Can Two Americans in Europe Conquer Learning the Metric System?

Remind me again why Americans don’t use the metric system? Because it’s bloody hard, that’s why! But seriously, our lives would be so much easier in Europe if we’d grown up using the metric system like most of the rest of the world. As it is, the most basic things are more difficult than they should be on a daily basis, from following recipes to figuring out gas mileage. As it is, we’re now learning the metric system as adults in a crash course in life skills.

What I’ve quickly learned from our time in Switzerland is this:

  • I have no idea how many kilos I weigh.
  • 13 degrees Celsius doesn’t mean anything except that I’m cold and need a jacket.
  • My face typically has only a blank expression when people here tell us their height in centimeters. It always sounds impressively tall.
  • Mountains that top out at 4500 meters smack of mere hills until I remember that it’s not 4500 feet, and “hills” like that would do justice to any of Colorado’s most majestic 14ers

On top of that, I’m too embarrassed to admit how many windows I need open on my laptop to calculate the price of a gallon of Swiss gas in US dollars because:

  • at the gas pump the price per liter is in Swiss francs,
  • and a car’s “gas mileage” is an American usage while here, “fuel efficiency” is measured by liter/100 kilometers driven.
  • and final kicker, a US gallon is equal in volume to 0.832674th of the imperial gallon used in Switzerland.

From reading train and bus schedules marked in kilometers to seeing 750 g boxes of cold cereal, our brains are quite befuddled with all this metric system mumbo jumbo.

While talking to Trav about the UHT milk here and why it isn’t refrigerated, I picked up our carton of milk with 1.5% milk fat and automatically converted it to the 3% milk fat it would be back in the States.

Travis laughed, while I felt more than a little sheepish.

Unrefrigerated UHT milk in Switzerland

1.5% Swiss milk = 3% US milk

Some things, thankfully, don’t have to be calculated.

Americans might soon be learning the metric system with Hawaii H.B. 36.

Interestingly enough, Hawaii introduced H.B. 36 in 2013, which will mandate all US states fully convert to the metric system by Jan 1, 2018.

Change could be a’comin’, and hopefully after living in Europe, we’ll be ready.

Looking for other posts about expat life in Switzerland?

Don't forget to leave a comment!x