The som is the unit of currency used here in Kyrgyzstan. The exchange rate varies, but currently 35soms is roughly one dollar. Coins are rarely used at all. I guess they’re in the final stages of being phased out. I have heard that they exist, but that people are usually surprised when they receive coins as change. Paper soms exist in denomination from 500soms, down to half a som. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize this. Somewhere along the way, in a handful of change received at the grocery store or somewhere, I received a bill labeled 50. Not having remembered where I got it, or how much money I was owed when I received it, I simply assumed it was a 50som bill. After all, there ARE 50som bills. What was interesting about this bill, was that it was about half the size of the other bills in my wallet:
If I’d paid closer attention, I might’ve noticed that while the 100som bill spells out жуз сом (one-hundred som), the smaller bills read элуу тыйын, which turns out to mean, essentially, fifty kopeks. There are 100 тыйын per som, apparently. Guess how I came to this stunning realization? Not by intelligently wondering why the wording was different on the different bills and checking my Kyrgyz dictionary, no. Instead, I was leaving the internet café. My bill came to 35soms, and I tried to pay for it with what turned out to be the 50 kopek bill. The woman running the internet café simply gave me a look which conveyed her thought, as clearly as if she had spoken: Are you a complete and total dumbass? I immediately realized that I’d done something wrong, and tried to cover it up by acting as though I’d simply grabbed the wrong bill out of my wallet. I took my 50тыйын bill back and exchanged it for a 100som bill. My change from it contained a legitimate 50som bill, which was the same size as the rest of the bills in my wallet. I went home and immediately rummaged through my Kyrgyz dictionary to confirm what exactly had just happened... sigh.
Here’s a shot of the 500som bill:
And this is a close-up of the mountains which appear on the back of the 100som.
Is it just me, or is that a face? Seriously, I find it a little frightening.