I was and still am used to thinking about the world in terms of meters, centimeters, grams and kilograms. Even though I had to memorize the conversion system when I was preparing for my SAT, I quickly forgot it because it felt very unnatural to me. So, in my first year in the U.S., every time I encountered inches, miles, pounds, and ounces, I was lost.
Of course, you can always do the conversion online or on your phone, but after a year in the States, I developed my own system of approximation that I can keep in my mind without any effort whatsoever.
Probably because I am a shopaholic, it was easy for me to think in terms of clothes. I learned that the ideal length for a dress I would wear to go out is 32 inches and the normal length of a dress I would wear to school is 35 inches. I also realized that my favorite pair of shoes has a 5 1/2 inch platform and my favorite pair of boots has a 5 inch heel. Now I can imagine what 10 inches looks like with no hesitation – it’s just the size of two of my boot heels put together.
When I heard on the news the other day that the snowstorm brought 32 inches of snow in Massachusetts and 38 inches of snow in Connecticut, I could easily imagine what that looked like.
When I need to quickly imagine a particular number of ounces, I think of cosmetics. I know that my favorite perfume is exactly 1 ounce. I also know that a big bottle of my favorite shampoo is 15 ounces.
For miles, I remember that the distance between New York and Philadelphia is about 80 miles, the distance between Boston and New York is about twice of that – 190 miles, and the distance between New York and Los Angeles is about 2,450 miles. For smaller approximations, I know that my favorite nail salon is about 10 miles from where I live.
One thing I’m still struggling with is converting Fahrenheit into Celsius. After living in New England for about 2 years, I know what, for example, 25 degrees of Fahrenheit feels like. However, when, for example, someone says that they are probably sick because their body temperature is close to 100 degrees of Fahrenheit, I have no idea how much this body temperature deviates from the normal one, even though I know that it does.
What are some of the creative ways YOU came up with to deal with the U.S. system of measuring?