Monday, August 18, 2008

Moving to Sweden – The Metric System and You

It’s been quite a while since I wrote an installment in my riveting Moving to Sweden series. I’m sure you all remember classics such as:
Moving to Sweden – What to Bring
Moving to Sweden – The Swedish Language
Moving to Sweden – Finding a Place to Live
Moving to Sweden – Getting a Cell Phone
Moving to Sweden – Getting from the Airport to Stockholm City
Moving to Sweden – The Weather
Moving to Sweden – Swedish Citizenship Test
Moving to Sweden – Public Holidays
Moving to Sweden – Finding a Job
Moving to Sweden – Culture Shock: It's the Little Things
Moving to Sweden – Making Friends
Moving to Sweden – Cost of Living
Moving to Sweden – The Laundry Room
Moving to Sweden – Marijuana
Moving to Sweden – Most Common Jobs and Salaries

Now it’s time for Moving to Sweden – The Metric System and You.

If you’re coming from just about any country in the world, this post is absolutely worthless to you. If you are coming from the US, the post will be like gold to you. The United States is one of only a few countries in the entire world that doesn’t use the metric system. It’s that American independent streak. Or something like that. Honestly, I think it’s pretty ridiculous. The metric system, once you get used to using it, actually makes a lot of sense. Very logical and easy to use. And you don’t have to use multiples of 12, which, regardless of your math skills, just aren’t as easy as multiples of 10.

The metric system makes its way into everything. Instead of miles get used to kilometers. Except for the Swedish “mil” which is equal to 10 km. When driving, don’t be discouraged when you see that its 545 to Helsingborg. It’s only 545 km, a cool 338.65 miles. No problem at all.

So what follows is just going to be a bunch of conversions that could come in handy. Square meters to square feet for example when finding a place to live. Kilometers to miles when exploring the country. Gallons to liters after having filled up your tank while exploring the country. Tablespoon to milliliters for the bakers out there. You get the idea.

So here it goes:
One (1) square foot is equal to 0.09290304 square meters
One (1) acre is equal to 4046.8564224 square meters
One (1) acre is also equal to 0.404685642 hectares
One (1) square mile is equal to 2.589988110336 square kilometers

One (1) inch is equal to 2.54 centimeters
One (1) foot is equal to 0.3048 meters
One (1) yard is equal to 0.9144 meters
One (1) mile is equal to 1.609344 kilometers

One third (1/3) ounce is equal to 9.44984104 grams
One half (1/2) ounce is equal to 14.1747616 grams
One (1) ounce is equal to 28.3495231 grams
One (1) pound is equal to 453.59237 grams
One (1) pound is also equal to 0.45359237 kilos
One (1) ton is equal to 0.90718474 metric ton

One (1) fluid ounce is equal to 29.5735296 milliliters
One (1) quart is equal to 0.946352946 liters
One (1) gallon is equal to 3.78541178 liters

One (1) teaspoon is equal to 4.92892159 milliliters
One (1) Tablespoon is equal to 14.7867648 milliliters
One quarter (1/4) cup is equal to 59.1470591 milliliters
One half (1/2) cup is equal to 118.294118 milliliters
Three quarters (3/4) cup is equal to 177.441177 milliliters
One (1) cup is equal to 236.588237 milliliters

And not only does the US not use the metric system, but we prefer Fahrenheit to Celsius. The easiest way is just to double the Celsius number and add 32. Or subtract 32 from the Fahrenheit number and halve. Easy enough. But here are a few good markers just in case:
100 °F is equal to 37.78 °C (if we use the trick you’ll see we get 34 °C. Not right on, but not too bad really)
90 °F is equal to 32.22 °C
80 °F is equal to 26.67 °C
70 °F is equal to 21.11 °C
60 °F is equal to 15.56 °C
50 °F is equal to 10 °C
40 °F is equal to 4.44 °C
32 °F is equal to 0 °C
20 °F is equal to -6.67 °C
10 °F is equal to -12.22 °C
0 °F is equal to -17.78°C
-10 °F is equal to -23.33 °C
-20 °F is equal to -28.89 °C

So feel free to come back to this whenever you want. But of course you can always use good old Google or a Metric Conversion Table or a Baking Conversion Table. Just type in whatever you want to convert to whatever you want it converted to. For example, “5 km to miles” and Google will spit out “5 kilometers = 3.10685596 miles.”

In time you’ll figure it all out. Of course you’ll have moments when you are driving and cursing at the distance you still have to travel only to realize you’re working with kilometers not miles. So good luck, in the land of the metric system.

