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Saturday, December 22, 2001

I'm trying to get my euro kit, really, each day starting from past friday: here in Italy it seems pretty impossible. People are spending mornings and mornings in the bank or at the post office in order to get the kit they're gonna give to their nephews, they want to touch the euros, to spend them and to get the most money they can. Authorities suggest to use the kit at christmas, to play tombola or bingo together with the whole family, but many are already trying to use the kit for their christmas shopping. At the same time people who could not grab the real euros, bought chocolate coins, which are supposed to be really better.

Reuters is a rich source of euro-related stories today:

In the first, a group of French patriots plan to erect a memorial to the franc which they feel will attract lots of visitors.

And staying in France, the French Catholic church is worried about falling donations as parishioners change their traditional gift of a 10 franc coin in the collection plate to a shiny new one euro coin, which is worth only two-thirds as much.

In Spain, organisers of the "El Gordo" (The Fat One) national lottery are preparing to consign their "peseta balls" to the lottery museum when they are replaced by euro versions in the new year.

Friday, December 21, 2001

Here in Dublin, prices are mostly being displayed in both currencies. With one Irish Pound equal to euro 1.27, it feels as if prices are suddenly going to rise by a quarter. Several companies are making things easier for themselves by bringing in new year price rises at the same time as the new currency comes in. Others are rounding prices up or down. The company that runs a couple of the city's toll bridges is trying to avoid criticism by rounding up the fee at one bridge while rounding it down on another.

The 10 baht/2 euro coin story refuses to die. In a discussion on europa.union.euro, Philip Newton of Lichtenstein compares the two very similar coins. He's also posted photos: front, back. If you're going to Thailand, please get me some of these.

Another thread in this very good newsgroup says a bar in Vienna is already accepting euro coins as payment for special euro-cocktails. Technically this is against the rules, but it's also smart marketing.

Has anyone tried spending euros yet?

As well as providing coverage on the Winterswijk fiasco, today's Brabants Dagblad carried a number of short articles about the euro.

De Nederlandsche Bank (DNB) has put a stop to the sale of the free euro kits by several members of the Combi Photo chain. Under pressure from their clients, Combi Photo claims, they were forced into selling the free euro kits, 3 for 26 guilders.

My favorite story? The one that could be called the 'So Sue Me' article. While legally, businesses must accept payment in guilders until January 28, 2002, it seems many are saying no way, and will only be accepting payment in euros. Commenting upon this, a spokesperson from the Ministry of Finance said "Shop keepers and businesses who refuse to accept the guilder are being naughty ('stout'), and providing poor service for their clients. But no, we won't be taking any action against it."

A Dutch hospital got busted for giving euro notes to 900 employees as Christmas gifts, Reuters reports (I can't find the story online). Mere mortals are not supposed to get their hands on the notes until Jan. 1, but they have been distributed to some businesses. The Queen Beatrix clinic in Winterswijk said it had no idea it was breaking the law.

Back in October a mysterious man used a five-euro note to buy fish food from a Dutch shop. The shopkeeper accepted it because it was "fun."

In other news: Ich bin ein Euro! I don't understand the devil outfit. Euro = evil?

Thursday, December 20, 2001

I just found this in the supermarket: Euro coins as fruit gum. On the backside of the package is written: "Don't experience the Euro as a hard currency - enjoy it as fruit gums from Katjes."

There is an email doing the rounds in the UK at the moment that features soft porn versions of the new bank notes. If you particularly want to take a look, then they are here, here, here and here. Needless to say, the images are not suitable for offices, minors or persons of a nervous disposition. Thanks to Nico for sending them to me.

Although the coins are not legal tender until 1 January, they are already being spent. A user on the Irish newsgroup ie.general reports:

Anyone is free to accept them if they wish. A local shop was happy to take them this week when I went to pay for a magazine and had no money. My son had one of his sample packs and ... bingo

Wednesday, December 19, 2001

In Ireland, a last-minute hitch was overcome when the Post Office staff who were supposed to be selling the new euro coin starter packs agreed to deal with euros in return for special extra payments for the transition. Almost a million of the starter packs have now been distributed - roughly one for every three people.

Meanwhile, pubs which remain open after midnight on E-day (31 December) will not have to change over until they reopen next day - a comfort to sozzled drinkers, who have enough difficulties counting their change at the best of times. And taxis are getting special changeover kits. So, no chance of getting overcharged there, then. Yeah, right.

Bloomberg reports that people are selling euro starter kits to collectors for much more than the face value of the coins. Why wait in line at the post office if you can buy them on Ebay?

Tobi in Austria sent a link to an interesting page on the euro symbol (€). Apparently the symbol is not actually a character, like $, but more like a logo, in that its exact proportions and angles are specified by the EC and are not supposed to change in different fonts. This strikes me as a bit control-freakish. Fortunately, type designers are ignoring this entirely.

Tuesday, December 18, 2001

Euro shrinks Gummi Bears
Gummi Bears, a.k.a. "Bärlis," now cost 10 pfennig each in Germany. A Bärli will cost 5 euro cents next year, which is 9.8 pfennigs. So Haribo, the manufacturer, is making them a little bit smaller to keep up the price-weight ratio without raising prices. But in France and some other countries, the bears will get bigger.

