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Shopping with Euro in UK
by Thanos Kalamidas
2010-02-10 07:35:17
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One of the places I visited these last few weeks I was away it was London and the first thing that impressed me after nearly eight years I hadn’t been in the capital of the United Kingdom was …how cheap everything is. A few hours later it happened to walk in front of a house society and comparing prices with Finland where I live I decided it was more worth it to get a house in London than a crappy one outside Helsinki and I’m not joking.

The same time friends of mine the last two years are holidaying in USA saying that it coasts them cheaper to go all the way to California or Florida than spend their holidays in their own country especially because they have kids. Food is cheaper, clothing is cheaper, entertainment is cheaper. The odd thing is that the numbers in their raw form are nearly the same.

What I mean, if a house in London coasts 260,000£ a similar one in Finland for example coasts 260,000 Euros; the huge difference is that a pound is less than 88 cents! That means is that the 260,000£ magically become 228,800 Euros! The coffee and the ban turn into 2, 5 Euros and damn it’s pity that I didn’t study now. When I was studding in UK over thirty years ago the monthly scholarship I was getting was more than a month’s salary for my compatriots.

The dollar and the pound have been from the beginning a reference to all economies, the strong exchange. Please don’t laugh but when somebody in Greece, Italy or Portugal wanted to show that they have money and they are not afraid of the financial situation a few decades ago they were calculating their money in dollars or pounds and the best of them actually changed their money in pounds and dollars something illegal then.

When the banks were giving a certain exchange rate in most of those countries the black market was often offering double and yes there were people, a lot of people who did exchange their money into dollars and pounds. It made them feel safer.

Holidays in UK? That was like a joke. The only reason you would go to UK or USA it was to find a job, immigrant. Only the very few were the privilege to go for holidays in UK or USA and that was another sign of money. Having an English suit was a privilege, not because of the quality but because it was English and that meant expensive. If it was tailored as well ….then you would feel like a lord, a knight or something.

But that was the one side of the …coin. The other side was that dollar and pound were the currency of the market. The currencies that gave these two nations the extra power to control, to descend and conquer nations without arms and frigates. For decades currency traders organized by the two nations boycotted currencies like the French frank and the German mark often blackmailing the economic expansion of countries and continents. And then came the euro.

The truth is that the currencies welcomed the euro expecting it to bring some balance in a shaking international economy and gradually create a universal currency with three names where dollar, pound and euro would be equal. Well it didn’t work this way and the war started.

I’m not an economist and I have said that before but you just need to stop for a minute and study what has happened the last decade with the euro and understand what is going on now. What happens with the Greek economy of course it is a mistake of the Greek governments but it was a good chance for the international currency traders to hit the euro. Gordon Brown and Cameron see already that there is only one way for the British economy, to change the pound into euro and tie themselves in the European banking system. Oh yes, a lot of British people and the populists parties will start tearing their cloths for losing the pound but when they see their country turning to the European flea market I’m sure they are going to change their mind. You see what I saw in few days in London others have seen it much earlier and more carefully.

And again this is just an example of a financial status quo that changes radically and some try hysterically trying to hold it back using all the tricks in the book, often all the dirty tricks with latest victim the Greek economy and perhaps soon the Portuguese and the Spanish economy. Realizing that this war needs some extra weaponry the German and the French government decided to step in and help the Greek economy waiting for the next dirty trick. In the meantime I think that the best and probably the cheaper destination for my next holidays is the Dales!!!

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ap2010-02-10 11:30:29
Yes Thanos, actually cheap prices. Maybe you wouldn't believe me if I would tell you that essential goods and supermarket bills are cheaper in London than in Portugal, even in the countryside of Portugal - and I'm talking from milk to bread to ready-made meals, most grocery things actually (the big difference is that the portuguese minimum wage is 400 euros). Even to eat out is often cheaper!! The same applies to your example of buying an apartment, just like in Finland - it might be cheaper in London than in Spain or Portugal. Flights abroad are also much cheaper, and the offer much more diverse of course, theatre tickets become competitive (yes) and hey there's a chain selling the morning coffee and bun for 1 pound! (you pay 2,5 euros in Portugal for one of those tiny bitter expressos and a miniscule custard cake in the morning...).

