pound spent for the company (be it a cab ride or some extra allowance) was accounted for, and we submitted them religiously every fortnight to see those funny 2-3 digit GBP figures suddenly come in as massive 5-digit INR figures into our accounts. We were a bunch of recent college graduates, more accustomed to seeing sub-100 figures as our bank balance, and therefore on these days the glee on our faces was really palpitable! :)

However, it used to be equally bad when we had to spend it. When a cup of coffee costs you 2 pounds, the mental calculator would jump at us and scream that we were having a coffee worth 180 bucks!! A sandwich would cost 4 pounds, the boozers would get whiskies for 9 pounds, and a simple drycleaning would be advertised for 15 pounds for 3 pieces of clothing! You do the math, at 89-90 rupees to a pound, and then tell me how much our hearts used to be wrung to actually munch on lunches at the office cafeteria that cost us around 8-9 pounds every day!! :(

The funniest things that happened due to this currency conversion, of course, was the fact that when I went to India on a break, everything appeared dead cheap! I booked a taxi from Kolkata Airport to somewhere in Park Street: and it was Rs.208. My smile was inescapable to the man behind the counter as I handed over the money --- just 2.3 pounds for that long a ride?? Hahaha... I felt rich! :D But nothing beats this one: I recently left my life of a single earning bachelor in India and became a grad student in the US. After coming here, I luckily managed to get some assistantship. When I told the figures back home to my parents, my dad mentally calculated the INR value said, "Wow, so you are earning three times of what you used to get here per month... you earn more than what people with 3 years experience do!". If only he had seen the 50 rupees worth of coffee I spilled as I choked on that statement...


  1. The best thing is to forget currency conversion when you go abroad.

    On a note, I have an interesting story to relate: we were on a trip to Switzerland in Nov 2006 and we had gone shopping for chocolates.

    Most people tried to buy a variety of chocolates, but you know what one guy did? He scanned the entire row for the cheapest chocolates (Marked around 0.4 or 0.45 Francs per bar) and he completely emptied out that row.

    At the end of the shopping fest, most people were carrying around 3-4 kg of chocolate and this guy was lugging about 10 kg of it.

    I didn't buy a single bar... being the cheapskate that I am. Instead I spent it on a Swatch - at least they last and tell us the time.

    To earn in Rupees and spend in Francs/Euros/dollars/pounds is indeed an art-form that only a true Indian can hope to master.

  2. My sister announced after her first trip abroad once she stooped converting currency, only then she was prepared to shop merrily. Otherwise she kept calculating mentally and stopped herself to buy anything for the first few hours.

  3. unrelated to this, just following the phases in ur story seemed like a echo. college work abroad come home go back to study :) nice

    funnily i never felt bad spending in pounds and dollars. but i did feel cool about the conversion rate when i came home. and ditto when the salaries back home came in :D

    but i remember ma's response to the tea prices when she came to uk first. good fun :D

  4. hmmm... when you were onsite you saved big bucks for higher studies, huh? ;-)

  5. Don't have any conversion-rate-blues-story where I am a character but yes have heard such tales pretty often.
    But I do feel the pinch when I have to buy some book (Original of course)at its Pound or USD value.

  6. Its Rs 40 for a coffee, now. Rupee appreciation :D

  7. Hehe...The first thing I was told when I ventured out in the U.S. was...forget currency conversion!!! They might as well have told me not to be an acocuntant *rolls eyes* So, it took me a loooong time to get used to the fact that a simple sandwich in the cafe would cost me Rs. 220! An entire dinner at Gym Khana used to cost us this much back home!

    I still am trying to get rid of that currency conversion ki aadat, maybe once I see that first paycheck?


