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“How much is a French franc in German Deutsche marks?”
“I don’t know, but it’s not much!”
“And a Dutch florin, it’s worth 10 francs right?”
“No. Less than that, I think.”
I could extend this list with more European countries, but we oldies have surely all forgotten the exchange rates of all these currencies of neighbouring countries.
And young people? Well, they didn’t know this period when we changed our money every time we arrived in these foreign European countries.
They come and go in Europe, now, without even thinking about it. They don’t need to rack their brains to convert prices since, apart from England, everything is in Euro.
Hey, wrinklies, did you like changing your francs for pesetas, guilders, Belgian francs and God knows what, when you travelled in the last century?
I liked it, and I tried, when I managed to control my shopping urges, to bring back some of this European money with me. It was not always easy. It was common for me to get back home to France with empty pockets, especially when I came back from London! It’s true, when I went to Camden Market or Portobello Road, I often couldn’t resist a record, a T-shirt, a pair of Docs , or even a simple badge. All these things were twice as cheap as in Paris, or sometimes just not found at all in France!
And do you still have some European currency? From before the Euro? Or were you like me – an impulsive spender!
Despite my spending compulsions, I managed to ‘collect’ some foreign currencies, but one day in 1995, my house was burgled, and the burglar(s) cleaned me out. All my foreign money was gone! It wasn’t a fortune but still, there was I think the equivalent of 300 French francs (45 euros)!
And do you remember how we changed money when we arrived in other European countries? We could do this just after passing customs, or we had to go to a foreign exchange office in the city where we were.
I thought it was exciting. In addition to going through customs, tightening the buttocks even if I had nothing to hide, and understanding nothing of the language of the country where I went, it was also necessary to change to a different currency. And for me, that added an exotic side to the trip. Everything was completely different. I was like an alien on an unknown planet! My curious eyes wandered from right to left, and tried to inform me about these people and those weird things around me.
Well, it’s sure that communication was difficult with these ‘foreigners’, because even if we used English to talk to each other, it was sometimes far from intelligible. And the fact that money was different complicated things even more. I remember how I tangled my head with mental calculations to convert the local currency into French francs. Especially with my friends, we didn’t go to these countries to visit museums or churches, but rather to see concerts and drink all night long. Then naturally, when we were completely drunk, the only things we could add or multiply, were the beers!
And when we woke up the next day, we counted our money, and often we’d spent a lot more than we’d planned. We sometimes we even wondered what we’d bought because we’d spent so much! And the answer was often the same: nothing! We hadn’t bought anything! Surely there was a rational explanation for this strange phenomenon! “We were scammed or robbed of our money by thugs. We couldn’t have spent all our cash on beer! Yes? No, impossible!” At that moment, our solid hangover and our death breath gave us the answer! Yes, we’d spent a fortune in the bars drinking and talking! What? Nobody remembered! In what language were we speaking? With whom? Here again no answer. We would have to wait to develop the photos to discover our faces and those of our ‘new friends’ from the bar!
No, no, I don’t regret anything. In any case, not the fortunes I left in the bars of the cities I visited. With my friends we made the local economy work. I also don’t regret the money spent on dressing up ‘punk’ to look like my idols.
And even if today all that has disappeared and there’s now the Euro (except in England), as Cheryl and I live in Moscow we still have to change our roubles when we travel, most of the time in Europe. So finally, I regularly have this money changing adventure, now obsolete for the majority of Europeans. And I find myself again confused by mental calculations to know how much in roubles is 3 €, 8 €, 15 €, etc. Just so you know, the rouble isn’t worth much today. Something like 71 roubles for 1€ at this time (December 2019)!
But unlike when I was 20, today I drink a little less beer. Well, actually, it depends, since if you remember well, this site was born from a night of drunkenness in Germany just before I turned 50!
Let’s say that I drink a little less beer than before, therefore the calculations are easier and above all more accurate! And also, communication is much simpler. And yes, thanks to Cheryl, my English has improved. But if I’m really stuck, she’s here to help me! And when it comes to fashion, I’ve changed slightly. I spend much less on ‘punk’ fashion today than in my younger years.
I’ll finish this article with a question. It’s obvious that the Euro has simplified financial relations between Europeans. But do you think it raised prices as well?
You can answer in the comments!
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