When you move to another country often the small things frustrate you the most. Things you have to deal with on a daily basis.
Certainly, it’s nothing new to get used to a new currency (unless you live in the EU) but when you live in the US you won’t find a single measurement that is used anywhere else in the world – at least that’s what it feels like.
If you have traveled to the US before or even lived here like me, you probably know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, here is a list of 8 essential US measurements.
Do you enjoy cooking or baking? There are two things that you will encounter eventually. Recipes are either done in cups or real measurements. When I first came across cups a couple of years ago, I was confused. Why would you need cups? Isn’t it easier to measure your ingredients with a scale? Take for example peanut butter. If you need it for a recipe, you pour peanut butter in a measuring cup and then from the cup into the actual mixing bowl. If you use measurements, you simply put your bowl on a scale and then everything goes in there. Without having to put it in a measuring cup first. Now that’s way more efficient. But maybe someone just invented cups because they had a hard time using pounds and ounces (because that is what you have to deal with if there aren’t any cups 😉 )
But to be fair, pounds arent’ too bad because one pound is 0.45kg or 452gr. So I always roughly calculate half a kilo.
If you go grocery shopping things have gotten a bit easier. Nowadays, most brands write both pounds and kilos on their packaging. I don’t think this was the case when I lived on the east coast in 2007, but who knows.
You are probably wondering, what’s with liquids? Are they different too? Yes, liquids are measured in gallons and fluid ounce. One gallons is 3.78 liters and 128 fl oz. 1fl oz equals 29.57ml. Confused? Me too.
Additionally, gallons are also essential when you drive a car (which basically every American does). Gas is measured in gallons, too.
3. Distance and speed
You guessed it, there are more differences between the US and the rest of the world for instance when it comes to distance and distances related measurements like speed. Contrarty to most other countries, distances are in feet and miles not meter and kilometer and speed is in miles per hour. Thankfully, it is quite easy to calculate miles (factor 1.61), you roughly calculate one and a half times.
Contrary to other English-speaking countries, in the US you always write the month first. So 08/04/2020 is August 4, 2020
If you are like me and thrive on warm temperatures, don’t be fooled by 20 degrees. Temperatures are measured in Fahrenheit and at 20 degrees Fahrenheit you will probably want to grab your coat and boots (it’s -6 Celsius).
Some measurements are easier to convert than others like you have seen in the paragraph before. When it comes to Fahrenheit and Celsius the case is a bit more complex. The exact calculation is T(°C) = (T(°F) – 32) × 5/9.
I don’t know about you, but that’s not something I want to use on a daily basis. So, either you memorize some key figures or you can use this simplified calculation: Take 30 off the Fahrenheit value and half that number, so e.g. 48 Fahrenheit minus 30 is 18, half of that is 9. The exact conversion is 8.88. Ever since I read that, temperatures are a bit clearer 😉
6. Height and length
My first personal encounter with height was when I had to get my Californian driver’s license. The lady at the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) asked me how tall I was and of course I had no idea at all. You could have told me I was 3ft10 (3 feet and 10 inches) or 5ft10, I wouldn’t have had a clue. Naturally, I googled the topic and got a number in between two measurements. Confused about which figure to choose, the friendly lady suggested taking the higher number because who doesn’t want to be tall.
Later when I finished my paper work at a different counter, I saw that there was actually a conversion table. Probably because there are more clueless people like me applying for a license 😉
For those of you interested 1 foot is 0.3 meters and an inch is 2.54 centimeters.
This can be an easy topic if brands use XXS, XS, S, M, L, XL, XXL, etc. because they are internationally known and don’t need further explanation. However, there are of course numbers that aren’t used internationally and to top it all off, there is no consensus in the world about that topic. Even the European countries use different sizes. I therefore created a quick overview:
Last but not least there is electricity. In the US, you have 110 Volt instead of 220 Volt. And of course, a different plug.
I am now the proud owner of not one, two or three…no, actually four different kind of plugs (German, Swiss, Australian and American), I also need an adapter to convert some of my German, Swiss and Australian appliances to function in the US.
A parting word
To sum up, I know it’s not rocket science to convert numbers and with the internet and apps floating around, it’s definitely easier than when I first lived here but can I just vent here for a minute! everything have to be different?
I hope this overview of 8 essential US measurements was helpful, if you are thinking about moving or traveling to the US. If not, maybe it was an insight to what foreigners have to “go through” 😉
Would you like to know what else I learned when living abroad? Check out this post here.