Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > Europe
Reload this Page >

Informal poll: Fahrenheit & miles or metric system?

Informal poll: Fahrenheit & miles or metric system?

Old Jul 11th, 2006, 10:58 AM
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jun 2003
Posts: 23,824
Likes: 0
Received 6 Likes on 1 Post
Informal poll: Fahrenheit & miles or metric system?

I've noticed that some people here, in their replies, go out of their way to convert "European" temperatures to Fahrenheit and "European" distances to miles... and, of course, euros or whatever to US dollars. I'm just wondering how many travelers really need this and if it is helpful to them, since they will no longer automatically receive the converted information once they have begun their trip. In my replies, I almost always give celsius, metric, and euro amounts unless there is some specific reason for doing otherwise. What do people asking questions prefer, or do you not care?
kerouac is offline  
Old Jul 11th, 2006, 11:08 AM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 19,000
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Since many of the questions posted here are from first-time travelers, I think answering them in familiar units provides a more accessible response. The poster can acclimate to the translation issues as s/he gets deeper into researching the trip.

To say to a typical untraveled American that the Paris temperature in July can get up to 40 simply adds a layer of confusion to an already confusing topic.

Having said that, I prefer giving most prices in indigenous currencies because fluctuating exchange rates would have the effect of the answer changing if I posted in USD.

Aside: Google will be glad to perform any unit conversion you can imagine. Simply type the problem in the blank and press &quot;Google Search,&quot; <i>e.g.</i>

<b>186000 miles per second in furlongs per fortnight</b>
Robespierre is offline  
Old Jul 11th, 2006, 11:28 AM
  #3  
 
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 467
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
It denotes the very US flavour of this site. After all there are only 4 non metric (at least officially) countries left in the world : USA, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Liberia (and the liberian government has announced a plan to go metric in the next years)
norween is offline  
Old Jul 11th, 2006, 11:29 AM
  #4  
 
Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 19,419
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I had a culture shock in USA! Try to understand 45F is freesing, not baking hot as 45C! Sure, translation is needed!

Yesterday watching something on TV I said, this mountain is 14,000. My hubby said, no, can't be! when I said it's 14,000 feet not meters, he said: Oh! I see.

As for information on this board... if we don't understand, we ask, don't we
FainaAgain is offline  
Old Jul 11th, 2006, 12:28 PM
  #5  
 
Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 5,473
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
One of the great things about Americans is that we are much more likely to put a thumb in the eye of their government elites than our European cousins. We certainly said a loud &quot;No!&quot; to the government elites when they tried to foist the metric system down our throats in the 70s. Perhaps the world should adapt to yards, feet, inches, pounds, Fahrenheit and, of course, English.
GeorgeW is offline  
Old Jul 11th, 2006, 12:44 PM
  #6  
 
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 6,159
Likes: 0
Received 1 Like on 1 Post
Yes, but George, you are never going to get anywhere with a currency based on decimel. I suggest you advocate some form of arcane currency divisible by 12, except for Dollars which should be in multiples of 20.

Having been taught both metric and imperial, I far prefer the former. I know a mile eas originally metric (I believe it was based on 1000 paces of a Roman legion), but dividing Miles into Yards, then feet, then inches makes very little sense to me.
willit is offline  
Old Jul 11th, 2006, 12:46 PM
  #7  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 5,271
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
People should want what is easiest..

What is easier?

5,280 feet is 1 mile

1000 meters is 1 km

Covwert 7 miles to feet? (Need a calculator...the answer if you care is 36,960 feet

Covert 3 km to meters...easy 3000 meters (move the decimal 3 places to the right)...

Which makes more sense...

Water freezes at 32 degrees F

Water freezes at 0 degrees C

The role of government, sometimes, is to take an unpopular stand if it is to the benefit of the public as a whole.

Where the USA goes wrong is that people do travel and its failure to join the 21st century on such things as measurement puts the citizens of this country at a distinct disadvantage when travelling.

The time has, of course come....

Look Europe just went through a revolution in its currency...learning to count and think in terms of euro rather than marks or francs or escudos or shillings everybody though would be very difficult and would take 6 months...in 2 weeks it was done for better or for worse.

Yes there would be some grumbling from some people if the USA ever did the right thing and went on the metric and celsius scales like 99% of the rest of the world...it would last about 2 weeks and then people would understand what an advantage it is to use modern 21st century measurements rather than those of the 14th century.