Welcome to Sweden. Not the most exciting post, but you’ll appreciate it when you get here.

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  1. "The metric system is the tool of the devil! My car gets forty rods to the hogshead and that's the way I likes it."

  2. I don't know what's the logic behind Fahrenheits, but the Swedish Celsius created his thermometer scale based on water. 0 degrees when water freezes (turns to ice) and 100 degrees when it boils (turns to steam). Simple as that! I wonder how many knew that, even in Sweden?

    1. "I wonder how many knew that, even in sweden?" sorry, but everyone knows that, even my 7 year old brother... Im swedish

  3. "I wonder how many knew that, even in Sweden"

    Like everyone, about farenheit i dont really remember but i think it was something about the lowest temperature you could reach by your own(by human hands, when it was made)

    You learned stuff like that in elementary.

  4. Tho i know for a fact that most swedes got no clue how to translate to american measurements. So this list will help swedes aswell and work both ways :) If anyone need.

  5. @john - some classic simpsons I believe.

    @smek - oooh oooh, I knew that! but Im glad you mentioned it. I definitely should have thrown that into my post. good work smek.

    I do not however have any idea about the logic behind fahrenheit.

    @anonymous - that sounds good to me. Im sure I learned that sort of thing way back when but some things just dont really stick.

    @anonymous - glad to hear that this will go both ways.

  6. Nowadays, whenever I hear something about fahrenheit, punds or miles on a tv/radio show, I hit pause and start iconvert on my iphone to convert those weird measurements. Life just became a little easier...

  7. Don't forget the square feet to square meters conversion! Helpful when trying to find a place to live - a connection to your earlier post.

  8. @mattias - gotta love technology

    @anonymous - it's on there. first one on the list in fact. because youre exactly right. thats the sort of thing you need to know when finding a place to live.

  9. How did you spend your summer anyway? In bohuslän, skåne, east coast?

  10. hehehe...this reminds me of that trivial error which caused the Mars Climate Orbiter in '98 to crash and burn into Mars atmosphere.

    Problem was the software controlling the thrusters were written using pound-force while the thrusters were expecting units in Newton (metric derived unit of force). 1 pound-force=4.45 newtons so when the ground control at NASA instructed orbiter to approach Mars, they had no idea they were underestimating the force of thrusts hence the orbiter veered off course and entered a much lower orbit.

    Orbiter and lander: $193.1 million
    Launch costs: $91.7 million
    Mission operations: $42.8 million
    Rocket scientists forgetting to convert their units: Priceless

  11. @mogli - clearly NASA needs to be reading my blog.

  12. This is how good old Gabe (German living in Amsterdam)came up with the 32 to 212 of his scale.

    According to Fahrenheit himself in an article he wrote in 1724,[1] he determined his scale by reference to three fixed points of temperature. The zero point is determined by placing the thermometer in a mixture of ice, water, and ammonium chloride, a salt. This is a type of frigorific mixture. The mixture automatically stabilizes its temperature at 0 °F. He then put an alcohol or mercury thermometer into the mixture and let the liquid in the thermometer descend to its lowest point. The second point is the 32nd degree found by putting the thermometer in still water as ice is just forming on the surface.[2] His third point, the 96th degree, was the level of the liquid in the thermometer when held in the mouth or under the armpit. Fahrenheit noted that, using this scale, mercury boils at around 600 degrees. Later work by other scientists observed that water boils about 180 degrees higher than the freezing point and decided to redefine the degree slightly to make it exactly 180 degrees higher[1]. It is for this reason that normal body temperature is 98.6 on the revised scale (whereas it was 96 on Fahrenheit's original scale).

  13. In your list of conversions, the most important one for the temperature is missing...

    -40F is -40C and vice versa.

    I stayed in Greenland (not Iceland) during the winter months and it was always exciting when the temperature hit -40. -40 is the magic number. I never had to ask my Danish pals to convert that number to F from C. Nor did I have to do it for them from C to F.

  14. good catch. that magical number when the two temperatures overlap.

  15. I lived in Canada when they switched. It was pretty painless. For example, they put up both MPH and km/h signs for a while, then took down the MPH signs.

    You simply become use to the two systems. I can instinctively work in both except cost of petrol per litre. It costs the same to fill the car either way and never got used to it. :)


  16. a good point. I actually had to ask my old man to convert square feet to square meters just about a week ago so I could figure out the size of something.

    apparently I cant handle working in both. yet. but Ill get there.

