In Samoa there seems to be a similar attitude of fascination and mysteriousness toward the ATM. Only a small segment of the population works with computers and other automated machines on a regular basis, so there can be some confusion, particularly at certain banks where the ATMs only speak English.
Credit cards are not prevalent in Samoa, so most debts, public and private, are paid with cash. This translates to one of the following options:
- Not storing your money in a bank; or
- Using the ATM at least somewhat frequently.
There was one weekend about 6 months ago—maybe it was Easter?—where by Sunday night all the ATMs in Apia had run out of cash. I was fine sitting at home eating peanut butter and jelly, but two volunteers who were in town and without means of cooking their own food nor buying food with cash they didn’t have were SOL. Without a kitchen nor an ATM (they burned part of their remaining cash taking a taxi to the outskirts of town, only to find the ATM there out of cash as well), they scrimped together their change, bought some bread and cheese, and called to ask if they could use my kitchen. I agreed.
During the tsunami evacuation following the Vanuatu quakes, Koa and I found ourselves at the ANZ ATM up the hill. It was out of cash.
There’s little sense of ATM etiquette here. Whereas when someone uses an ATM in the States, we all treat the person like he/she smells awful and give that person a 15-foot radius of privacy, people here have no problem sidling up next to an ATM user. The line for the ATM often forms directly behind th person using the machine. There’s no rear-view mirror or security camera, which seems unsettling at first, but theft of that sort is pretty unheard of here. Also, people often use the machine in pairs or small groups.
ATMs are popping up more often as Samoa continues to develop. And you can now use your ATM card to buy groceries. Wild.
Tomorrow’s Cultural Exploration: White Sunday.
I hope you’re well. Pictures below.
Long line at the ATM.
Workers changing the sign at the ANZ Bank on Beach Road.