When you don’t know, what you don’t know…

Chery —  June 14, 2013 — 9 Comments

As my husband and I prepared for our international move we went to the bank and ordered the currency he would need when he arrived there.  The banker was a young man who had grown up as an expat child in this foreign land.  The currency arrived without incident and my husband had nothing to worry about.

Two and a half months later, as I prepared to leave the U.S. to join my husband. I went to a bank in a different city to order the same currency.  When the teller asked if I wanted small or large bills, I quickly said small.  (Using my U.S. filters and thinking about how hard it can be to use big bills in the U.S. or in Europe.)

The day I went in to pick up the currency.  Every teller knew immediately who I was.  (I thought that was odd.)  A few minutes later a teller emerged with four large wrapped packages.

iStock_000008219942XSmallAs she opened them she revealed 4 “bricks” of bills.  I was in shock!  There was no way to pass the currency under the glass.  There was no way to discreetly count the currency.  There was no way the currency was going to fit in my purse.  Immediately I wondered how to get it to my destination without drawing a lot of attention to it, and without adding a LOT of extra weight to my over-the-shoulder carry-on.

What could I do but laugh and try to problem-solve?  I immediately texted my husband so he could laugh too!  Checked to see if I could exchange the currency for larger bills.  And when that wasn’t possible in the time I had, the teller and I met in a back room so I could count it, and bag it.

I ended up breaking down all four bricks into smaller stacks, filling large envelopes,  putting them in a pillowcase and carrying a lot of weight through the airport!

When I arrived my husband and I laughed again at the comedy of it all!  And when we went to the store to make our first purchases, we got laughed at by every teller, manager and customer in sight!  (Apparently these small bills have a value that is close to that of toilet paper!)

This process reminded me of the following:

  • When you don’t know, what you don’t know, things like this will happen.
  • Learn to laugh at yourself!
  • Admit what you didn’t know.
  • Make a mental note for next time.
  • Attempt correct the mistake.
  • Use the story as a way to connect with others, and to help them realize they are not alone.  My bet is that they will have a laughable lesson to share too!
  • Share the story with anyone that can use your lesson.  (In my case it’s a great lesson for future expats.  For global organizations that hire expats and for banks, this is also an opportunity for you to provide coaching and a higher level of service to your employees and your customers!)

How about you?  Will you share a story and a lesson about a time you didn’t know what you didn’t know?  What did you do?  What did you learn? 

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9 responses to When you don’t know, what you don’t know…

  1. Great story, Chery!!! And, a very useful point!!! Thanks for sharing and bringing us into your new world!!!

  2. Great story Chery (as always)….!!!!

  3. Great story Chery. I think that is what makes expatriation exciting: you almost never know what you don’t know, so humility and a good sense of humor can make a huge difference about your experience abroad.

    • Thank you Anne! I would love to hear stories from you about your early expat days! …And after lots of years of living as an expat, are there things that you still don’t know that you don’t know?

  4. It is also a story about customer focus. It would have been helpful for the bank to tell you what “small bills” and “large bills” mean in this context. Knowing what your customers don’t know can be even tricker but good companies devote themselves to understanding customers. Posts on customer focus http://management.curiouscatblog.net/category/customer-focus/

    • John – Thank you for sharing your thoughts! I completely agree – this was a customer service opportunity and could be again for someone else!

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