Let’s talk about money

Eunice Kilonzo
2 min readDec 14, 2023

As a Kenyan used to the swift efficiency of mobile money via M-PESA back home, navigating the cash-driven world of Switzerland has been nothing short of an adventure.

Since the pandemic, hard cash, let alone coins, has not been a thing. Seeing the M-PESA logo, and really the ubiquitous Safaricom green was comforting; you knew you could pay your bill wherever you were.

On this other side of the world, there is no M-PESA (yet).

But there are mobile payment options, such as Twint, which you can pay using a QR code or tapping. It is easy to use, but you must have loaded the cash on these platforms before you use them. I have yet to navigate how to do it.

The other option is to pay by card (including the 1.50CHF at the public toilets at the Cornavin station. An aside: I learned about this when my coins fell short, and I didn’t have my card. Long story. But, a kind man behind me swiped his card for me to go through)

I have observed how easily people have cash notes and coins here.

As someone used to cash-less transactions via mobile money, I almost always struggle to count, especially the coins, and I get panicky standing in front of the payment counter if I still need to fish out all my coins. It’s even worse when people queue behind me as I try to find the exact change.

In these encounters, I inadvertently catch myself practising French under my breath.

Excuse-moi. Désole.


I almost always get a patient and understanding teller who looks on as I spread my coins on the counter, count out how much is needed, and sweep whatever remains into my coin bag (I had to get one!). I am becoming less clumsy faster and have foresight with this as weeks pass. I keep a 1CHF coin in my wallet to get a trolley at the supermarket and a 5CHF if I (or my son/husband) ever have to use the public toilets.

The key lesson from this is not just about navigating transactions but embracing these new cultural and (unique) financial nuances with flexibility, a newfound appreciation for preparation, and, sometimes, a dash of humour, and, almost always, a bucketload of humility.

What do you think?

What has been your experience with money (in whichever form) in a foreign place? How was it? Lessons, tips?

If you missed my first observation, read it here and the third, here.



Eunice Kilonzo

#Writer | 11 #Awards | #Synesthetes | #Health | #Media #Comms @Gavi | Past @WHO @safaricomPLC @UNEP @nationafrica @aphrc @Falling_Walls