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Barry Paton
'The curious thing is the French cannot understand the reluctance of Britain to become part of this great adventure'.

A special report from France.

"Vivé le Euro" was the cry from the lady at the supermarket checkout today as the fourth day of the Euros’ arrival in France. In saying this her eyes turned heavenwards and a Gallic shrug of the shoulders accompanied her remark. Rural France is probably one of the best places in which to gauge the effect of this strange, and epoch making, new currency.

With most of the local population somewhat set in their provincial ways, isolated from the mainstream of international affairs, but having to face the inevitable introduction of something that Brussels decreed years ago. Now, for us, we are in the same situation. When we moved to France we had to get used to a new currency, as do visitors, tourists, holiday-makers alike have to when they arrive in a strange land. Now, however, we have to get on with it and muddle through just like the locals.

The situation to date is such that the confusion of the first few days is settling down and a general resignation is now commonplace. C’est la vie seems to be the attitude. The banks probably have the worst burden in the scheme of things, cheques are now taking a long time to clear. Surprisingly, they are normally very quick in this respect. The customers at the bank counters are the most confused as the inevitable mistakes that they make in conversion to ‘funny money’.

The staff do seem to be taking in their stride, even with the bank manager this morning shaking hands with all and sundry and not looking stressed at all. This, of course, was probably his easiest course of action rather than be bombarded with queries and phone calls. In general commerce, the local shops and traders seem to be coping well, if at a slightly slower pace than normal, but then that is the way in the country districts anyway. Many years ago I lived in Northern Scotland and I remember a sign which hung beside the bell for attention outside a combined pub/hotel/petrol station saying "There is no hurry in the country". Appropriate to this part of the world.

In general the Euro is accepted as a fact of life, there is confusion for sure but I suspect that it is most likely welcomed as a move towards a better standardisation in Europe. Most people that I have talked to have said that at least it gives them a chance to see any difference in the prices of holidays and travel. This is an aspect that the French, even in rural areas, know and understand. There is of course the added bonus of comparing the prices of petrol and consumer goods between countries. The curious thing is the French cannot understand the reluctance of Britain to become part of this great adventure. This they find very strange. As for myself, well it is a learning curve, guessing how much petrol to put in the car. No more of this easy parity of francs to the pound – 100 francs for a tenner. All that has gone. But then, why was I still converting to pounds anyway? I have lived in France for almost two years, I have travelled throughout the world in my professional capacity. I have turned up in a foreign land, accepted the exchange rate and then used whatever ‘funny money’ it was and within a few days thought no more about it.

We all make mistakes, of course, and that will continue to happen but I suspect that within six months or so it will have become the normal and we will not regret the passing of national currencies, be it francs, escudos, lire or whatever.
This is only a personal view of a Scot in exile in France who still has to get used something different but in the scheme of things the bills have to be paid, money has to be earned, wine has to be bought (it is France), does it matter with what unit these transactions happen. It could be groats, farthings or guineas after all!

As a footnote, we had some discussion in the household on whether the Euro was le or la, my partner Fiona said "Only a man could do it"

My greetings from Euro-land.

© Barry Paton 2002


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