The Metric System

Ahhh, spring. Right now in Salamanca, it’s a bright and sunny 20°…wait. What? 20°? Celsius, that is.

You see, here in Spain (and almost all of the rest of the world), they use the metric system. The U.S. is the only industrialized country yet to adopt it. I write yet with hope because, honestly, why are we still using feet and Fahrenheit? The metric system is based on powers of 10. Thus, if you understand the prefixes (mili-, centi-, deci-, etc.), you can tell easily how much something. Plus, it’s easy to multiply by 10. Just move the decimal point right one place. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

Peanuts

During my time here, I’ve had to learn to adapt. For example, I’m still not used to the temperature in Celsius. I’ve finally begun to understand what is warm, what is cold, but in the middle? I’ve no idea. Because there are more numbers in Fahrenheit, I feel it’s easy to approximate temperatures – “Oh, it’s about 60-something degrees out today.” No way you can do that in Celsius. There’s a big difference between 0 and 10, 10 and 20, and 20 and 30. So I’ll often translate the temperature in my head, just so I can really get it. I was raised in a Fahrenheit world, you see.

Other than the obvious benefits of the metric system mentioned above, I’ve noticed some other (side) benefits. Let me enlighten you:

  • You weigh less in metric. A kilogram is roughly equal to 2.2 pounds, so most people weigh under 100. If you weigh 150 pounds, that’s equivalent to 68 kilos. Not bad, eh?
  • You can run “more.” Okay, not really. But first of all, every mile is equal to about 1.61 kilometers. So for every mile I run, I run 1.6 km. Today, I ran 5.5 miles or 8.85 km. I like it.
  • You can run “faster.” I have a Garmin watch, which tracks my time, pace and mileage (or kilometerage – is there a word for this?). When I run and have it set on the U.S. system, it goes by more slowly. Am I the only one who motivates herself by thinking, “Okay, you’re at 7.75. You can get to 8!” and so on and so forth? I’m guessing no. This is easier in kilometers. And yes, I do realize this is all my head. Leave me be.

But I will never get used to measuring myself in centimeters. I am about 180 cm. To me, that is meaningless. I mean, how would a girl ever use her dating criterion of a 6-feet cutoff? 181 cm? Nahhh. That just doesn’t work.

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8 comments

  1. Also beneficial about weight – when you gain a little, it’s a lot less traumatic when you see the scale! Oh, and I too seem to have problems with the height. I still have zero clue what I measure in centimeters – it’s too precise of a number and therefore too difficult to commit to memory. I can be a little vaga that way :)

  2. On the flip side, however, when you’re dieting, it’s a lot harder to lose a kilogram than a pound.

    I can just barely refrain from shouting in anger when the MythBusters do all their calculations in feet and inches and pounds. I feel pretty certain that they are actually doing the calculations in metric units like all scientists use, and then they convert them for the taping.

    The only instance where I honestly struggle to use metric units is measuring golf holes in meters. I have to carry a conversion chart in my bag.

    1. And body temperature (Reality just reminded me). If I don’t convert C to F when I take my temperature, I have no idea if I have a fever…which I do right now: 37.6º C. :-(

  3. Amen to this entire post! I feel so dumb when I’m unable to properly talk about any unit of measure here, it feels like some sort of handicap. It would make things so much easier if we just switched over!

  4. You non-engineers have NO idea the true benefit of Metric. You think English units of length and weight are bad? Try dealing with units of heat transfer! You know how to convert from force to mass in English units? They’re equal! But not equal at the same time…. Don’t try to understand

    On another note, Kaley, if you weigh 68 kilos, you could look at it as 68,000,000,000,000,000,000 femtograms :)

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