Fol­low­ing a report find­ing that the United States cus­tom­ary sys­tem of mea­sure­ment costs the econ­omy an esti­mated $19 bil­lion every year on rela­bel­ing, con­ver­sion costs, man­u­fac­tur­ing mis­takes and trade alone, Amer­ica has decided to undergo metrication.

metric imperial rule America begins switch to the metric system

With the mas­sive global eco­nomic changes of the past 10 years, Amer­ica has found itself need­ing to work more and more in col­lab­o­ra­tion with inter­na­tional part­ners. In doing so, recent years have seen many dif­fi­cul­ties arise as a result of the met­ric / impe­r­ial divide.

Inac­cu­ra­cies due to mis­read con­ver­sions (includ­ing two fatal space mis­sions), mis­takes in man­u­fac­tur­ing, rela­bel­ing costs on an increas­ing num­ber of imported goods, and mil­lions of addi­tional daily cal­cu­la­tions in cross-border deal­ings meant that it was time to make the switch to the sys­tem that the rest of the world uses.

It came to a point where the old sys­tem was caus­ing more prob­lems than it was solv­ing. It made sense to make the switch.

In real­ity, the ini­tial changeover hasn’t affected peo­ple as much as first expected.

Peo­ple were already use the dec­i­mal sys­tem for cal­cu­lat­ing with money, so that part of the switch has been easy. Accord­ing to ini­tial reports, the three main changes that peo­ple have seen in their daily lives are in tem­per­a­ture read­ing, dri­ving and food preparation.


Tem­per­a­ture con­ver­sion from Fahren­heit to Cel­sius has tra­di­tion­ally been one of the more dif­fi­cult parts of the con­ver­sion process, but now that peo­ple mostly read the weather from their mobile device, accom­pa­nied by graph­ics which ‘show’ the tem­per­a­ture, it has made it eas­ier to adjust. For exam­ple, a fig­ure of “35°C” didn’t used to mean much to Amer­i­cans, but 35°C accom­pa­nied by a pic­ture of a blaz­ing hot sun sud­denly makes sense.


metric road sign 290x290 America begins switch to the metric systemDri­ving along a new US road, one very vis­i­ble sign of met­ric con­ver­sion has been the change in road signs. With care­ful plan­ning, almost every road sign across the U.S. was con­verted within a month. This was achieved by installing cov­ered met­ric signs beneath the cus­tom­ary signs before the change and then remov­ing the cus­tom­ary sign to uncover the met­ric sign dur­ing the month of conversion.

Broad pub­lic edu­ca­tion efforts have ensured that every­one knows about the changes.

For years now, motor car man­u­fac­tur­ers have fit­ted dual speedome­ters to their vehi­cles. Newer vehi­cles with elec­tronic speedome­ters can be changed to met­ric read­ings with the flick of a switch. Sev­eral kinds of speedome­ter con­ver­sion kits are avail­able for any older cars still on the road.

As a result of all these changes, con­ver­sion on the roads has occurred with­out major inci­dent so far.

In the kitchen

In the kitchen, those who still cook are notic­ing the change. Though really, for most peo­ple, this is only the frac­tion of peo­ple work­ing with old recipes from books. Any mod­ern recipe found online or in a recipe app will have already been auto­mat­i­cally con­verted to the new mea­sure­ments. It’s a small adjust­ment, but noth­ing peo­ple haven’t been able to handle.

Mak­ing the switch

Most peo­ple have adjusted quickly, much like Canada and Aus­tralia did when they made the switch in the 1970s. When asked about his thoughts on the changeover, a tongue-in-cheek Chuck Hughes appre­ci­ates what he calls the ‘instant weight loss’. “I used to be 220 pounds. Now I’m a slim 100 kilo­grams!” he jokes.

Dress and shoe sizes have remained at their US stan­dards and will con­tinue to do so, given there is less of a com­pelling rea­son to switch. “No woman wants to switch up from a size 12 to a 42 dress, or, worse yet, have size 38 shoes…” says retailer Deb­o­rah Simon.

Despite ini­tial resis­tance, when it came down to the polit­i­cal line and under­stand­ing that “America’s Econ­omy will ben­e­fit from Met­ric”, peo­ple got on board. It was explained well to peo­ple. The tim­ing was right. And with a flag­ging econ­omy, it has made sense to make the switch.


Photo cred­its: Josep Ma. RosellNils Geylen