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 went out to dinner with some people last week and the consensus was that the euro prices on the menu just looked more expensive than the lire prices somehow, even though they had far fewer digits. Has anyone else had a similar (or the opposite) experience?
(At the end of the meal, half of us paid in euros, half in lire. The restaurant was, thankfully, okay with this.)
At Tiscali ,they are tracking the arrival of 'foreign' euros in the Netherlands. Click on a coin to see an enlargement, if and where it has been spotted in the Netherlands , or to add your own discovery.
De Telegraaf reports that due to a problem in the software of parking meters in Amsterdam, Den Hague and Utrecht, parking is 5 times cheaper than usual. It seems the the meters mistake the new 2 cent euro coin for the old 25 cent coin.
Enjoy it while you can : after Jan.28 the minimum the meters will accept is 20 (euro) cents.
Diane Shugart writes from Athens, Greece:
[note: "lepta" is the Greek word for "cents."]
What is to happen to the "300-drachma" stores (and their equivalents in Spain, France, Germany, etc.)? Will they now become the "87-lepta" stores? Does this mean that their competitor, the "299-drachma" stores will then call themselves the "84-lepta" stores? Or will these outlets be called "1-euro" stores all across the euro zone, reaping huge windfalls for retailers of shoddy, useless knockoff knickknacks?
Where francs go to die Emmanuel sends us this article in Le Monde (find the google English translation here). It's a brief article on how the franc is physically put out of circulation. Holes are punched in the bills, but in a specific place so that the Bank of France can still make sure they are authentic. One of the merchants deposits a stack bills to their death,
It is hard to see them go like that. A moment of silence, perhaps?
Emmanuel also points out some interesting word play on euro:
in French, the word "euro" in pronounced as something very close to "heureux", which means happy. Hence plenty of (very) bad plays on words such as "Alors, Euro ?" ("So, are you happy ?") or "Euro qui comme Ulysse..." (parody of a famous verse from XVI th century : "Happy as Ulysses, will do a nice journey...")
Now i don't know where this 16th century verse is from (and haven't heard it myself), but you have to hand it to the french for incorporating "les classiques" into the crudest symbol of modern times, cash.
How to get money for free with the euro: Some underground Spanish websites have published a way to get up to 66% more out of your money when you exchange your old peseta into euro. Unfortunately, it's only a get-rich-slow scheme, but it should work.
1 euro is equivalent to exactly 166.386 pesetas. Therefore, 1 peseta is 0.006010121... euro. Obviously when you exchange 1 peseta for its equivalent in euro in a bank, you won't get six tenths of a cent, but a whole 1 cent (0.01 euro), applying the official rounding techniques. Banks are forced to carry out the operation without charging any commission.
So, if you have the patience to repeat the process 100 times, you'll have 100 euro cents, equivalent to 166.386 pesetas, instead of your original 100 pesetas.
Talking about change ...
I just wanted to collect a EUR 3.63 debt from a co-worker. Guess what - even with the help of all the 5 people present in the room we were *not* able to come up with enough change to make the transaction possible!
Guess everyone got rid of the pesky coins during lunchtime ...
Some shops in Austria already refuse to accept Schilling coins. Even though they should take them until 28.2.2002.
Now there are so many heavy coins in my wallet - it is a real nuisance. I wonder if this is a scheme of the european politicians to keep us all fit through physical exercise.
Our biggest coin used to be ATS 10 -> euro 0,73 and the smallest bill ATS 20 -> euro 1,45 !!
Actually most of the complaints about the euro I hear are about the absence of the 2 euro bill.
And I finally met someone who loves the design of the euro bills: My grandpa!!! He's 80 and sure saw a lot of other designs in his lifetime.
Lap dancers in Italy's Mille Lire strip club were worried because customers were starting to put 50-cent euro coins into their knickers, rather than tucking in the traditional -- and considerably more comfortable -- 1,000-lira paper note tips.
"We have therefore commissioned magnetic undies," says strip club owner Franco Babuin, "so that the donations will remain attached to them, rather than having to be inserted."
Senior citizens in Naples are angry because the coin-operated elevators (?) in their condominiums have not been upgraded to take euros, and they are running out of lire coins, the Italian news agency Ansa reported yesterday. They want free rides.
Someone stuck this cartoon on a door in my office. (One euro = 1,936.27 lire.)
I got a French 10-cent coin (dare I call it a dime?) in my euro change today.
