New York: hard currency

When I went to Prague in ’98, I had many opportunities to marvel at American tourists going around in pocket calculators, converting all koruna prices into US dollars and periodically exclaiming how cheap everything was. I secretly deplored them back then. But then, one should be careful of what one deplores: sooner or later we will find ourselves in the shoes of too many deplorees.

While I was in the US, there was roughly $1.52 to a euro. Which means that it was my turn to go around mentally calculating all prices in euro and grabbing the bargains there and then.

But it is not just a matter of exchange rates: Europe is by now an expensive place. So, if you can buy something worth $100 (which is serious money) for 65 euro (which — alas — is not that serious anymore), then you will end up acting like those poor American tourists in Prague back in ’98.

There is an additional factor here, too: if your currency goes a long way in a market like Prague (or, say, Bali or Egypt), there is still only so much on supply in such markets: classical recordings and strip shows (in Prague), food, drinks, souvenirs — and so on. However, if it is in New York where your money can go a long way — a market already reasonably priced and full of bargains for things like books, music, videos, electronics and clothes — then imagine the depravity circumstances will throw you into (ah! bloody circumstances, always being thrust upon the innocent ones) when an orange, a red and grey banknote can get you Ben Franklin’s worth…

Let me confess: we were hardly innocent and unsuspecting. We had suspended most shopping for clothes, books and electronics for months, in anticipation of our trip. To give you an idea, we were most frugal when it came to books, as we only bought $600 worth of them: they are heavy and we didn’t want to pay for overweight luggage…

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2 thoughts on “New York: hard currency

  1. I’m guilty of being one of those Americans in Prague in the mid 90s. It was sort of amazing to be able to get a three course dinner for $4, especially after coming from France where the same would cost you 5 times that.

  2. No worries, it was equally amazing for Jod and me to stuff ourselves to the brim a couple of weeks ago in the exquisite Skylight diner (voted the best in Manhattan in a recent Time Out New York review) for below €18.

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