  17. This should help with converting :)

  18. How about just learning the metric system and then use it, and you can say goodbye to conversion hell? What's up with your units? Gallons, Farenheits, pounds, miles, feet... How can you possibly convert in your head between various non-metric units?

    In the rest of the world it is easy. For example, one liter of water weighs one kilogram and has the dimensions of a cube with the side one decimeter. Deci, centi, milli, micro, nano, pico, etc., and deka, hekto, kilo, mega, gia, tera, and so on to get the number of zeroes. One cubic meter of water has the side one meter and weighs one ton.

    Before you have understood that and how simple and convenient the metric system is and how the units all connect, then you are missing the point with the metric system. It is much simpler than the multitude of odd-ball units used in the U.S.

    Water freezes at zero Celsius and boils at 100. Even your paper size differs from the rest of the world... You favor "letter size" while just about every other country on the planet uses A4. Why? An A0 paper has the area one square meter. Fold it once and you get an A1, fold it again, and you get an A2, and so on. Simple, logical, and international standard.

    U.S. units have no meaning in relation to other units. With the metric system, one can figure out in one's head the approximate weight or volume of water if one knows the dimensions.

  19. I won't argue with that. The metric system makes sense. But I still have to check back here sometimes to covnert things.

  20. I know it's an old post from you, but I've only recently came across your blog.

    I'm Dutch, my wife's American, we moved to Sweden. Oh joy. To make my wife understand metric, and make me understand American, we use

    As they say on their website: "Convert just about anything to anything else". And sofar, it has ;-)

    Oh, and the Swedish "mil" thing - which they very conveniently translate into "miles" when speaking English - got me really confused first time around. Asking for directions, a gas attendant assured me something was a mere 5 miles away. Knowing some American measurements, that didn't sound too bad... only about 8 km.

    After 10 km of not having found what I was looking for, I pulled into the next gasstation. Where they assured me it was only 4 miles down the road. Only then I had the brilliant idea to ask how much the guy thought a mile actually was. "Ah, I mean a SWEDISH mile, or 10 kilometers."

    Welcome to Sweden.

  21. oooh a good link.

    The mil thing is tricky.

    My problem is when I go back to the US. I see the mile markers and think it is in km and it always ends up being so much farther than expected.

  22. Hmm haha when I am in the US, I have the opposite problem because I am used to the metric system.

    I do get a quick feel for Fahrenheit. However the distances and miles are harder. =)

  23. I know this is an old post, but if you have access to a computer but not the Internet; this might be of interest:

  24. @Michelle - strangely enough, I've managed to have the same problem going back to the US. now it seems Im just completely confused.

    @Anonymous - good call.

  25. I recall some time circa 70's or early 80's when they tried to push the metric system on us in school in the US.

    I also recall reading something around the true reason it didn't stick here in the US. The cost for all of the companies (especially around manufacturing, etc...) to re-tool everything (machinery and all its individual parts, tools to build and fix them, machinery that makes machinery... automotive... and so on)... was just too great. Makes sense.

    But c'mon - with very little of anything being actually made in the US now, and it all being computerized... it's time!


  26. it is a whole lot more logical...

  27. Just a funny little fact about the Celcius scale.

    Anders Celsius wanted the 0°C to mark when water boils, and the 100°C to mark when water freezes.

    The scale was reversed after his death.


  28. What you really need, isn't conversions like these, with decimal places. What you need is rules of thumb. There's a couple:

    A square meter is about 10 square feet.
    An inch is about 2,5 centimeters.
    There are about three feet in a meter.
    A pound is about half a kilo.
    A gallon is about 4 liters.
    A mile is about 1,6 kilometers; or 1,5 if you want to make the conversion easier.
    I have no idea how to convert Fahrenheit to Celsius, though.

    I know these aren't correct, but they're good for ballpark estimates, which is what you really need.

  29. good call, makes life pretty easy with those.

    the trick for Fahrenheit to Celsius is to subtract 32 and then halve it.

  30. All of the metric system is based on water, not just the Celsius degrees.

    1 litre of water weighs 1 kilo.
    1 Litre is 1 cubic decimetre.
    1 Joule is the energy it takes to heat 1 litre of water 1 degree Celsius.

    During the French revolution there was also a metric calendar with:
    ten months, ten-day week, ten hours per day, hundred minutes per hour, hundred seconds per minute. But that didnt stick.

  31. I think Im ok with the metric calendar not sticking.

  32. Does Canada still use miles per hour and miles for distance?

    I recall Canada being similar to the USA in that regard while also using C for temps.

  33. Wikipedia says they use kilometers per hour. They switched in 1977. And Wikipedia would never lie.