First Lithuanian euros already circulate into border zones

People living in the Latvian countryside near Lithuania have a special reason to like the euro this year, as they happily bid farewell to the currency exchange nuisance of shopping across the border in the neighboring country, where prices often outcompete those in Latvia.

Most rural residents have long since adjusted to using Europe’s common currency, adopted by Latvia a year ago and about to be assumed by the Lithuanians later this week.

Shopkeepers still occasionally encounter consumers trying to unload Latvian santimes in place of euro cents, says a trader from the small provincial town of Augstkalne in central Zemgale province. However, with the end of the year just days away, she said it’s worth inspecting small change more closely, as some Lithuanians are already trying to pay with the new Lithuanian euro.

“There really was a shopper with the new euros, most likely gotten from the market somewhere… No question, we’ve seen the new Lithuanian euro for sure already,” claimed cashier Iveta.

Augstkalne is just a few kilometers away from the nearby Lithuanian town of Žagare, and people are thinking the common currency will encourage more neighborly contacts and friendly exchange between residents of the two countries.

Gunārs told LSM he rarely went across the border this year, but “now with the euro coming in after January 1st, I will definitely go. What’s five kilometers to drive, I’ve got a car and they’ve got a bigger selection of goods there,” he said.

On their part, residents on the Lithuanian side also seem to be at ease with the coming currency change. Only the odd individual pedestrian stops anymore to check out informational posters notifying the public about it. They’re just as happy as the Latvians – no longer needing to exchange their money before crossing over the border.

“I’m in a good mood about it. What’s the difference – lits or euros? We’re not rich, just simple folks here,” said Žagare resident Zina nonchalantly. “We’re already used to it.”

On January 1 Lithuania will become the 19th state to adopt the euro as its national currency and join the Eurozone.

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