Today's Helsingin sanomat interviewed some translators working in international businesses about the changes the euro will bring to their job. The reporter asked if it was hard to keep track of the different pronounciations of the word "euro" in different languages (as put by the Finns, "öro by French, jurou by English"), but the translator just laughed and said that was not the problem at all. The same conversations have been going on for the last couple of years, and any trouble has already disappeared. Quite the opposite: for the people whose job includes so much traveling they know the Helsinki-Brussels airline timetables better than the ones for their local bus, getting all your paychecks in one and the same currency makes life a dozen times easier.

Gaspar in Como, Italy, wrote to say that he did some research for us. He looked at the short-and-sweet euro Web addresses in all 15 EC countries:,, etc.

I have found a car-parts dealer, a bank, a software house and a few institutional sites mainly owned by the respective Ministries of (unsurprising) Finance.

In other words, in Ireland is the official site for euro info, while in Greece is a good place to buy "racechips" to turbocharge your Audi.

Also, Andrew in Germany got himself some euros and wrote a little euro guide. He says the 500 euro note may not exist.

The International Herald Tribune on euro vocabulary, culture and language:

The Austrians already refer to the new banknotes as Kalinas, after the graphic artist Robert Kalina, who designed them, but that is not likely to travel far beyond the borders of the Austro-Hungarian empire.

An older IHT story talks about the designer, who is, by the way, a Mac fan. It's quite amazing that this one guy's work is getting reproduced 14.5 billion times. I wonder if he has a huge ego.

Yesterday the last 250,000 consumer packages of euros (containing 25 guilders worth of coins) were delivered to a few stores. 8.8 million of these packages have been distributed - in theory, one per household. But as stores who forgot to order (sufficient) supplies of the new coins will be using the consumer packages to fill the till, a shortage is expected for the average guy on the street.

Supplies will probably be sold out by the end of the week.

Monday, December 17, 2001

"At the end of the day, it is all money" - BBC News tries a Dutch euro starter pack on London shoppers, with mixed results.

Many newspapers are getting used to giving people information about the prices of the most common things: they report the old price and the price in euros, but what happens if the accounts don't balance? An Italian TV show denounced this evening some famous newspapers that kept on getting the calculations wrong. Also many TV reporters are giving wrong information about the euro. Should they stop trying to explain what they don't know, or should we stop listening?

"Welcome to Euroland." Photos of a German euro-kit at Spicy Noodles. (Thanks for the link!)

The last time I've seen the school so excited during classes was during the last presidential elections. The euro 'starter kits' were released yesterday here in Finland, and the people who had bought them were showing them eagerly around. The general atmosphere was full of "oh so sparkly, so new, such beautiful reverse sides on the 1 and 2 euro coins... we love them!" and I didn't hear one negative comment about the whole currency during the day.

MTV3 reported on its website about the euro coins being sold at a store chain named R-kioski. One of the buyers asked, worried, if the government was going to keep some sort of list of who bought where and how much. After the clerk replied that no list was being kept, the man bought five bags. Some stores had full lines of people trying to get a hold of the bags, and some had completely run out of coins. Makes me glad I didn't have to buy a new bus ticket this morning.

I tried to get a euro starter kit (a little bag of coins) this morning. A bank told me they were available only for account holders. And there were at least 30 people in line for them at the post office. I gave up. Elsewhere, other people tried harder. (More photos.)

The Financial Times has been running a nice series of euro "countdown diaries" by correspondents in various countries. From Germany:

I inherited 5 Belgian francs (0.12 euros) from a perfect stranger at Cologne train station a week ago. When I asked about my connecting train to Brussels, he pulled out the coin with a mournful expression on his face. "I suppose the euro is coming soon, so you may as well have this."

The ANVR (The General Dutch Association of Travel Agencies) admits to some gray areas concerning the euro. While banks in fellow EC lands will exchange Dutch bank notes until April 1, 2002, in response to the question of how long banks in non-EC countries will accept the Dutch notes, the ANVR confesses that it hasn't a clue.

In the UK, the Daily Telegraph is probably the most staunchly anti-euro of all the national newspapers (I'll discuss my local paper another time). It is also the paper my parents read (you wouldn't believe the arguments we have - such as the one we had last night in the middle of a crowded restaurant). Here the Telegraph contemplates the introduction of the euro, focusing, as you might expect, on the negative issues, including the Bank of France being "forced" to purchase 2,100 new bullet-proof vests for cash delivery personnel.

Sunday, December 16, 2001

On Saturday the Bovag, an association of 11,000 members with automotive related companies, launched a new campaign in the Netherlands, encouraging people to fill their cars with gas before Jan. 1. Results from a survey they ran showed that more than 60% of the gas stations in the Netherlands will be closed for business on Jan. 1, a noticeably higher percentage than in past years.

Why the change? As most stores will not open for business until Jan. 2, the proprietors of the stations fear they may become de facto currency exchange centers, with the nightmare scenario being five thousand customers coming in, paying for a pack of Stimurol chewing gum with a hundred guilder bill, and the station being legally obligated to give change in euros.

As an added stimulant to tanking up early, the Bovag points out that the taxes on gas will increase as of Jan. 1 by 0.05 Dutch cents per liter.

Prolific, a weblog from Amsterdam, bids farewell to Dutch banknotes, "the prettiest in the world." (Via Field Notes in Finland.)

Prolific has a link to which has high-res versions of the new notes.

Also: Vicky's Fashion Dolls Bulletin Board discusses the euro.