  8. Hari, that was interesting! And yes, that art form can only be managed by the true Indian!! :P

    Alka, yeah I know the feeling... I had felt so bad gobbling down a 5$ sandwich after I landed at Washington D.C. :)

    Ricercar, oh yeah good fun it is! I remmeber I was so elated one day when the conversion factor wore off, and the pound could buy so much! And it is a small world, isn't it... especially with the Edinburgh connection? :)

    Manasa, yeah... saved some money, but the GRE apps and flight tickets robbed me! :(

    Kalyan, yeah I know what you mean... I bought a book for $80 and it came around as more than 3000 rupees! :(

    Manasa, ahh... yeah... that is both good and bad news! :)

    Sky, yeah it pinches real hard, I know. But don't you worry --- as soon as you get your first paycheck, hum haazir ho jaayenge! :P

  9. Rofl -- been there, done that, and still do it :D

  10. That was one nice and apt title... and well written, of course...

  11. Hey .. I loved this blog ... I was laughing all the while I was reading this one... Every stmt that's made here is so true... My mental calculator has stopped since long back.. so it's fun now ... :)

  12. :)..I recall when I had first entered US and had bought a water bottle at the mind calculator imm. thot..omg..Rs150 for water???

  13. Well i've never been out of India but still my brain does have a tendency of trying to convert any currency figures in terms of Rupees.
    LOL by assistance ship you are getting more than what full time workers don't get here. But the reality check comes when you compare the lifestyle out here and there. Well going by your experience Indians do learn to spend money when they go abroad. I'll surely master the art of saving before i go there.

  14. I an so totally related. When I moved to the US several years ago, the first thing my brother told me was "stop thinking in pesos or else u'll never buy anything." And it's quite true! And once I started earning in dollars, everything else became so cheap! Now that I've moved back to Asia, I've gotten accustomed to "reasonable" prices again -- and I tell you, it was a very welcome change!

  15. oh, so it might be pretty xpensive..the food n transport services out there ?..well dat spells bad news for my near future plans to visit states !!..d abstaining of pleasures u can afford back here in india !..nice post ! :)-Ms NMA

  16. Supremus, yeah thats right... old habits die hard :)

    Wonderful Person, thanks :)

    Geetanjali, thanks, dear... you sure it is just the mental calculator that has stopped? :D

    Pallavi, Hahhaa... yeah, that shock can't be matched with anything.

    Tanuj, hey, welcome onboard! And yes, hopefully you too will be able to master the art of spending wise dollars :)

    Princess, yeah... the whole equation suddenly changes, doesn't it? Ahh, the joys of haggling and "reasonable" prices! :)

    Miss NMA, long time no see! Actually, public transport everywhere in the US is pretty cheap. If you come near Austin sometime, do let me know :)

  17. its strange in my case, iam accustomed to see rupees in rupees and dollars in dollars. I almost go to the starbucks everyday to take my coffee woth $2, but I'd doubt if i would spend Rs.80 on coffee everyday when i visit India. I too 've been to India recently and nothing had changed for me strangely. I still fought with the auto driver who was asking me extra Rs.10 on meter. I knw its weird and strange.

    btw r u still doing $x50 for ruppe conversion :) ? i guess its time to scale down, co incidentally tht's the topic of my latest post.

  18. hey i so agree with u..i also relocated out of india 2 yrs back and when i moved there new..i was quite shocked at the difference when we convert the currency and suddenly india doesnt seem as expensive!

  19. Maverick, yeah... very true! 80 bucks worth of coffee in a single day, and the next day I'll be thrown out of the house :) And your new post sounds really interesting! Will visit soon.

    Ekta, welcome onboard!! And India doesn't seem expensive? Well, well... please let me know when you go home again :)

  20. sudipta, i can definitely relate to the conversion dilemma. but, we fail to take into account 'purchasing power' when converting from one currency into another. i believe Rs = $ * 10 is a much better (fair?) conversion rate.
    secondly, small error in yr post. u used the non-word 'palpitable' (i guess u meant 'palpable')


  21. Sourabh, welcome onboard! Yeah, I too use the mental *10 for calculating how costly something is. And thanks for pointing that mistake out --- will correct it now!

  22. You reminded me of my first trip to UK. I was coming back to London from Reading by train. I watned to relieve myself but since In had a co passenger with whom I was discussing something, I missed going to the loo in the train. When I got down at Paddington, I realised I had to spend 15 rupees for a pee.

  23. Tv, that was hilarious! 15 bucks just to pee! :D

  24. Well I don't convert it as long as it falls in my per Diem allowance, that companies give.
    So if I have been given dollars I will spend like dollars.
    If I am taking from INR, I would rather spend it like INR.

    1. Chanchal - great idea. But the direct deposit still felt great at that time. :)


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