Devo in Portugal sends a quote from a fishmonger in Oporto who was interviewed on the news: "I'm having no problems with the euros. It's these centrimetres that I can't come to grips with."
Eurotracer has sent 20 labeled 2 euro pieces out into the world. Their objective? To determine the euro's patterns and speed of migration. They ask to be contacted if one of their coins pops up in your wallet.
The Euro must be a boon to wallet designers. I can't be the only European resident shopping for a new wallet with a roomier change purse. The one I have -- which has serviced the four denominations of drachma coins well in the past -- is now bulging under euro stress. Eight coins are just too much.
The one-cent euro coin can't go out of circulation soon enough, as far as I am concerned.
Last time I went to my local kiosk, the old woman who owns the place woefully held up a big bucket of drachma coins to show me. She explained that people have been unloading their drachma coins on her, and wondered how she herself would get rid of them. Then of course I insisted she give me my change in tiny denominations of drachma coins, and promised to unload them on some other merchant.
Big problem: I've been a good girl and completely transferred to euros. No more francs. The laundromat machine has not been a such good girl. They are only taking francs. And my pile of dirty clothes gets bigger and bigger. And you know what's worse? The coffee machine in my office is still on francs too. Someone was wondering if the coke machines were still gonna work. It seems they still do, just not with the euro.
Research by the Irish Central Bank has established that cultural differences between countries may lead to varying survival rates for the new banknotes. German notes last for an average of three years, whereas Irish notes are lucky to survive for six months:
We go to a pub. We buy a round. Notes are dragged from a pocket and are slapped on a (possibly wet) bar. More notes may be given in change. Your average fiver might have five or six pulverising trips back and forth across the bar during a typical evening.
In contrast, civilised German pub goers do not pay for individual rounds, but get a bill at the end of the night. Bank notes are produced only once, from the careful protection of a wallet or a purse. Irish people generally don't use wallets, and Irish men with purses have yet to make the social breakthrough.
Today's issue of De Telegraaf includes a front page photo of a euro which promptly fell to pieces when doled out as change at the Leidse Schouwburg.
The paper also reports on how the various countries are doing with the euro. The Netherlands and Greece are tied for first place, with 90% of all transactions being done entirely in euros. Germany follows in the 50% to 65% range, while in Italy, France and Spain the majority of transactions are still being carried out in their 'old' currencies. Belgium finds itself in last place. As of last Friday, two thirds of all transactions were still in Belgian Francs.
Devo in Lisbon, Portugal, sends along the following anecdote, which he picked up from the news:
A couple of foreign tourists (nationality unknown) ate a fairly normal lunch of steak, chips and salad. Instead of billing them 8,700 escudos (43.39 euros, $38.90), the waiter accidentally billed them in euros ($7,800)! They paid by credit card and did not notice the error. To date, the restaurant has been unable to trace them.
Meanwhile in Italy the euro is messing up the government, and overworked bank tellers are striking today, meaning stores can't get the euro cash they need. Prime Minister Berlusconi told a newspaper that he hasn't spent any euros yet because he hasn't had enough time.
Sue, you're not alone. Yesterday at dinner table, all my family emptied our wallets of the coins and checked all the back sides for anything other than Finnish coins. I don't so much care for German or French coins since those are big nations and a lot of tourists go back and forth, but for a coin with the Irish harp or Greek owl to land in my wallet... That would be something. Unfortunately we're stuck here in the middle of Sweden, Estonia, and Russia, none of them part of EMU (and only one of them part of EU), so chances of any coins quickly migrating here are slim.
I have an embarrassing confession to make : after only two days of receiving the new coins as change, I find myself scruntinizing them one by one. What am I looking for ? The first non- dutch euro I receive. In fact, I am really looking forward to it, and shall probably run about and bore my friends with a new version of show and tell. I wonder how long it will take before the migration over the borders begins.
It's a really good thing that Italy has two months to work out its euro problems, because this country does NOT have its act together yet.
At a no-name mom-and-pop (literally) corner bar last night, I paid for a beer with euros and got lire bills as change! So much for my lire-free status. The lady behind the bar was so old and so sweet that I didn't feel like raising a fuss about it.
Later I got a taxi home. The meter looked quite technologically advanced, but it was still in lire mode. The fare was 20,000 lire. I asked the driver how many euros I owed him. "I don't know," he said sheepishly. "Just give me 10 euros. It's about the same." He lost 33 cents on the deal.
This is happening in the financial capital of Italy. I can only imagine what things are like out in the villages.