Dollars in Europe

Mar 1st, 2007, 12:27 AM
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Dollars in Europe

OK, now don't take this the wrong way, I'm just curious about 'why'.

I've seen several posts recently here and elsewhere from Americans asking if they can use Dollars in 'European country X'and if they really have to bother getting euros/pounds etc.

My first reaction is that is is sheer arrogance, that they think dollars are somehow 'better' currency than the local one (OK I have a mental image of some 1960s war-torn country with a local currency going up the spout and poverty stricken street traders desperate for GI's dollars, but in 21st century Europe for gods sake?) but that is probably unfair of me. So what are the real reasons people ask this? What is the thought process that leads them to believe that they can just use dollars everywhere? I wouldn't go to America and expect to be able to use £s to pay for everything.

Someone please explain.
nona1 is offline  
Mar 1st, 2007, 12:29 AM
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I suppose what I'm asking is 'are there really people who believe the dollar is some kind of universal currency' and if so, where does this idea come from.
nona1 is offline  
Mar 1st, 2007, 12:43 AM
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Basically a lot of Americans only travel within the US or to countries near to the US where USD are freely usable
alanRow is offline  
Mar 1st, 2007, 12:49 AM
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1. The US dollar still IS the closest to a universal currency we have these days.

2. Europeans - who cross a national border practically every time we go out to the post office - understand the nuances of what a "universal currency" means: universaly acceptable if you're chartering an oil tanker for a few months, but bloody useless if you want to buy a bar of chocolate. For all sorts of reasons most Americans just don't border hop like that, and oftetrn don't understand the nuances

3. Actually, the USD IS accepted around a lot of America's periphery in a way that the Euro isn't in the Eurozone's neighbours. Again it's down to nuance: the USD is a real alternative currency in the Bahamas, but potentially useless in a lot of Toronto or Montreal. But more Americans visit Barbados than the suburbs of Toronto.

4. It's not just Americans who can't get it into their heads that the dollar's decline is a sea change, not just one point in a cycle. For a lot of the past 50 years, it really WAS the world's standard. But as America's lost influence and share of world output, all sorts of currencies - from the Korean Won to the Turkish Lira to the Chinese Yuan - haven't just appreciated but have achieved a prevously unheard of stability. The irrelevance of the USD as a safe harbour is something lots of people, all over the world, still haven't fully taken on board. Many Chinese traders we deal with, for example, are convinced it's a Wesgern capitalist conspiracy to defraud them (in which, of course they're absolutely right)

5. A lot of European journeys - changing planes at London or Zurich for example - require currencies of limited use elsewhere. You and I, Nona, just put those CHFs into the pot on the dresser and try to remember to use them next time we're driving to Italy or going skiiing. Our Cousins don't.

6. Oh, I forgot. Some are just dumb or arrogant. But for most, it's as sensible a question as I once asked about the Uzbek som when changing planes at Tashkent between London and Delhi: "Surely they take real money too?"
flanneruk is offline  
Mar 1st, 2007, 01:05 AM
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PS: An example of my point 4

I recently watched a Russian in Bombay (yes I know, but I'm a fogey), reduced to fury over the fact that she couldn't get anyone to accept her USDs. She'd clearly been told at some Fodorski bulletin board that USDs were what you took when you went abroad.

Didn't help, of course, when the bank she eventually went to rejected them because they were forged. But she still blamed the Indians for not understanding that everyone takes dollars: "So primitive, these people"
flanneruk is offline  
Mar 1st, 2007, 01:09 AM
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Could it possibly be similar to a certain group of folks who think their currency is too valuable, too stable, or too whatever that they refuse to give it up and use the "universal" currency that all the countries surrounding them are using?
Dukey is offline  
Mar 1st, 2007, 02:42 AM
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Dukey, lol, actually I wouldn't mind the euro here personally, but you are right that most Britons would have a blue fit ;-).

Hey, but we are not the only ones, the euro-zone and the EEC are not the same thing at all.
nona1 is offline  
Mar 1st, 2007, 02:43 AM
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Also, I can understand being used to being able to use your own currency in neighbouring countries, but why does that make you think you can do the same in countries half way round the world?
nona1 is offline  
Mar 1st, 2007, 03:17 AM
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I cringe when I see my fellow Americans asking if they can pay with dollars in Paris. The worst though is when Americans leave tips for wait staff in dollars. It does lokk like nona said that they are giving GI dollars out to the poverty stricken.
Lydio is offline  
Mar 1st, 2007, 03:52 AM
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I'll jump into this "debate." I am a US citizen who has traveled fairly extensively in Western Europe. The answers so far seem laden with politics. I'd like to try to give a non-political answer.

Question: Can I use dollars instead the local currencies? Answer, (sometimes) yes.

Question: Why can I sometimes use dollars? Answer: Because the dollar is sometimes a more dependable and stable currency than the local currency.

Question: Is the dollar the best money in the world and if I try to spend US dollars in another country do I risk implying that I think America is the best country?
Answer: Both are silly questions but the answer to the first is "Certainly not" and the answer to the second is "Apparently so."

Question: How do I know if it's OK to use other currencies? (Like Euros or dollars)
Answer: Ask.

I generally put my dollars away when I travel overseas. If I am buying something and the person selling says they will take dollars (or Euros or Yen) and I have them and I am not losing money on the deal, I wouldn't hesitate to spend them.

