Is it strange that I have a huge affinity with miles, feet, Fahrenheit, pounds, inches, cups and gallons?
I love talking in that language. But most of the world doesn’t know what the heck I’m talking about especially here in the Netherlands. It’s too bad because they really are nice measurements to work with yet I cannot tell you exactly why.
Side note: I bring this up because today I met an American who’s been living in Amsterdam for 2 years and she said she signed up for a 40k walk for charity and told her Dutch boyfriend about it. He asked her long she thought that was and she said it couldn’t be that bad, it’s only around 10 miles or so. Oops. Let’s not even go into the fact that the walk starts at midnight and begins in Rotterdam and ends in Den Haag. That would never happen in America.
I love that the U.S. has been holding out for years not to convert to the metric system. However my google search found that in 1975, the US Congress passed the Metric Conversion Act and in ’76 there was an appointed U.S. Metric Board. Sounds like it was a great use of the American tax dollar because I think the only thing those guys on the board did was make sure our middle school teachers taught us how to use cross conversion and memorize King (Kong) Hates Doing Math During Certain Months (though some may have learned King Henry Died Drinking Chocolate Milk). I honestly can’t believe I still remember that and I think the last time I used it was in 8th grade math class.
Let’s face it. We’re not going to get rid of our gallons of milk, juice or water. Or change our road signs, scales, ovens, recipes, heights, gym weights, etc, just so that we can be like the rest of the world and join the metric system. It would be easy to change everything though a bit costly and it would be much easier for expats to talk measurements with the locals but we’re too proud of our measurements. It’s not going to happen and if it does I hope I die before it happens because if we convert then I know we’ve gone off the deep end.
Here are a few arguments as to why the U.S. measurement system is quite convenient..
- Fahrenheit gives you a better idea of the temperature outside than Celsius. From freezing all the way to 100 degrees, that’s 68 degrees of temperature to work with as opposed to Celsius where you have 37.8 degrees to understand what the temperature is. It seems to me you can get a more accurate idea of the temperature and what to wear using F. Plus who wants to see that it’s -18 degrees C outside? That just sounds friggin’ cold! 0 degrees F, at least it’s not below zero. Much better on the psyche.
- You save time saying the US measurements which are all mostly 1 syllable words. Metric system: mostly 3 syllables. You lose. I can say ‘the Walmart is 3 miles away’ faster than Europeans can say ‘the cafe is 5 kilometers away.’ The same goes with pounds verses kilos. In the case of the quickest language/laziest tongue, the US systems wins.
- There are 2 (some could argue 3) great songs with the word ‘miles’ in the title. 500 Miles by The Proclaimers and Many the Miles by my favorite Sara Bareilles. How many great songs have the word kilometers in the title? Betting none.
- The US measurements are adopted more in the English language. Phrases like ‘just an inch more’ or ‘pour me a cup’ are used much more frequently than ‘just a centimeter more’ or ‘pour me 8 ml,’ that just sounds weird or am I bias?
As for getting around and surviving using the metric system here in Amsterdam, I can get very anxious. When I go to the market everything is measured in kilos. What does that mean? I have no idea in what relation a kilo is to a pound so how do I know how much to buy or how much I’m getting? Most of the time it’s a surprise. I still haven’t gotten the hang of it.
Don’t ask me to tell you what the temperature is outside. If I give a European a number over 30 (or 20 here in Holland) they look at me like I’ve lost my mind or I’m playing a horrible joke on them. I’ve stopped being the weather girl just to avoid this look though sometimes it can be quite funny.
It’s also quite funny when you drive. I remember being on the German autobahn and our driver is going something like 177 kph and thinking ‘dear God, 177…kph. Whew not miles but then wait that’s still over 100 mph.’ But 177 sounds a lot worse just as Celsius does to me.
When it comes to the oven I have yet to bake anything here because of a lack in an oven but I can probably foreshadow that wouldn’t go over really well with all the weird mL and other measurements that you have to get exactly right if you want your brownies or cake to turn out good. Do they call them measuring cups here too? I also have no idea about the temperature of the oven. 220 degrees doesn’t sound hot enough to bake or broil my veggies but I’m pretty sure that’s not case. In fact I only know that 220 is perfect to broil veggies so therefor horrible to bake a cake but again, no idea what that temperature would be. I do hope soon I get the chance to test this assumption. It would be quite the experience.
So yes I’m still adjusting to this metric system and I’m not sure if I’ll ever get to the point where I don’t freak out even for a millisecond (<—OMG did I just use a metric measurement?) but I do miss talking in Fahrenheit and miles but if that’s the cost of living in Europe then the costs aren’t that bad.