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Italy Prepares for the Euro
Now that 2002 is here, every restaurant and corner shop in Italy will have to use new bills and coins called euro. Here's what the biggest currency switchover in history means to a student at St Stephen's school in Rome.
I must admit that I've been trying to deeply ignore what is about to happen. Truthfully, I am alarmed -- I used the word "alarmed" because it is my initial feeling although I am sure that eventually, many more adjectives will come to my mind.
Unfortunately, there still exists a lot of mystery around what is happening and politicians have this wonderful ability of speaking so that no one truly understands them.
What does it mean to have a stronger European Community?
The politicians and economic leaders say that once the Euro becomes the common currency for many European countries, the European Community will finally be united as it has never been before. Many different cultures will now come together and will learn from one another.
We will all be able to pay in the same way and won't have to fuss over the oh-so-complicated money exchange when we travel. Many other common guidelines will be introduced, including common justice laws.
I suppose all these statements are beautiful and advantageous if simply left there without being analyzed. However, many people are lucky enough to possess a good dose of critical thinking.
When we say that the European Community will finally unite, what exactly do we mean?
If I were convinced that the strengthening of the European Union meant significant improvements, then it would be absurd for me to oppose it. But I do not see this happening. I see it from the purely humane point of view because I am by no means an economist.
Just because we spend the same coins and bills, we won't become the same, will we?
My friends in Holland and France will always stay Dutch and French -- the way they are, will they not?
Politicians, with their bad and slightly less bad ideas, won't have a deep moral conversion when the Euro comes into use, will they? If the Euro could do this, I would be its most enthusiastic promoter.
The Lira is ours, the Franc is French and the Pesetas are Spanish. It is fascinating to have diversity and to experience diversity.
When I travel, it isn't necessarily a hassle to change money, it makes me feel that I am elsewhere- that I am outside of Italy and in a land with different customs which are equally interesting.
Why do people have this frantic need to conform to the same standards?
"Sick of hearing about it!"
I asked my grandmother what she thought of the new money she would have to learn to use. My granny is one of the most down-to-earth people I have ever met, with no extravagant material dreams and hardly any trips outside of Italy.
She merely shrugged: "io so solo che sono stufa di sentirne parlare!" she answered. Translated in English this would mean: "all I know is that I'm sick and tired of hearing about it!"
Her answer made me think of families that continue to be poor and live modestly. What will the Euro change for them? They are families who probably don't have enough money to even leave Italy or their small, provincial towns.
I heard a sociologist on TV who said: "For these people it will be nothing but a hassle to change their national currency."
Of course the Euro was something that the population was allowed to vote for democratically but still, I cannot forget the Italians who will gain so little from using the Euro, they do not want to hear about it anymore.
Wanting to preserve traditions and customs might appear conservative, especially if it means going against the progress of society. Yet I do not feel conservative for siding with those who question the Euro.
Economically speaking, to adopt the Euro will mean many processes and transactions will be simpler. One will be able to write a check in Euro from Rome and it can be cashed easily in Amsterdam.
The market will unite further and in the long run, the Euro is thought to become a strong currency.
Confusion? Fear? Progress?
Essentially, people's lives will not change radically from one day to the next. However, we will be reminded every day that our money is different.
The ideal Christmas present was the "Euro-converter" or a little purse to contain the annoying coins which will be more numerous than normal.
There will be a few months, if not more, of mere confusion. Some Italians fear they will be deceived by dishonest sellers, others fear higher prices on the same products and some worry about many more adjustment problems.
But these issues are only temporary because we are capable of adapting. With time, the Euro will become accepted.
What I fear most is the way things might evolve in the future. Will Europe slowly lose its cultural diversities and traditions? And if the Euro truly makes us an economic superpower, will we lose sensitivity towards certain issues?
And will we become a country that worries solely about economical benefits?
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