July 30, 2013

canadian quirk #5: the metric system

Oh, Metric System. There was a week in the 4th grade when I began to understand your inner workings. Then we were told that we don't use you in America and the entire class felt free to forget you even existed. I probably could have continued life in this Metric-free bubble if I hadn't moved to Canada.


President Ford tried in  '75 but it just wasn't happening. Stubborn Americans resisted converting to another system of measurement. The one they had seemed fine the way it was.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Metric System, it's not you. It's me. You're beautiful in your simplicity. The idea that units of measure are exponential by 10, rather than arbitrary numbers like the Imperial System, is completely practical. That 0 degrees is the point at which water turns to ice makes perfect sense - much more than 32.

And 100 centimeters in a meter, as opposed to 12 inches in a foot? Brilliant!

Unfortunately, I still rely on the miles-per-hour indicator on my speedometer. I use an app on my phone to convert Celsius into Fahrenheit. And I rely on the lady behind the seafood counter to tell me just how many pounds would 200 grams of that calamari be. (Thankfully, most Canadians have no idea how to do the conversion either; they rely on calculators and scales to do the math for them. This keeps me from feeling completely ignorant.)

Photo: Wikimedia Commons
It isn't so much that I don't understand you, Metric System. I've just been lazy. I love my acres, pounds, ounces, inches and square feet. They're second nature; things I don't have to think about because they're so ingrained in my education. I suppose knowing both Metric and Imperial would make me a special sort of bilingual. It'd certainly make grocery shopping, going to the post office, figuring out the temperature and driving a whole lot easier.

But as long as the thermostats in Canada inexplicably remain in Fahrenheit, and the royal baby's weight is publicly announced in pounds and ounces, I feel I'm validated to not fully learn you.

I'm sorry, Metric. It may be nearly 40 years after Ford's attempt to convert a nation, but this is one American girl that stubbornly loves her some square footage.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this post are that of an American expat living in Canada. Not every 'quirk' is relevant to every Canadian. These are merely observations and commentary based on my experiences living in both countries. 

Visit our ever-expanding list of Canadian quirks here.


  1. You know, we're sort of hybrids in Toronto. I still use Imperial for weight and small measurements. Especially in real estate, where I always think of room dimensions in feet.

    I do you metric for speed and temperature, though.

    1. It's interesting you say that. I met a someone recently who told me she had no idea what an inch, a foot or a yard was. I literally had to pull a ruler out and show her.

      I was initially dumbfounded but wrote it off as her just not using Imperial since she's Canadian. But now your comment makes me think maybe she just had her head in the sand?


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