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.
World premiere of the EuroWorldSong On December 31. 2001 Anna Maria Kauffmann, Alexander Gero and Pappa Bear are going to sing the EuroWorldSong for the first time. This world premiere will take place at the "Frankfurt-Night of the Euro". The song is a mixture of classic and rap and "merges the departure of the national currencies with the birth of the Euro money". Here is a version of the song (requires RealPlayer).
[link via Peter Praschl from the Sofablog]
This from a recent traveler's blog "WORST Art Display: Monument to the Euro, Krakow Town Square
This was really bizarre. They took a bunch of wooden disks, about 1 meter in diameter, and had corporations sponsor schoolchildren to paint them in Euro-related themes. It was almost as if they were trying to make a religion out of this money - one mural depicted a knight-like figure on a horse carrying "the people" of Poland to safety in one hand and holding aloft the now-familiar Euro symbol with the other. Or something. Others showed similar concepts of the Euro as shelter from the financial storm of non-affiliated currency. Very peculiar, and I thought, tasteless. I mean, I thought we worshipped money in America, but really... "
Apparently the EU has been encouraging public displays of schoolchildrens' Euro art in many countries. Diane Shugart in Athens tells us that on a recent taxi journey, the driver saw the children's exhibition and -- believing the coins to be accurately depicted by the young artists -- noted how odd it will to have coins in so many different colors.
More trashy Euro advertising This is a German TV Spot to promote the start of the Euro, proving that German advertising really is as bad as its reputation.
Featuring two famous German actors, the following is the riveting dialogue in the spot:
older man: "You can't stop it anymore"
younger man: "Sure?"
younger man: "And now?"
older man: "The Euro is a signal that we belong together."
younger man: "The two of us?"
older man: "Nooo. Europe."
Then you see the German minister of finance, who says: "The Euro is a signal that we belong together."
Here are two "Euro games":
Euro Puzzle: You have to reconstruct the banknote. There will be another banknote after each round.
Euro Domino: Try to make the queue as long as possible. It's you against the computer.
The Italian department store chain Coin offers a helpful Euro-info brochure to its customers featuring a scrawny know-it-all superhero. He suggests that if you're really confused about what the Euro figure on the price tag means, you should just avoid all that pesky math and pay by credit card. (In fact, don't worry about how much anything costs. Just buy it!)
Visa is using a similar "Euros for Dummies" approach. An ad in the International Herald Tribune features a wallet that is empty except for a Visa card. Above the picture it says "All you need to know about the Euro." Underneath it says "Organizing your wallet during the changeover."
German D-Mark turns into confetti The German mint is giving away shredded D-Mark banknotes. From Thursday 'til Saturday people in Berlin can get D-Mark confetti. Each bag contains paper shavings originally worth thousands of marks.
There is also a exhibition about the D-Mark in the foyer. "In 3 months we had 6,000 visitors," says Denis Wieprecht from the German mint.
Coins from Thailand outsmart European vending machines Instead of 2-Euro coins, vending and other machines will also accept 10-baht coins which are worth 0.25 Euro each, Der Spiegel reports. That's a huge problem because over two million Europeans visit Thailand each year. The 10-baht coin has nearly the same size, weight and alloy as the 2-Euro coin, so the machines won't recognize the difference. If the machines are adjusted to be too sensitive, a lot of 2-Euro coins won't be accepted.
Frozen Pesetas in Spain In Spain conspicuous consumption broke out. The reason is the large amount of black money that the people deposit at home. This money has to be spent before the spanish Pesetas will become void next year. There are of course no official figures but the central bank estimates that the private households possess about 3,6 billions Pesetas (21,6 billions Euro) untaxed earnings.
"We here (in Spain) don't have a great propensity to pay taxes" says Jose Luis Pellicer, speaker of the central bank.
Most of this black money is spend on cash purchase of real estate and cars. Buyer and seller agree on a price. On the contract appears a lower price. The rest will be paid cash. "Black money is like energy", says attorney Felix Bornstein, "it does not disappear - it just changes its form".
The newspaper "ABC" reports of a spectacular case: a buyer came with 23 million Pesetas (140000 Euro) to make a deal. The banknotes were frozen because he kept the money in his freezer for years. The deal itself took hours because they had to wait for the banknotes to defrost. Otherwise buyer and seller wouldn't have been able to count them.
Europoly If you live in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, or Spain, you can buy the Monopoly Commemorative Euro Edition with real, fake Euro notes! Predictably, choice spots in Paris and Berlin replace Park Place and 5th Avenue in the new edition. But apart from Euro-zone properties, Hasbro generously offers players affordable housing in Vilnius, Lithuania; Sofia, Bulgaria; and Bucharest, Romania. LeMonde rightly wonders why such Euro-laggards get coveted board space, while next-wave Euro entrants in Czech Republic, Hungary, Estonia, and Slovenia are not represented. Hasbro France's representative said there just wasn't enough space for everyone: "We were limited to 22 boxes," he said.
The European Central Bank awarded Hasbro a "best practice" award for the Monopoly Euro Commemorative Edition. Other contenders included a big, German-made cardboard Euro coin.
According to SatireWire, the makers of Monopoly "will replace its colorful play dollars with the Euro, a form of cheap fake money widely used in Europe" in order to decrease production costs of its classic board game. A company spokesperson is quoted saying, "As for making sure it doesn't get confused for real money, I think it's safe to say that so far that hasn't been an issue."
Love Thy Neighbor? Yianna gets to skip religion class to play Euro-games. Euroraces, a board game distributed in Greek schools to educate children about the Euro, is "even better than Monopoly," says Katerina. In the game, kids go on spending sprees across Europe, winning Euros every time they land on Euro-zone countries but losing turns when happening upon Europhobic U.K., Denmark, or Sweden. And should Yianna's roll-of-the-dice land her on one of Greece's neighboring Euro-wannabe countries like Bulgaria? The consequences are dire.
The big kids in Greek high schools just get Euro-themed comic books.
Due to the conversion from D-Mark to Euro, beer is getting more expensive, says Richard Weber, member of the "Deutscher Brauer Bund" (German Brewer Federation). Prices will rise between 2 and 6 percent, which will decrease the comsumption per head from 130-150 litres a year right now to about 100 litres a year in the next decade.
Sorry, but I don't have any actual statistics about the weisswurst and kraut-Euro-prices right now...
Nostalgic Italians want to build a monument to the lira out of several tons of melted-down lira coins. Why? Because everyone uses lire, and soon they won't, and future generations must be told that they really missed out on something. And what else would you do with all those coins?
An allegiance to the Lira, whose collective memories are able to set into motion its capacity to select, accumulate, and conserve all while embodying space and time in remembrance.
If you're Italian, you can submit your ideas to the design contest. I suggest something involving a lot of zeroes.
International Herald Tribune: Europe Scrambles to Be Euro-Ready. The old currencies are expected to disappear within two weeks, the European Central Bank says. "The euro project's scale is staggering. Mints have turned out enough coins to build 24 Eiffel Towers." Lots of ATMs aren't going to be ready.
Associated Press: Europe Begins Countdown to Euro. "The more than 660 billion euros ($580 billion) in some 14 billion bank notes and 50 billion coins amount to the largest currency change in history, according to Frank Berger, a currency historian at the Frankfurt Historical Museum."