ap2010-02-10 11:35:18
of course, monthly scholarships have been dramatically reduced for foreigners.

ap2010-02-10 11:51:45
Actually I think things will still get cheaper and funny situations happen: the change for the euro might not be official, but you don't always have to exchange your money: from kiosk workers to electronics shops to landlords, they all start to accept your euros happily, without demanding previous exchange to pounds :) and they curiously turn the euro coins to one and the other side to try to figure out which country of the EU they come from (often not the one you actually are coming from, as you know...)... they seem to find it funny, like a guessing game :DDD

ap2010-02-10 12:17:28
I don't know about flea market of Europe - but European Union capital, for sure. And that's beautiful. Most southern europeans I know who visited or lived in London love London more than their own capitals. Of course, many go to shop and entertain themselves over there but incredibly they feel on the streets of London - where they didn't adopt the euro yet - more European than ever before. They feel more European than in Paris or in Brussels or in Rome or in Berlin. why? Bigger diversity, stronger democratic values.

Emanuel Paparella2010-02-10 12:37:26
A few months after the euro was introduced in Italy with much fanfare by the politicians, a play came out in Bitonto, the same city that now sports the only state museum in the whole of the Puglie region. Its title intrigued me and so I attended it. It was “A r murt du l’eur” (damn the euro) which ought to suggest that it was not in Italian but in Barese dialect, put on by ordinary people expressing their economic frustration. The play begins with a lady going shopping and offering these musings: a kilo of lettuce used to be one thousand lire, now they ask me for a euro; funny thing is by the 15th of the month I have run out of money. Since a euro was really two thousand lire, in effect the merchants had effectively doubled the prices while the salaries remained the same. This was ailed by the Italian government as a great step forward into inevitable progress and European integration. Now American tourists needed to produce a dollar and a half to get one euro and everybody felt better psychologically and politically. But the ordinary people seemed to know better from the outset of this charade and it is very doubtful that those people who saw their prices double felt more “Newropeans” with euros in their pockets. If anything, they felt more Pugliesi. Perhaps there is a better way to re-unify a continent (since it was once really culturally unified…before the advent of rabid nationalism) than with mere banks and soccer games.

ap2010-02-10 12:43:27
For example, I'll never forget what Herve Constant once told me: "you know, I go to the South of France on vacation: good food, good weather, I think 'gosh, what am I doing in London?'. I would be okay, they interview me, I know I could be a famous painter over there. But then, after a couple of weeks, I start feeling bad and not welcome, I realize again that there are very few people sharing my interests, and always the same closed circle. Even my brother or my father think very differently from me, racism is still very strong. I could be famous inside the same circle, always with the same people. What I like in London is that there are always people coming from different parts of the world, you're always meeting new people, with open minds and a wider range of interests. That's why I don't go back to France."

ap2010-02-10 12:56:59
Well yeah Mr. Paparella, but don't forget that if many southern or eastern europeans make the effort of working, during years, for 400 euros or 500 or less and they inject all the money in the economy when buying expensive goods, there's no mathematical way that their sacrifices won't eventually pay back - unless somebody robbs them. And that's what we're seeing with the prices in London getting cheaper for everybody, Italians included.

ap2010-02-10 13:02:02
Actually, Italians are among the Europeans who seem to have profited more with the euro - they travel more than ever before and never before was the flood of Italian products, Italian restaurants and cafeterias, Italian fashion shops, Italian diamonds, Italian watches, Italian tourists, Italian employment agencies with Italian employees speaking just Italian, Italian services bigger in London.

ap2010-02-10 13:15:19
If you compare Greeks, Spaniards, Italians and Portuguese, Italians are without any doubt among the Mediterraneans who begun living better after the euro. And it's not true that their wages did not rise. Of course there are precarious works and unemployment too, but for stable jobs the wages did rise in Italy, and probably more than elsewhere.

ap2010-02-10 13:25:36
The others were Spaniards. In certain trendy parts of London, you only hear Spanish on the streets on weekends - they are out shopping in the UK's capital, looking for the music and clothes they still can't find in Madrid or Barcelona.

