This is going to take some time to get used to. I'm not going to say that you can't teach an old dog new tricks, but it certainly takes the old dog much longer to learn.
Yes, the new year brought with it some major changes to Croatia. You could say a European changes. Apart from forcing myself to change currencies by moving my country of residence I haven’t actually gone through new money in my wallet ever. This is all new for me.
I know that for most of you in Croatia changing currencies isn’t such a big deal. “Ufff, nothing new. I’ve seen more currencies than I can remember,” joked my mother-in-law. We counted. Four different banknotes had mutated through her purse. She will probably get used to the euro much easier than I will. I have to admit my mind is still in Kuna mode.
It seems odd but when I see prices in euros now I find myself subconsciously exchanging into old Kuna. How weird it seemed on the second day of the year, when the shops had reopened, that I went to buy bread in euros. “Yes, you can pay in Kuna but I’ll give you the change in euro,” smiled the lady with my French stick in her hand.
It is going to take a few months for prices to settle down. I don’t think I was overcharged for my bread, but there have been cases where prices have shot up. Talking to a friend in Slovenia he told me that it took around 3 to 4 months for their prices to settle after the euro was introduced.
I’m guessing that by the start of the tourist season we’ll be in the same position. And whichever way you look at it the euro is going to help our tourism industry, and by help in mean in the most important way, financially. Croatia made close to 13 billion euros from tourism last year. With the euro I would see a ten percent increase on that number, that’s quite a hefty bonus. Simply the fact of not having the pain in the backside of having to exchange money will be the deciding factor.
I have been going over the facts and figures and I still haven’t been able to find a downside to us changing currencies. Yes, like I said you’ll get some fluctuations in price until the dust settles, but after that it all looks positive.
And generally the same can be said for the border-free zone, Schengen. What a massive boost for Croatian industry. Anything that makes trade flow quicker and easier has got to be good news. Those long delays at the EU border was costing time and money, and gave our European partners an unfair advantage as they didn’t have to wait. Now, Croatia business can spread almost unhindered across most of Europe. And anything that makes trade flow better has got to be celebrated.
The flip side of the coin is back in the UK where unnecessary trade borders have been created because of Brexit. To say that it is proving challenging for UK businesses would be a colossal understatement. Of course business will always find a way and I know personally of a few companies who have moved their head offices to the continent to make it easier to work. And they have been proved right. Of course they know employ French staff and pay taxes in the EU. Which really looks like the exact opposite of what the Brexit voters wanted. But as I said business will always find a way.
To be honest joining Schengen doesn’t really affect us so much in the far south of the country. We don’t have any EU borders to sail across. In fact, it will probably make it a little slower to cross into our neighbours. It will help at the airport, our main point of entry. But EU citizens already had quite an easy time to cross the borders anyway. There have been some speculations that a border-free Croatia will lead to an invasion of unwanted migration. Wrong. Borders don’t stop migrants. Just as Trump’s wall didn’t solve anything. It is a much more complicated subject. So no, I don’t foresee a flood of migrants. I do however foresee a flood of tourists, especially from Austria, Slovenia, Hungary and Italy, the traditional “driving tourists” in Croatia.
And the fact that I can now jump in my car and drive all the way to Oslo unhindered makes me smile. I’ll probably never do it. But I can.
Read more Englishman in Dubrovnik…well, if you really want to