Imperial vs. Metric System for Expats - Live Work Travel USA|Live Work Travel USA

Imperial vs. Metric System for Expats

The U.S. is one of only 3 countries world wide, that still uses the Imperial system, also known as U.S. Standard. Well, Americans have adapted to the metric system in science, sports (5k anyone?) and medicine, but everything else is still stuck in ancient times. Speed, length, temperature, weight, etc. – everything is different. That can be quite a challenge for new expats, because they usually think in the metric system and are confronted with different units and numbers all of a sudden. And it really takes a while to get used to it. I remember when I stood in line for my driver’s license and quickly had to fill out a form with some personal information and I got stuck at “Your Height”. I didn’t have a clue how tall I am in feet and inches. And I didn’t have a smart phone back then to just convert it on the spot. So I ended up asking the guy in front of me how tall he was, because he seemed to be my height.

When we had my daughter’s passport made at the US Postal Service, we had to tell the USPS rep how tall my daughter, then 6 months old, was. And again, we didn’t have a clue and for some reason the number 47 inches popped into my head and that’s what ended up in her passport for her height. 47 inches! That’s 119 cm for a 6 month old!! We didn’t know any better, but I still wonder why the USPS rep didn’t question that number. America – Land of the Giant Babies. By the way, she was actually 47 cm tall back then.
During my last hospital stay I told the nurse my height was 1 meter and 85 centimeter, but for some reason she only heard 85 cm and put that into her sheet for my height. No questions asked. The 2nd nurse caught it, because I really didn’t look like I’m only as tall as ALF (remember the furry guy from planet Melmac?).

And one of the favorite questions from friends and family back home is always: “How much is gas in America?”. Of course they always expect you to give them an answer in their currency and per liter. That’s a whole challenge in itself, because you also have to take the current exchange rate under consideration. I stopped wrecking my brain over this question, because gas in Germany turned out to always be double the price than here in the U.S., so that’s my default answer now.

I’ve created this little infographic, which is like a cheat sheet for new expats in America to help them adapt to the Imperial System better. Click on it for a bigger version and feel free to share it on Pinterest or on your favorite Social Media page.

Imperial vs Metric System Infographic

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