Until recently I actually thought that Germany only had one united currency – the Euro.
Now I’ve learned that this has never been the case. …And there is not just one, or two but some two dozen other regional currencies in existence in Germany currently. Especially in southern Germany, Bavaria and Baden-Wurttemberg those regional or micro currencies are particularly popular.
Some of them have very creative names such as the “Sterntaler” (Star Money), “Kirschblüten”(Cherry Blossoms), the “Lechtaler” and the “Chiemgauer”.
The “Chiemgauer” has its name from a region in southern German and is the most popular regional currency.
This currency was established around the same time (in 2003) the Euro was adopted as national currency. Now, over 7 years later this regional money is accepted in about 600 businesses in the Chiemgau region. In 2008 alone 1,072,818 Euro were exchanged into the Chiemgauer. Regional businesses can even get interest –free loans in this currency.
Could regional currencies replace the Euro?
Not at all. Regional or micro currencies are not in competition with the Euro. The regional currencies are only used to support regional, small business. The exchange rate is 1:1 and there is no interest-bearing value to the micro currencies. In other words you can’t buy stocks, options or shares in “Chiemgauer.” For example: They are not backed by the local or federal government. In fact, if you exchange the regional back into Euro you lose some of its value. The regional money is made to encourage people to spend it in their local businesses, e.g. at their bakery or at their butcher’s around the corner.
This money is only accepted in small regional areas, sometimes just within a town. But it helps to protect jobs and to counteract the growing debt of the local government.
So, what is the reason behind this “monopoly” money?
One major reason is certainly that the Germans had been very proud of their former currency – the Deutsche Mark. It was a strong and historic currency. In the decision to adopt the Euro in Germany, Germans themselves had no say. The German government under Kohl at that time just went ahead, in strong contrast to other nations such as the UK were a referendum turned the Euro down, or Ireland were people voted for adopting the Euro.
A recent poll by Germany’s Ipsos Institute showed that more than half of all Germans still want a return to the Deutsche Mark.
A second reason is also the very deep regional connection of many Germans. Reflected by dialect, traditional costumes and their states’ flags, many people carry a deep pride in their home region. They strongly support regional businesses and efforts to keep things local.