How I learned the Metric System while traveling?

On my run this morning, I saw two signs together – One Mile and One KM.  I was like uh! A mile does not equal a kilometer.


Being from the United States, our imperial system is completely different from the rest of the world and it took me awhile to figure out the conversion.  Per the Political Science article Why Hasn’t The U.S. Adopted The Metric System?

“While most nations use the metric system—those units of decimals that are universally employed in science—the U.S. still clings to pounds, inches, and feet. Despite several high-profile attempts to change that, Americans refuse to convert.”

The first time I traveled outside of the United States to Rome, I was like what does this mean.  After awhile, I just gave up and said I am on vacation.  I really don’t need to know.

Then several years later, I had an assignment in Toronto Canada that required me to drive.   Well, I had no choice but to figure out miles per hour, Fahrenheit, pounds into the metric system.  I still had a hard time.  I just couldn’t get it.  Sometimes, our imperial system throws me off especially when surrounded by the metric.   I remember at a restaurant in Toronto, I ordered a glass of wine and the waiter asked if I wanted 3 oz or 5 oz.  The look on my face was priceless.  What is an ounce?  In the States, they just bring you a glass.   However, being the wine connoisseur that I am…I immediately said 5 oz.  Who would ever order a small glass of wine?

Below are some of the ways I’ve learned to understand the metric system during my travels:


Celsius to the Fahrenheit

Now for the Celsius to the Fahrenheit, that was a different ballgame.  Was it going to be a cold, warm or hot day?  However, I developed a fail-proof system.

  • Less than 0 – Freezing (Oh heck No)
  • 0 to 15 – I am still cold
  • 15 to 25 – Still cold but I can manage
  • 25 and over – Welcome to Florida

Kilograms to Pounds

I can’t remember where I was but I asked on Facebook, how many kilograms to a pound?  A friend posted 2.2.  After that, I was able to convert quickly and I haven’t had a problem since.


Kilometers to Miles

I started running about 6 years ago and was participating in several local races.  The races were either 5K or 10K.  I knew that a 5K is 3.1 miles and 10K is 6.2 miles.  So when I saw a sign or someone said anything less than 5K, I knew it was less than 3 miles.  Anything over 10K would be long.


Meters to Feet

During my trip to Vietnam, I finally learned the conversion from meters to feet.  It is 3.2.  I applied the same concept as I did with the kg to lbs.


As I was writing this blog, I was thinking should I be ashamed that I don’t know the metric system.  I have two degrees!  I am a professional!  I’ve traveled the world!  How “dumb” or “ignorant” can I be?   Then I realized that it is not dumb or ignorant.  Sometimes it just takes longer to learn or understand certain thing.  What really matter is taking the effort to learn and apply it.   With each of my travels, I am getting better and better with the metric system and with that — I am very proud.


(1) Comment

  1. Anisa

    Haha this is helpful. My usual method is to ask my boyfriend since he is English, he is pretty good at knowing both.

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