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Germany

No Deutschmark Nostalgia

Germans have embraced the euro much faster than expected. They can still pay in deutschmarks at most stores until the end of February. But it's estimated almost all deutschmarks will be out of circulation by mid January.

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Germans increasingly pay in euro when they go on a shopping spree.

No one would have expected this kind of euro-phoria in Germany. The Germans were known to love their precious deutschmark. Right up to the end of last year, opinion polls showed that Germans cherished the mark's stability and were skeptical of the euro.

But ever since they got their hands on the new coins and bills, the Germans have fallen in love with the euro. Now it seems they can't get rid of their deutschmarks fast enough.

Long lines form in front of bank tellers, where people are exchanging their deutschmarks for the new currency. But for once, the Germans don't complain about waiting in line.

On the contrary: wherever a line forms, people start talking to each other.

Getting used to the new currency is a common experience for everyone. And everybody seems to have a story they want to share: How they keep getting mixed up with the new coins, what the exchange rate is or whether the euro will affect inflation.

The number one topic

Most shops will still accept deutschmarks until the end of February. But whenever customers pay in deutschmarks, they will get euro and cent as change.

Walk into any store and you're likely to see people closely examining the new coins and banknotes they just got as change. They're discussing the design, examining the size and the feel of the new bills and weighing the new coins in their hands.

Go out at night and you'll immediately become the center of attention if you can show off a euro coin from another country. Last night at a Cologne pub, another guest caused "ohs" and "ahs" when he showed off the first French euro coin that had found its way into his wallet.

One side of the new coins shows the same design in all euro-zone countries. But each country has individual symbols for the reverse side of the coins. German coins, for instance, show Berlin's Brandenburg Gate or Germany's Federal eagle. But regardless of where they were minted, all coins are valid in all euro-zone countries.

The last deutschmarks

Since people in Germany will get euro and cents as change even if they pay with deutschmarks these days, the German mark will gradually disappear.

Germany's retailers' association HDE expects consumers will have spent their last deutschmarks by the end of next week.

According to HDE, Germans made about half of all purchases in euro on Thursday. On Wednesday, they had only paid in euro for one third of all transactions.

HDE's managing director, Holger Wenzel expects that from mid-January, "we'll only be paying and thinking in euro."

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