The same thing is true, by the way, of another pet peeve of mine. The USA is the only country left with paper money for an amount as insignificant as $1...the Treasury has estimated millions could be saved by replacing the $1 bill by a coin that looks like a $1 coin (there is nothing like a British &pound;1 coin, it is impossible to confuse it with any other coin thanks to its thickness)....but supposedly Congress is bowing to the &quot;will of the people.&quot; The time has come...it was done in Canada, Australia, Britain and Euro countries and nobody died because of it....if the USA did it, sure for about a week there would be grumbling but once it was done, it would be done and people would have to worry about something else.

But in some respects such as these perhaps insignificant things, the USA simply refuses to enter the 21st century.
xyz123 is offline  
Old Jul 11th, 2006, 12:50 PM
  #8  
 
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 5,641
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Or take the European time - 8:15 pm is 20:15 and though that would seem easy to digest inevitably when i tell an American the train's at 20:15 they dubiously repeat you mean 8:15pm?
And though Europeans, or at least French, often say the same - using 8 heures for 20:00 i think anyone going to Europe should be able to easily understand the military type time used there. After all it's not rocket science! Well nearly 5 o'clock, time to punch out.
PalQ is offline  
Old Jul 11th, 2006, 12:57 PM
  #9  
 
Join Date: Aug 2004
Posts: 4,666
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
i think your question is trying to make a statement. i don't know how many responses &quot;go out of their way&quot; to convert things to fahrenheit or miles. i don't have the stats but i would say that the vast majority of posters here are from the US or the UK....both of which use miles. Fahrenheit is, of course, not primarily used in the UK but weather reports (e.g. bbc) will often give the temp in both units...we are comfortable with either. therefore, it is no bother to us and we aren't going out of our way. likewise, most of the world (and certainly those of us in the UK) is well aware of the basic value of the US dollar as compared to the pound or euro. since i don't usually easily remember the value of currencies outside of the pound, euro or US dollar, i more easily understand if these are quoted in US dollar than in, say, danish kroner. but really, any would do...no big issue.

for work i very often deal with people all over the world and the main thing is to communicate in a way that is most understood by all. i really don't give a if someone speaks to me in dollar, metre, mile, euro, kg, etc. all of these make sense to me and i don't fret or make an issue over what someone is using. how many questions are there from an american asking for a london hotel under $300...i can instantly convert this to about &pound;160 in my head and i don't even think to make an issue with the poster that we use &pound; in the UK. and if i did think about it, out of courtesy to the poster, i would convert to USD or euro if that is how the original question were asked.
walkinaround is offline  
Old Jul 11th, 2006, 12:59 PM
  #10  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jun 2003
Posts: 23,824
Likes: 0
Received 6 Likes on 1 Post
Anyway, one of the reasons that I keep answering in metric is that it sounds patronizing to me if you convert everything for Americans (of which I am one) -- as though they were mentally handicapped and unable to grasp a different system. On the other hand, I have not seen much of an effort in the U.S. to make things understandable for the rest of the world, except for the luminous temperature clocks in front of banks and stuff, which give the temperature in both F and C.
kerouac is offline  
Old Jul 11th, 2006, 01:03 PM
  #11  
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 1,421
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I guess in terms of measurements I am bilingual (I speak two languages, as well). The early part of my college education was all in the metric system. The chemistry and physics profs told us that intelligent live is not possible in the American system. However, when I got to the upper level engineering courses I found that our system worked just fine. Oh, yes. There are a few more conversions, but the back of each of my textbooks is filled with conversion factors, even those in the French (metric) system.

Most recently I have worked in the medical industry, which is all done in the French system, so I have gotten used to going back and forth.

The most common measurement made by the average person is time. &quot;I have to be there at 10:22; it's 8:47 now. How much time do I have?&quot; I am much more likely to need to know that than to know how many feet in 7 miles. Very few people carry around a balance scale. Only geeks carry a measuring scale in their shirt pocket. But almost everyone wears a watch. Time is our most important measurement. And yet the basic unit in time is 60 (or is it 24). All systems use this flawed system of time measurement.

Since ALL the measuring systems are flawed, they should be chucked, and we should start over with a base 10 time system. Then, how about basing our length measurement on the standard gravitational accelleration - something meaningful - not 1/10,000,000th of the distance from the No. pole to the equator on the meridian that goes though Paris. (Try measuring that and then dividing it in 10 millionths.)

