Easy Guide to Celsius and the Metric System for Americans – Frenchly


There are a lot of things about traveling to or moving to a new country that take some getting used to. You might have to learn a new language, adjust to different cultural practices, or physically and emotionally prepare for a new climate. The last thing you want to waste time on is frantically googling conversions, all because the American education system taught you a series of metrics not used anywhere else in the world. So here’s a little cheat sheet to save you from running back and forth to your apartment in the morning because you can’t decide if you need a jacket or not.
As long as you can remember that zero is freezing, the rest is easy:
If it’s below 10, a warm coat is your friend.
If it’s above 15, bring out the sunscreen.
Anything over 20 means short sleeves and sunny.
When you get to 30, you’ll start getting thirsty.
If it’s near 35, find a deep pool and dive.
But sometimes you’re not the only thing cooking. For some notes on oven temperatures, use our nifty chart below.
Meters are an easy metric for Americans to visualize, because a meter is 3.28 feet, or about a yard. While Americans got used to standing six feet apart during confinement, Europeans were told to maintain a roughly equivalent distance of two meters. 
Kilometers are also not so intimidating once you realize that one kilometer is 0.62 miles, or a little more than half a mile. So if you’re being blindly led by your friend to the next bar, and they tell you it’s only 2 km away, be prepared to walk about a mile, a little more than 20 minutes. That is, if you don’t get lost.
Measuring in centimeters? Piece of cake. One inch is approximately 2.5 centimeters, so 30 cm is approximately equal to one foot. To approximate an inch, you’d use the top knuckle on your thumb to your thumb tip. For a centimeter, the width of a pencil will do.
Something you might have a more difficult time wrapping your head around are conversions of square meters to square feet. For this chart, we’ve taken standard Parisian apartment sizes to give you an idea of how much space you’ll need. As a rule of thumb, tack an extra zero at the end to get your estimate.
Catherine Rickman is a writer and professional francophile who has lived in Paris, New York, and Berlin. She is currently road tripping around Europe, and you can follow her adventures on Instagram @catrickman.
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