You know you’ve converted to a local… when you stop mentally converting the currency.
I don’t know when it happened… but at some point over the last few months I have stopped mentally switching my spending from Euros to dollars to understand my expenses. I became used to it and eventually started comparing prices to other european prices I had encountered. Five euro for a sandwich? When I arrived, in January that would instantly have looked like 7 dollars. Now, five euro just looks like more than the 3 euro sandwich I can buy at my preferred sandwich shop.
Sure it’s a shock every time I look at my bank account, but in the moment there’s no mental math to bother me. I’m accustomed to prices here, just like I am accustomed to jam and bread at breakfast every day (as opposed to oatmeal or bacon with eggs). The fact that the money is colorful and each bill is worth more than the green paper I used to work with has become simply a fact that I brush off as I make my transactions.
Does no longer gawking at the money and asking if it’s from a monopoly game make me a local? Perhaps. It’s probably just one factor among dozens on the subjective spectrum of how Europeanized a person is. I’d like to think that it’s a key indicator though.
Unfortunately, over the next month I will be making forays into other European countries with different monetary systems, so I will find myself converting again. But what currency will my mind compare it to? Will I revert to the dollar in my head or will my more recent encounters with the Euro surface first? And then at the end of May I will return to the US… my real home (little though I want to admit it at the moment) and land of the green money. I wonder if I have become so adjusted to the Euro that I will suffer a readjustment period. Perhaps I won’t… and it will be the beginning of being able to operate equally in two monetary systems. There’s only one way to find out, so I will hope that adjusting to my own government’s money will not be a part of reverse culture shock when I hop back to the other side of the Big Pond.