Emanuel Paparella2010-02-10 13:55:20
The prince of Salina of Gattopardo fame would remind you Ms. ap that in fact there isn't one Italy as you seem to assume but two; that in southern Italy unemployment is double that of northern Italy, and that as he told his nephew Tancredi annoncing the landing of Garibaldi in Sicily in 1860, things have to chance so that everything remains the same. So what else is new in the New Europe? Could it be that now that we have made Europe, banks and all, we need to make the Europeans?

Emanuel Paparella2010-02-10 13:57:32
Errata: things have to change.

ap2010-02-10 14:22:53
Yes Mr. Paparella, and how much is the minimum wage in Italy? Of course there is a north and a south, just like in Portugal there is a north and a south or in Holland there is a north and a south. The greatest problem in Italy, right now, as Amnesty International just reminded us yesterday, are human rights and a crisis of democratic values. In France and Germany, racism. In Portugal, prejudice, low education and unemployment of the graduates.
In London I am forced to speak english, french, portuguese, spanish and italian in the same day. I find that a great exercise, and it hardly can happen anywhere else in Europe. Often there's still time/opportunity to learn/speak some dutch or indian languages. It doesn't happen elsewhere. And Europeans love it.

ap2010-02-10 14:50:58
But if you want to complain about the state of the economy and wages in Italy, I guess people in Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Cyprus, Portugal, Bulgaria or Estonia have many more reasons to complain than the Italians.

ap2010-02-10 14:53:00
Even the Spaniards, with an economy which has been growing stronger for the past decade, have lower wages than the Italians. So shut up.

ap2010-02-10 15:22:14
ps. By the way, I met many Italian tourists (from the South of Italy!) in the UK.

ap2010-02-10 15:41:03
Poor Italians... A worker without qualification gets 800 euro per month, in Spain 600 and in Portugal 400-500, sometimes for a family of 4. And let's not talk about eastern Europe, please. Of course, you can always say that a 22 year-old kid in the Netherlands gets 1300 euros minimum wage per month but hey, there are millions of people - before the Italians - with reasons to complain.

ap2010-02-10 16:05:11
Of course, I don't find fair that a French living 50 or 60 kilometers away from a Spaniard, doing exactly the same job and equally contributing to European wealth (possibly even less competent than the Spaniard) earns 1300 euros minimum wage and the Spaniard 600. But I really don't know how can you presume there aren't millions and millions of people living in worst conditions than the average Italian.

ap2010-02-10 16:23:35
When somebody can give me a satisfactory answer for the question: why are they living 50 kilometres apart, in the same continent without borders, using the same currency, doing the same job, both contributing to the same E. Union economy an one earns more than the double than the other? - that will be a start. A reason not grounded in discrimination, preferably.

ap2010-02-10 17:08:58
In Europe, there's still a strong tendency to consider nordic citizens 1st class citizens, latins and eastern europeans 2nd or 3rd class ones.
That's why we love Britain: they tend to judge you more for what you do, less for where you happened to be born. And that's great - besides, it can be the great British civilized contribution to the European Union: openness to receive people not only from Europe but from the whole world. At least London: that's how most of us imagine a European capital - if it is to exist - should be.

ap2010-02-11 05:40:10
Millions of Europeans are being born and growing up in this reality: where they have to work for years saving savings they can't possibly save, in order to even have a chance to leave their own country. While they watch their 18-year old 'counsins' go on holiday to Vietnam or India every year. To the ones who work hard, more sacrifices are demanded each year. To the ones who 'leisure' hard, everything is given. Isn't there a European Central Bank - what is it for: to spread inequalities??

Emanuel Paparella2010-02-12 09:56:19
Thanks for proving my point about nationalism in Europe alive and well, Ms. ap. In any case the issue I put on the table has been misunderstood. It was not a qeustion of comparisons but a question of how the ordinary Bitontino fared before and after the advent of the euro in her/his life.

D2010-02-17 14:36:04
You have you exchange rate the wrong way round, it is 88p to 1€ £1 is 1.12€ making the house 287,000€ not 228,000€ Still it is alot cheaper than a few years ago.

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