“Oh, that seems a little cheap,” said my wife as we pushed a trolley around the supermarket. She was, of course, looking at the wrong price, well at least the wrong price for now, the new Euro conversions that have appeared.
In about ten days the first phase of operation “Goodbye Kuna & Hello Euro” begins, when businesses have to display prices in two currencies. It is going to get confusing. And then just a few months later we’ll be folding shining new Euros into our wallets, and the Kuna will be burned to make electricity or shipped off to be exhibited in museums.
It will all happen rather rapidly, which is probably for the best.
Am I sad? Not at all. And the vast, vast majority of people I speak to can’t wait to wave goodbye to the Kuna. Clearly, from a country whose economy is heavily reliant on tourism any system that makes it easier for tourists to spend, and indeed spend more, should, and is being welcomed with open arms.
And just as importantly, there is the fact that Croatians, in general, have no affinity with the Kuna. It isn’t as if they are losing a dear, old friend.
“You, are looking at the wrong price,” I answered my wife. And this flip to the Euro is going to need a flip in our mind-sets. The price of washing powder looked unrealistically cheap to my wife because we have got used to dealing in much higher denominations. We buy things in hundreds and thousands. And now they cost single digits and tens. Everything immediately looks so much cheaper.
When a waiter asks you for 10 rather than 75 your brain calculates that as being heavily reduced. On the flip side I went to the ATM the other day and the banks have started to display withdraw amounts in the two currencies. Now, if you thought shopping gave you a positive shock on the cheapness of items, drawing money from an ATM makes you feel poor again. This is going to take some getting used to.
And on the other side of the coin we have the tourists coming every summer seeing prices in the hundreds and thinking they are expensive, they’ll have the opposite physiological switch.
“It would be easier if there was only one price,” said my wife, still grappling with what the future holds.
Croatia is sailing towards a future as a dedicated member of the EU. We have a Europhile Prime Minister who sees his future as the next EU Commissioner. He’ll be swapping his Zagreb address for a Brussels one in the near future. Just as Kolinda was drawn to the US, Plenković is fascinated by everything EU. We seem to be electing politicians who can’t wait to leave the country.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against closer integration, in fact it is absolutely the right path for Croatia to take. Each country has its reasons, its rationale, for choosing a future. And in my opinion Croatia being sucked into the EU, like becoming the 17th German state, isn’t a bad thing as it brings with it the one things that this region needs – stability.
Why do you think there are more Croatians living outside of the country than in it? Because of the insecurity, uncertainty and political and social fluctuations.
So bring on the Euro, let’s become the 20th country (well slightly more if you add Montenegro into the mix) to use the European single currency, start using the second strongest currency in the world, and abolish exchange offices.
The last chapter in the life of exchange offices seems to be a desperate move to make as much money as possible whilst they still can. I had the unfortunate experience of having to use one the other day and even had the lady behind the counter publically apologising to me for the terrible exchange rate. “I’m sorry, but we’ve been given this fixed rate from Zagreb, and it is really bad,” she said whilst handing over the money with a look of embarrassment. Note to self – don’t use exchange offices anymore.
“Maybe I should start thinking in pounds then,” said my wife. Yes, she had a point. She has spent a long time in the UK and knows the value of the pound and it is relatively close to the value of a euro.
It is going to take time to adjust, of that there is no doubt. But adjust we must. And believe me next summer will see a take-off in revenues from tourism. But until then let’s enjoy the last days of the Kuna.
Read more Englishman in Dubrovnik…well, if you really want to