The answer, for the most part, is that the wad of Spanish pesetas or Austrian schillings stuffed in a drawer can only be converted to euros at a branch of the respective country's national bank. Legally, swapping your foreign money for euros can't be done by businesses or even banks and bureaux de change. Which means, unless you want to send cash through the mail to one of those national banks, you need to do it in person.

There are also time limits (Portugal won't redeem coins anymore) and restrictions on how much can be exchanged (Ireland will only do 3,800 punts). For complete information, including addresses, phone numbers, and a nifty currency converter, check out the European Central Bank's Web site at and at



Denmark opted out of the euro and Sweden didn't qualify. But neither country's absence has attracted as much attention as that of Great Britain, the other noneuro European state.

In fact, one of the biggest questions in British politics today is whether Britain will vote to join the euro. Prime Minister Tony Blair says he favors joining, but his Labor Party is split over the issue, and most opinion polls show the country evenly divided. Blair, meanwhile, says he'll hold referendum only after his government publishes a report this summer on the so-called Five Economic Tests - whether the euro will benefit Britain.

"Will Britain join? I don't think it's a question of if but when," says Bob Uhler, the chief executive officer for MWH Global, a global engineering and construction company with some two dozen offices in Europe. "It's like putting dye in the water. No matter how much you want to take it out, it's awfully hard to do. It's going to be increasingly difficult to remain in the European Community and not be in the euro."