Measuring. Never the same.

Post by Lauren

Aside from the language barrier, another barrier for those living in foreign countries is measurement.


No more inches, feet, yards, pounds, miles.

Everything is by the meter, the gram, the kilo.

And after 4 months, I still haven’t adjusted to grocery shopping in terms of measurements. I shy away from the meat and cheese counters as I am not sure I’ll know exactly how much to order. In the US if something like that happened, I’d just suck it up and buy whatever I ordered. Here, if I make a mistake in meat, my two steaks could cost the equivalent of $100 USD. No kidding.

And here are some more examples of how the quirks of measurement affect our lives:

Paper. Printer paper is not the same size. It’s about halfway between the US size and a legal size. I had to chop off the bottoms of my French assignments to get them to fit into my notebook.

Printing Photos. Here are the options for printing photos on my nearest photo lab machine. If I don’t happen to carry my tape measurer with me, I am screwed.

A4 is a apparently a common size in Europe to print photos for display. I needed to submit a display photo for the women’s club exhibition. After 2 hours of attempts to get my printer to do it and taking it on memory stick to printshop twice and not being able to find the right size, eventually, I had to ask someone else to do it. Talk about feeling incompetent.

Frames. Not the same. I am learning this with art. US canvases don’t fit Swiss frames. US frames don’t fit Swiss canvases. This was surprising to me that standards would be different in this area. I spent an hour in the art store and the frame store trying to figure out which ones would match each other for my upcoming art booth.

Weights. At the gym, all the weights are in kilos, not pounds. I feel really weak here.

Distances. Of course, everything is in km. We have tricked our GPS to talk in miles so we have a better concept of when a turn is coming up since we haven’t master the kilometer. Roughly, its 3.2 miles for 5 kilos, so I sort of just divide in half. The good news is that when you see a high number, it feels much faster when you reach your destination.

Outdoor temperature. I still remember someone at the women’s club exclaiming it would be high thirties in Spain that weekend. Everyone gasped and I just looked confused and tried to calculate it. I keep my weather updates in Fahrenheit on my iPhone & laptop because even though I know the math behind it, I have am not able to quickly do the conversion enough to make a judgement in what to wear.

Cooking temperature. Our oven of course is in Celsius degrees. I just tend to double what I think it should be in Fahrenheit. Truly, the math is to multiply by 1.8 and add 32, but doubling is just simpler to me. This might be why I burn a lot of things in our oven.

Furniture. They don’t have the same bed sizes here. A coworker of Gabe’s brought their mattress and sheets and planned to buy a bed frame in Switzerland upon arrival. They couldn’t find one to match so they ended up shipping a new US double bed frame to our house before our move so we could bring it with us.

Knowing this, I ended up bringing extra sheets since it would be impossible to get them here.


One thought on “Measuring. Never the same.

  1. Thanks for sharing. And I thought everything was just blissful and beautiful. Just like here, you have to take the good with the bad. Keep coping!

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