Friday, January 04, 2008

Cyprus has switched to the euro

So, after three days (more-or-less) of public holiday this week, shops got back to normal yesterday. We had managed to run down our supply of Cyprus pounds cash, other than about £5 in cash, which Tim decided to take charge of. On Wednesday he bought a roll at Zorpas (a bakery, which is open almost every day of the year) and said that their tills now work only in euros. They had a large pot of Cyprus money and told him an approximate amount, then just threw the cash in.

That's one way of dealing with it!

This morning we made our usual weekly trip to Metro supermarket to buy groceries. We wondered what changes would have been made... would they have switched around all the price tags on the shelves? Would there be a whole new set of special offers on the windows, all in euros...?


It looked exactly as it did a week ago. The Cyprus pound labels were still bigger than the euro labels, and the notices on the doors advertising special offers were still in Cyprus pounds.

Labelling at the meat and fruit/veg places (where produce is weighed and priced) gave the price in euros, but bizarrely prefixed by a £ (pound) symbol. And the date stamp was way off - as it had been a few weeks previously - telling us that the food was packaged in the year 2049.

At the till, one of the girls was putting Cyprus pounds in a bag, and shouting at one of the other girls - complaining, I think, about having to deal with two currencies. All in Greek so I could only catch a few words, but she didn't seem very happy about it. Probably because even though people can pay in Cyprus pounds, they are now obliged to give change in euros.

I always pay with my debit card so that was simple enough - I just handed it over, signed for the amount in euros, and all was OK. Somehow I had expected the change to be more obvious.

Tonight, as there was no youth group and no house group, we decided to treat ourselves to our favourite take-away, Souvlaki Express. Richard and Tim went out to buy it. They were told how much to pay in euros, and handed over some euro cash... then received a till receipt in Cyprus pounds.

There are supposed to be inspectors ensuring that all shops are dealing with euros and the conversion correctly. I think that will be a more than full-time job (and probably a losing battle) for the next month.

We're quite used to using different currencies when we travel - Richard visits Middle Eastern countries, and we've lived in the UK and USA, and travelled around mainland Europe before they switched to the euro. In 2006 we visited Singapore, and last year were in Hong Kong and Malaysia.

And yet, it feels rather strange to be using a different currency, which we aren't yet familiar with. Or, at least, we don't have a 'feel' for how much euros will buy. I think it's because we usually have to travel to change currency. It's not often that one changes within one's own country.

Tim pointed out that Richard and I both lived through the change from pounds, shillings and pence in the UK to the decimal system of pounds and pence in 1971, but somehow that wasn't so disturbing. Partly because we were children, but partly because a pound was still a pound, even though the pence altered in value.

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