Things That Set Us Apart and the Metric System


Image from Pixabay

As you might expect, I use Google to do a daily search for new “metric system” items to ensure I don’t miss anything relevant to my research. And while I do get some searches that don’t quite hit the mark (“metrics” also refer to other kinds of measures as in “My sales metrics went up again last month”), most of them are right on topic.

A recent piece in an online publication called “The Travel” had an article called “25 Things About America We All Can’t Stand (Even The Locals). What was the number one “annoyance”? Our measurements:

Most of the world abides by the metric system when it comes to measurements, however, believe it or not, the United States is the only industrialized country in the world that does not use the metric system as its predominant system of measurement, says Britannica.

Ironically, the publisher of this list is an organization that had its address listed in Quebec, Canada. In case you are not aware, Canada is a “soft adoption” country that uses both Imperial and metric system units on many things, so this is somewhat of a situation of “the pot calling the kettle black.”

This got me looking for other articles that might mention our lack of metric system adoption as an American inconsistency. Of course, I found some.

American “quirks”

Another recent article, dated from November 15 of last year was called “24 things that are considered ‘normal’ in the US but the rest of the world finds weird.”

One of those items is “Using the imperial system of measurement instead of the metric system.”*

The United States is one of only three countries that still use the imperial system of measurement, and everyone out there thinks we’re strange for doing so.

A piece from Redbook dated June 25, 2018, was called “37 Things Americans Do That Confuse the Rest of the World: There’s the American way…and then there’s everybody else.

Number 25 of the 37 lists “Measure in miles, feet, and inches:

This is an obvious one, and, yet, it’s still a constant source of bewilderment for most of the world. Instead of following the metric system, America is one of just three countries to follow the imperial system of measurement. (The others are Liberia and Myanmar.)

So, aside from our lack of metric system adoption, what do others find strange about us? A smattering:

  • Take-out boxes and drink refills
  • Huge portion sizes (which probably leads to the take-out boxes)
  • Walking around with large cups of coffee
  • Using ice in everything

Just in case you think them all food-related, also included are:

  • Working too much
  • Baby showers
  • Talking to strangers
  • Being too sensitive (as well as too insensitive to others)
  • Having flags everywhere
  • Not enough privacy in public bathroom stalls
  • We’re loud and smile too much
  • Tipping
  • Sales tax

This last one is likely because some 140 countries have a Value Added Tax (known as VAT) that is seen on the item itself. However, in the United States, sales tax is not known until you’re at the sales register. And that’s because sales tax can differ from state to state and even region to region. As an example, the sales tax in Los Alamos, NM (where I live) is 7.3125% but the sales tax in Santa Fe, NM is 8.44% (that’s just 54 km or 44 minutes away).

United states?

And that goes back to one of my arguments that one of the reasons we’ve found metric system adoption difficult in this country is because we are less the UNITED States of American than the United STATES of America (As in states’ rights). Still, it’s written into the Constitution that Congress can set weights and measures for our country so at least that’s one less hurdle to overcome.

Let’s get with the global program and switch to the metric system (or S.I. as it is known in the rest of the world.)

Thanks for tuning in.


6 thoughts on “Things That Set Us Apart and the Metric System

  1. Pingback: Things That Set Us Apart and the Metric System — More Than A Mile Behind: America and the Metric System – Nonpartisan Education Group

  2. Thanks for what you do…. Keep up the “fight” (though there shouldn’t be one…) and GO METRIC, AMERICA – The world is waiting…

    • Jay: Many thanks to you and others who are encouraging me to keep up this work.
      Sometimes things pull me in other directions.
      I encourage you to subscribe to this blog. I’ll have a new post up shortly.
      I don’t want you to miss it.
      Thanks again, Linda

      • Hello Linda,
        I was going through the web, looking for any updates,of anything, showing positive moves to get this country on the Metric System! I read your older blogs, and enjoy them. Even though, I’m American too, back in my day I was taught the Metric System, and when I was in the military, 86-92 we use it as well! I can’t understand what is taking our country so long? I use the Metric System as much as possible. My settings like GPS, temp on my phone, Metric! Even when I comparison shop at grocery stores, I use the Metric display! I use to feel we’d be further along by now. I want to follow your blogs, and I’m hoping eventually more progress will be made, yet it appears it may take past my lifetime the way things seem to be going.

        As a matter of fact, I use to live in Tucson, and I love the fact that I-19 from Tucson to Nogales (100km) stretch of fwy is completely in Metric, accept the speed limit signs. However, to my disappointment, I’ve read that possibly the signs, which are wearing down, since put in place during the Carter Administration, are going to be replaced in miles.
        I can’t wait to see your next blog and I too am wanting to become active somehow, to get us on the Metric System!

        Tim – Albuquerque, NM

  3. You are correct about the “less United” States of America..from this distance (Australia) you seem to be in total meltdown….
    A couple of observations…I see you share the “12” system with Myanmar…I was there last year, they drive cars like the British with the steering on the opposite side to the USA…but they drive on the same side of the road as the USA…ie. the driver sits on the curb (we spell it kerb) side of the vehicle!!!..
    I dropped my box of wrenches (we say spanners) the other day, it took 30 seconds to sort the metric sizes & half an hour to sort the 4th,8th, 16th, 32nds….there were even different systems that were both marked 1/2 inch but were different sizes…..
    It doesn’t make sense to me.
    US manufacturing is held back by the lack of modern thinking & investment, your manufacturers have found it easier to get things made in China…then complain everything coming from there…mmmm that should stir up some comment…..

    • You are correct, sir. We’d just as soon pay up or lose industry than consider SI. What absolutely boggles the mind is how a modern government of a global power can perpetuate what is, in essence an obsolete “system”. Again, it’s a money thing. We’d rather pay (according to Randy Bancrofts’ data) an average of $16 per American, PER DAY than work towards a metric America. We ARE a mess, we ARE in meltdown mode and I’m sorry to say, I’d love to see us melt down into a nasty puddle – it may cause a great enlightenment. We’re long overdue.

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