Better yet, let's use a numbering system based on a power of 2, like 8. It is much easier and more accurate to divide something in 2, three times, then it is to divide it by 10.

But that's what we do in the American system. We divide inches into halves, and then fourths, then 8ths. We measure volume in gallons, then 1/4 gallons (quarts), then 1/2 quarts (pints), then 1/2 pints (cups), then tablespoons (1/16th cup). See, we are the ones on the right track.

Basically, there are two systems. It's not the number of countries using one or the other, it's the fact that one third of the world economy uses the American system. Live with it.
Larryincolorado is offline  
Old Jul 11th, 2006, 01:04 PM
  #12  
 
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 5,641
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Whether C or F in temp is largely irrelevant to Americans or europeans as it's just as easy to comprehend what you've been brought up with.
But metrics just make so much sense in many ways in distances and measures - why the heck do we still, about the only country now in the world that the UK has become metric, have inches, feet, yards, etc. It's confusing to young kids who have to learn it and to anyone who has to convert pints into gallons, etc. So metric just makes sense.
PalQ is offline  
Old Jul 11th, 2006, 01:09 PM
  #13  
rex
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 13,194
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
When asked to help find weather info, I often refer questioners to www.worldbase.com - - based in Virginia, it expresses all weather data in degrees F (and inches, for precipitation). Since it is the proprietary development of a small internet consulting firm (they say that their business model is &quot;to develop strategic vertical products to fill important and underdeveloped niches on the Internet&quot, presumably, they perceive their only possible customer base as American. Wonder if they are right. I also wonder if their data will ever get (need to be?) updated. After all, historical averages should be trustworthy for at least the next few dozen centuries.

For distances, I try to refer questioners to the sites mappy.com or viamichelin.com rather than quote an answer in actual numbers.

But the question that kerouac asks really begs another question, in my mind... why <i>is</i> this web site so predominantly populated by travelers and would-be travelers from North America (and to a lesser extent, Europe)? This is on my mind partly because I am just starting &quot;The World is Flat&quot; by Thomas Friedman - - and I have to wonder, isn't there any population of rising (upper) middle class world travelers from Asia (especially India, where those &quot;yuppies&quot; would be highly English- and internet-literate)? Does Europe just not appeal to the aspiring executives of Bangalore? Or is Europe travel still way too expensive for more than a handful of Indians, or Koreans? Or is idly chatting with strangers on message boards not really making its way into affluent households of the Pacific rim? After all, there are 3 billion Asians, and only 300 million Americans.

I'm guessing that at least 3 million Americans at least contemplate travel to Europe in any given decade, and surely at least 10% of those would gravitate to the internet to find a web site like this. Are the numbers of prospective Europe travelers from Asia really that much tinier? Or are there Japanses language web sites like this one where they share travel info?

Oh... the questions that ping pong through my brain, at times, huh?



Best wishes,

Rex
rex is offline  
Old Jul 11th, 2006, 01:12 PM
  #14  
 
Join Date: Aug 2004
Posts: 4,666
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
xyz...

first, i'm not from the US and i really don't care what units they use.

however, i do find it funny that american europhiles love to talk about the &quot;silly&quot; things done in the US, yet they embrace all the &quot;silly&quot; european habits as precious characteristics of the culture that must be cherished. they say things like &quot;the rest of the world does X so why can't the US&quot;

to me, the whole thing is hypocritical and belies a strange misunderstanding of the world. by your same argument, everyone should speak english because it is the most widely spoken language (by geographical dispersion), here in the UK, we should drive on the right because most of the rest of the world does. a europhile would never suggest such things...it would be blasphemy.

it's just very interesting to me that american europhiles are so quick to embrace all differences around the world as sacred cultural characteristics yet anything done differently at home is disparaged.
walkinaround is offline  
Old Jul 11th, 2006, 01:18 PM
  #15  
 
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 5,641
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Strange then that the Brits recoil so much at the mention of the Brussels Beaucrats, europhiles who they feel are threatening their lifestyle and culture through innumerable EU rulings they seek to enforce in each country. On my annual trips to Britain i inevitably see a headline screaming from a tabloid about the lunacy of Brusselscrats and their rulings!
PalQ is offline  
Old Jul 11th, 2006, 01:20 PM
  #16  
 
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 5,641
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
One such tabloid headline &quot;Up Yours Delors&quot; is forever etched in my mind!
PalQ is offline  
Old Jul 11th, 2006, 01:37 PM
  #17  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 5,271
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
walkinaround..

