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.
Damp enthusiasm for the euro starter packs? No queues in Maastricht, one Dutch consumer (according to Bloomberg) likening the coins to chocolates. The Germans are no more enthusiastic. But the Irish are most concerned about gambling.
We British are curiously watching the introduction of the euro notes and coins, and yet information in this country seems really quite sparse. With numerous UK stores likely to accept the new currency from January 1st, knowledge amongst consumers is very low. A woman in front of me in the queue at the bank yesterday was quizzing the clerk about what the fractions of a euro were called (he didn't know!). If the starter packs are available in the UK, I've yet to hear about it.
This confusion and lack of information was reflected in yesterday's BBC TV Working Lunch phone-in on the launch of the euro. The questions ranged from how should prices be written (writing euro is correct, but Euro or euros are both wrong, apparently) to the availability of conversion charts for sterling to euro calculations (using a car speedometer was recommended, as the ratio is similar to the ratio between miles and kilometres - obviously this is fine all the while you are sitting in your car, but less good if you are in the queue in a shop!).
The question is: will the introduction of the notes and coins accelerate the process of euro creep? Somehow, I doubt it. With a motley assortment of loose change sitting in a drawer here at my desk (francs, pesetas, lira and escudos) and, apparently, in just about every other home up and down the land (reports suggest about £20 per person), you'd think we would have been calling for those currencies to be adopted by now!
I watched "Mister Euro" on Italian state television the other night.
Mister Euro was an animated character who asked euro-related questions that were answered by a panel of Italian bureaucrats and businessmen. You would think that with a name like "Mister Euro" he would know all the answers already.
Then two incredibly cool guys came out and did a rap about the euro. I think the song was supposed to express consumer confusion about the new currency, but in a way that would not be threatening to the bureaucrats, who tapped their expensive shoes in time to the music and tried not to look bored. I think I saw a guy in the studio audience reading a newspaper.
"It is a fabulous challenge. Try to live it, not only with joy, but also forthrightly and with determination." -- French Consumer Affairs Minister Francois Patriat, on the introduction of the euro. (This is my new motto.)
I just bought a bag of euros at the grocery store! It looks for all of the world like a bag of that foil covered chocolate money! I suppose it's because it's brand new, but it really glitters in an almost garish fashion.
hey, guys, relax -- i'm brazilian and here in Brasil we had 5 (i mean FIVE) currency changes between '86 and '94. take a look.
every time the name of the currency changed and 3 zeros were cut out. in the '80s we reached 80% inflation a month. newspapers, milk and bread got more expensive every week. old and new cash and coins were circulating at the same time for months.
we became experts on the subject. need some psychological advice?
Due to the conversion to Euro a lot of idioms are endangered. Phrases like "eine schnelle Mark machen" (to make a fast D-Mark) are senseless without the D-Mark. I think that's a problem for all countries in the eurozone when they lose their well-known currencies.
This story, which appears to be from Reuters, quotes the European Central Bank as saying that modern vending machines should be able to tell the difference between the two coins because the euro coin has "distinctive magnetic properties." Sorry, people.
From the same story: The ECB spokesman "declined to comment on a separate report on a study that one and two euro coins contained so much nickel that people allergic to the metal could develop skin problems because of contact with the coins."
Fifty-two percent of Europeans would prefer to keep using their own currency instead of switching to the euro, according to the results of a poll of 11,750 people commissioned by the Wall Street Journal Europe (pay site, so no link, sorry). Just 35 percent favor the euro, and 13 percent have no opinion. Love of the old money is strongest in Finland, France, Germany and Spain.
One in four Europeans believe the currency will be bad for them, while only one in 10 says they will be better off, the poll found.
Women, poorer people and the less educated are much less likely to favor the euro than everyone else.
Seventy-three percent of those polled said they won't bother to learn about the new notes and coins until they are actually using them.
Pope John Paul II said last week that he thinks the euro is a good thing, Italy's ANSA news agency reported.
Of course he likes it -- his face is on it. At least it will be at the Vatican, which, amazingly, has its own currency. Until now it's been denominated in Italian lire. Countries can pick their own designs for the flip sides of the euro coins they mint.
The Financial Times reports that Procter & Gamble is encouraging consumers in the eurozone to hoard bulk packages of diapers and soap now so they won't have to deal with the chaos in stores after Jan. 1. (Stores will be accepting the old currencies but giving change in euros, and people will stand at the register scrutinizing the weird coins.)
Italy Daily reported over the weekend that Italians are more worried about the introduction of the euro than they are about terrorism, according to a report by Censis, a Rome-based think tank. Sixty-six percent of Italians are afraid of getting ripped off by shopkeepers, and 78 percent worry they "won't understand how to make the conversion."
Tobi in Vienna notes that the Web site of the Austrian Worker's Chamber is posting people's reports of euro-inflation, i.e. businesses using the currency switch as an opportunity to raise prices. Tobi also writes:
btw, the designer of the euro is from austria. but designers i know say that the euro bank notes look ugly...
My main Euro-related gripe: why'd they have to make the bills so huge? Now we all have to buy new wallets, and big money just looks stupid. I don't know whose idea that was, but I wouldn't be surprised if they have an "in" in the leather goods industry. I can't see any other point to it.
I was at a street market yesterday and saw several vendors selling new big euro wallets. One had some fake euro-bills so you could see how they fit.