On Jan. 1, 2002, 300 million people in 12 European countries ditched their old coins and bills and switched to the euro. This weblog kept track of the quirky human side of this gloriously epic yet tediously mundane transition, with correspondents in ten countries sharing their experiences.
Your hosts were David F. Gallagher, an American journalist living and working in Milan, Italy, and Joyce-Ann Gatsoulis, an American journalist living and working in Athens, Greece.
Andreas Purkott is a German graphic designer living and working near Heidelberg, Germany.
Graham Spencer, a.k.a. Graybo, runs a small nursery and event management business in Chichester, England, where he also lives.
Sue Kane, a.k.a. pseudo morph, is an American who has lived in the Dutch province of Brabant for 18 years.
I received a link to a euro-flash game today from a friend of mine in London:
The launch of euro notes and coins on 1 January 2002 is the last straw for Britain's anti-Europeans. They are intent on detaching Britain from Europe altogether and moving to safer waters to the north, far away from creeping euros. To save your country you must hose the culprits down as they emerge from their burrows.
Her comment was that it is best when you lose the game.
German man claims the 10 euro note is making him impotent. It's all down to the chemical tributyltin which the note contains. How consumers can tell that it's the ten euro note and not other denominations that are causing the alleged effects is beyond me. Then again, if it's a problem, they could always lace the 5 euro note with Viagra to compensate...
While attempting to scrape all the spam from my inbox today, an amusing piece caught my eye. I wonder who'd take advice and give their trust and money to someone who can't get the name of the currency right (I don't want to know the answer).
From: Reply-To: To: administrator
Subject: New Euro Currency...for FREE!!
Received: from [18.104.22.168]; Sun, 24 Feb 2002 20:39:11 -0800
From email@example.com Sun, 24 Feb 2002 20:40:32 -0800
On January 1st 2002, the European countries began using the new Euro Dollar. Never before have so many countries with such powerful economies united to use a single currency. Get your piece of history now! We would like to send you a FREE Euro Dollar and a FREE report on world currency. Just visit our site to request your Euro Dollar:
http://[web address intentionally erased].com
In addition to our currency report, you can receive:
* FREE trading software for commodities and currencies
* FREE online trading advice via email
* FREE trading system for stock and commodity traders
Find out how the new Euro Dollar will affect you. If you are over age 18 and have some risk capital, it's important that you find out how the Euro Dollar will change the economic world.
Emphasis added. And by the way, I went to the website advertised and they had a nice picture of a US dollar bill. No euro.
The euro is obviously still in my mind as something new: I had a dream last night about getting lots of "foreign" euros in my change. Reality strikes back soon, though. So far, a German euro is the only one I own.
Virtual Gotcha! 2 is a spectacular, interactive 3D computer game. The setting is today: the time of the introduction of the euro. A group of disillusioned old-age-pensioners are preparing a full-blown battle against the European Central Bank. Their ultimate goal, besides the annihilation of the euro, is to end the never-ending Europeanization which totally undermines their good old values.
Because the Dutch and Belgian euro coins make up only a small percentage of all euro coins, it is expected that eventually the 'foreign' euro coins will replace the 'domestic' euro coins for a large part. Interesting questions are: How quickly will the 'foreign' coins replace the Dutch ones? How many French coins will we find in our wallets after a year? How many Finnish? Is there a statistically significant balance in the distrubution of the coins?
The site includes charts showing the results of the last three days of coin checking in both the Belgian wallet as well as the Dutch wallet.
No news is good news.
The Austrian schilling is gone. The last time I saw it was in early January. A lot of prices went up. Supermarkets claim to have lowered or maintained their old prices, but that is only true for a few selected items. Some shops even had the nerve to convert prices like 29 schillings (2,11 euros) to 2,9 euros! They just painted the comma between the 2 and the 9.
So far I have only found one Italian 2 euro coin and one German 2 euro coin in my change. But yesterday I received one german 2 euro and one Spanish 5 cent -- both in one day! I think the different coins make the euro a truly unique currency and I like it. Even though it won't help a bit to learn how to tell the 1, 2, 5 and 10, 20 apart.
Did you know that the 2 euro coin not only has country-specific sides but also country-specific words on the edge?
On a trip to Ireland this weekend, it's clear that the euro seems to have taken over more or less completely. Shops, buses and bars no longer specify the price as euro - they just say, "3.75", or whatever, and it's assumed to be euro. The pound sign is almost nowhere to be seen, replaced by the euro sign (though they are confusingly alike).
The coins themselves seem to take a bit of getting used to. The 1, 2 and 5 and the 10, 20 and 50 are too similar to be told apart quickly, and it's very easy to confuse the 1 and 2 euro coins. Perhaps it gets easier with practice. Meanwhile, even at Dublin Airport, all the euros I found were Irish ones. But my mother, who was in Paris for the weekend, reports getting Dutch, Spanish and Finnish euro coins as well as French ones in her change. "It was great," she added, "to be able to go out and just spend the money in our pockets".
Meanwhile, watching an episode of children's sitcom Custer's Last Stand-up (about a teenage comedian) I noticed, puzzlingly, that although the script referred to euro, the notes held up were the old Irish notes. It took a while to realise that the episode must have been filmed before Christmas when the notes were not yet available.
After five weeks of using the euro, I have to confess that they are still a mystery to me. The coins are not becoming more familiar with use, I never seem to have any 50 cent pieces (the coin needed to unlock a shopping cart) and the stores really don't like bills larger than a fifty.
I don't seem to be alone in this. We went to buy a new table and chairs yesterday. When it came time to present us with our bill, the salesman scribbled wildly on a sheet of paper for a few minutes, then muttering deprecations against the euro finally pulled out a pocket calculator to add up the bill.
The ferry ride home was 1.88 euro. The driver of the car told the ticket seller to keep the change, it was only a nuisance. Which seems to sum up the general feeling about the copper-colored coins very well.