Metric System and You

How long is it?
How hot is it?
How much do you weigh?

Those 3 questions can trip up a new American expat faster than asking for directions to the nearest metro stop. Why? Because we’re American, that’s why.

The United States of America is one of only 3 countries in the world (out of ~200) that still use feet, ounces and Fahrenheit. Everyone else? – they use metric system.

Check out the map below.

It's Just US, Burma and Liberia Against the World
It's Just US, Burma and Liberia Against the World

Yeah, amazing, huh? America, Liberia and Burma. That’s it – that’s all who are still stuck in the 19th century with the old British system.

When did the meter catch on? Well, take France for example. France finally adopted the meter officially right after Napoleon overthrew the ruling French Directory. And that was 1799.

Yeah, the meter is that old.

Do all other countries really use only the metric system?
No. There are some exceptions. In England, some people know their weight in stone. In Canada, they buy carpet by the square foot.
Well, I didn’t say there were many cases. (Why they’re called exceptions.)

Some Arguments You May Hear Against the Metric System

“Oh, but metric is so un-American!”
Actually, Thomas Jefferson proposed a base-10 (decimal) system for measurement. His proposal in Congress lost by one vote. That was 120 years ago. Imagine how different America would be if it weren’t for that one vote?

“Oh, but metric is so hard!”
Actually, it’s not, period. It by 10s. Not 3s, 12s, 16s, or even 5280s.
It’s 10. Then 100. Then 1000. And so on. There you have it.

“Oh, but moving to metric would cost too much!”
NASA would disagree. Remember the case of the Mars Orbitter?

Published by


An American who likes to move around.
I now live on the eastern Canadian seaboard. My job? A stay-at-home dad for two cute but demanding bosses. My wife? Also cute; not so demanding.
My wife and I both love travel. We met in South Korea, travelled across Australia, India, Europe and beyond. We lived in Czech Republic for four years. Many stories to tell and experience to share. If you let me, I will help you travel as we do.

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