In so doing, I am not making a statement of superiority. I'm just trying to transact some business.

Incidentally, money isn't the only currency. I traded a Jackson Browne t shirt for wine once in Italy. We both felt like we got a good deal.

Finally, I know that inexperienced US travelers sometimes travel with a false sense of superiority and are baffled when they are treated in ways they aren't used to when in foreign countries. As a high school teacher who has taken hundreds of young people to Europe, I know this first hand. One of the first lessons I teach before we leave the US is that Europe isn't the United States and we need to accept our guests' terms and conditions.

I also tell them not to leave US coins or currency for tips.
sshephard is offline  
Mar 1st, 2007, 04:30 AM
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I really cant see why some travellers want to go around with pockets full of currency which most places wont accept, especially given the security worries so often repeated here.
It just seems daft.
zippo is offline  
Mar 1st, 2007, 05:03 AM
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Just an illustration of how wrong-headed some people can be:

I queued for about 20 minutes to get in to the Colosseum. The woman immediately in front of me reached the ticket booth and asked "how much is it in dollars?" The vendor said that they did not accept dollars. The surprised woman turned round and asked me if I would sell her some lire (pre-euro days) for dollars. Not having any use for dollars, I declined. That also seemed to surprise her. She tried more generally, and got no takers.
Padraig is offline  
Mar 1st, 2007, 05:08 AM
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first, i don't see a lot of people asking if US $ is used in france, uk, etc. maybe this thread was started as a support circle for 'enlightened' people to complain about ignorant/arrogant americans. i'm sure it happens sometimes but i don't see it as any more of a problem than any other misunderstandings.

second, i agree with most of what flanner said. the US$ is not just another currency. just like english is not just another language. non-americans use and hold US$ just as americans do. most internationals around the world will hold US$. finally the euro has created the possibility of an alternative but it still is far from replacing the US dollar as an international standard currency - it just doesn't have the history). 'local' currency is just...well...local. just as local language is charming and local...but of little use looking beyond narrow confines.

there is a simplistic political correctness on this board that tries to teach everyone that english is just another language and US$ is just another currency. anyone who has any level of 'enlightenment' knows that this is the case.
walkinaround is offline  
Mar 1st, 2007, 05:27 AM
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Walkinaround - if you do a simple search of the word Dollar on this board you will come up with some interesting is just one recent one.

Its not about being enlightened so much as polite.
Lydio is offline  
Mar 1st, 2007, 05:34 AM
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First let me say that I am usually amazed that people would want or attempt to use dollars in other countries, but I can think of several reasons why.

I don't do cruises, but I've heard from many people who have who have stated that whenever they do shore trips -- yes, in Europe as well as the Caribbean -- they are allowed, and in fact encouraged to use dollars. I suppose this is because many of the shops they are taken to are either owned by the cruise company or have some payoff connection, so they are totally set up to take dollars. And they know that people will be likely to spend more if the currency they know rather than a "foreign" one that they don't exactly understand or trust themselves with.

So I can easily understand how a person who has visited Europe a couple of times (via cruises) and has always used US dollars might think that it is the norm. I don't think believing so makes him "arrogant" just uninformed.

Secondly, I was shocked when we went to Turkey, (and there are some other countries that do the same) -- when I was told I would be given a 10% discount when paying in US dollars. At the time (six years ago) many hotels only advertised their prices in dollars as it was indeed a more stable currency. So once a person has not only been encouraged, but actually rewarded for using US dollars, it's not such a stretch that he might want to do so again and will ask about that possibility.

NeoPatrick is offline  
Mar 1st, 2007, 06:23 AM
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I certainly think it's ignorance rather than arrogance and really not that outrageous a question for unseasoned travellers. There's still plenty of places round the globe who like the stability of the Dollar (however fragile it looks at the moment!). I have had to take cash dollars when I have been to Cuba, ironically.

What 'some' inexperienced travellers fail to realise is that, if you're visiting a wealthy country with a stable economy, the cash dollars thing just doesn't work. Perhaps 'some' inexperienced travellers fail to realise that there ARE any other countries that are wealthy and stable.
Kate is offline  
Mar 1st, 2007, 06:42 AM
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> if you're visiting a wealthy country with a stable economy, the cash dollars thing just doesn't work.<

True, which is why I take cigarettes and nylons.

ira is offline  
Mar 1st, 2007, 07:07 AM
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And very fetching you look in them too.
audere_est_facere is offline  
Mar 1st, 2007, 07:24 AM
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Walkingaround, you are truly becoming a johhny-one-note.

I think the Europeans are being much to charitable to the Americans who ask about this. It is clear that some of my fellow countrymen believe the whole world is drooling over our dollars. More American arrogance.
Cimbrone is offline  
Mar 1st, 2007, 08:59 AM
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I don't think dollars are especially valuable anywhere in Europe anymore.

I started travelling to Ukraine (where I met my wife) in 1997, 1999 and was back in 2006.

On the first trips, the dollar was the currency of choice and there was a definite preference and premium for and on it. Over the years, as Ukraine's economy has stabilized , there seems to be much less importance given to currencies foreign to Ukraine. I would suspect that this holds true with the other European parts of the former Soviet Union, more or less according to the state of their own economies.

rs899 is offline  

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