It has nothing to do with being a Europhile or whatever...it's which is easier to use and understand and makes more sense...

Our entire number system is based on 10...it's far easier to understand as I noted that 1000 meters is 1 kilometer (kilo of course means a thousand) than to convert using imperial units...the fact the rest of the world does it is helpful in that matter too but not the prime reason I think it should be done...

My only frame of reference to this is the first time I visited England as a student in 1971...two months after d day (decimal day)...I don't know if some of our English friends on this board remember....1 pound is 20 shliings, 1 shilling is 12 pennies and how much change should one get from a 5 pound bank note for something costing 3 pounds, 5 shilling 6 pence....(I couldn't tell you how that would have been stated...I also have been able to figure out that a bob is a shilling and quid is a pound but please don't ask me what a guinea is (or a stone in weights)....sometime in April 1971, the government of the UK decreed the currency would be decimalized...not because they wanted to be like everybody else but because it was simpler for people to understand...there was cussing and screaming and whatever...April came and went and within 2 weeks it was done and everybody realized how preferable the new system was..

Sometimes there are things America can pick up from others....it's the attitude that we live in our own little corner of the workd that sometimes gets in the way of this...

Is converting to the same systems of weights and measures the most important thing in the world? Probably not but it sure would make things easier for everybody and the point is that I understand that many don't want to do it and expect the government to follow through on what they want but my point is that if something is the right thing to do, it is the role of government, sometimes, to move in the right direction.

Our friends in Canada have managed to do all this and slowly the UK is doing this, the home of the imperial measurements, Australia has done this, why shouldn't the USA if it is a more efficient easier to understand system of measurement not to become more like Europe and the rest of the world but to make things easier for our own citizens and yes to make people better able to adapt when travelling as this is a travel board.

But it's not meant anti anything or anybody...there are certainly much more important issues regarding globalization that have to be discussed.
xyz123 is offline  
Old Jul 11th, 2006, 01:51 PM
  #18  
 
Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 5,473
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Good comeback, xyz123, however I love little deviations, colloquialisms, local and national traditions and the like. Although it is not used here in America, I like the British weight term of stone, which is 14 of our pounds. Fifteen stone sounds so much better than 200 + pounds, doesn't it? Countries like Italy, Germany, Holland and the like lost much of their national identities when they scrapped their currencies for the Euro. I praise my Canadian friends for proudly retaining their Canadian dollar.

In the end, we must remember that the Metric system is the &quot;flower&quot; of the Age of Reason, which provided us with such horrors as the French Revolution, the Age of Terror and the Napoleonic Age.
GeorgeW is offline  
Old Jul 11th, 2006, 01:59 PM
  #19  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 9,641
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
In the UK, things seem permanently confused. Neighbors will tell me that such and such is x number of miles away, and their car gets x amount of miles per gallon, but petrol (gas) is sold in liters. And while the weather reports officially give temps in Celsius, the presenters usually say what that is in Fahrenheit as well. So the UK is inclusive...something for everybody
I swing both ways. Some things, like ski lengths, I know only in centimeters because they've been measured that way (even in the U.S.) as far back as I can remember. With temps, I may not know instantly what 32 degrees C means exactly in Fahrenheit, but I do know it's hot.
Anyway, for women, switching back and forth should come easy. We have to know what our clothing size is in the US; in the UK; in France &amp; Italy; in Germany, Austria and Belgium; and variations among individual designers. If you can keep all that straight, then jumping between Celsius and Fahrenheit becomes a piece of cake!
P.S. Even European airlines still grant FF awards in miles, not kilometers.
BTilke is offline  
Old Jul 11th, 2006, 02:20 PM
  #20  
 
Join Date: Feb 2005
Posts: 9,016
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Germany got metric over 100 years ago, yet words like &quot;Zollstock&quot; are used for folding rulers. &quot;Zoll&quot; is german for &quot;inch&quot;, same measure just treally old..., Inch screws are &quot;z&ouml;llige&quot; screws. 12h and 24h clocks are used at the same time whithout anybody ever complaining about it.
logos999 is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Manage Preferences Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Your Privacy Choices -