Back in January, when a good part of the US, including my hometown of Buffalo, New York, was in the grips of the now infamous Polar Vortex, I tried to explain to a couple of co-workers exactly how cold it was back home. But it was like we were speaking two different languages – fahrenheit and celsius. When I spoke of wind chills of -35º F instead of looks of shock and awe, I was met with blank stares. “So, what’s that in celsius?” they asked. Yeah, I have no idea.
Since moving to Dublin, I have attempted to switch my thinking with a number of things. With the euro, I made the switch fairly easily. After a couple weeks, I no longer converted the cost of things to American dollars. My mind made the transition with relative ease. But measurements, of weight, temperature, distance, etc., have been more challenging. I feel like my brain is just wired to think of things in one way and making the switch is easier said than done.
I struggle with the notion of celsius as a measure of temperature on a nearly daily basis as I try to figure out what the ever-changing Dublin weather is going to be on any given day. One would think that after nearly a year and a half of living here, when the weatherman on the telly says it’s going to be a windy 12º, I would know at least generally what that means. But I don’t.
When it comes to celsius my brain just doesn’t get it. I know that 0º C is 32º F – that one is easy. I also remember that 28º C is the inverse in fahrenheit, 82º. But this is rather useless because, let’s face it, the chances of it ever getting that hot in Dublin are pretty minimal. And I did come across a rather interesting tidbit as I was researching how cold the polar vortex was in celsius: -48º C and -48º F are the exact same temperature. Mind. Blown.
Weight has also been a struggle for me, though not as bad a slog as I’ve had with temperature. Foods and such are measured in kilograms, grams and milliliters rather than pounds, cups and ounces. After a few mess-ups at the grocery – I wanted to buy 2 pounds of beef and ended up bringing home nearly an entire cow – my brain is slowly making the transition.
But then things all go to hell when I try to understand weight in reference to a person’s weight. One would think that would be in kilograms, right? And sometimes it is. But there is also this thing called a stone, which is equal to fourteen pounds. More often than not, a person will give their weight in stones and pounds. So, someone who weighs 145 pounds over here weighs 10 stone, 5 pounds. I think. I don’t get this stone thing. I don’t see why it’s necessary. Pounds, fine. Kilograms, fine. But throwing stones into the mix seems overly complicated and just adds to my confusion.
I don’t deal in distance very often because I don’t drive and that is probably a good thing because the whole kilometer versus mile debate does not seem to be completely settled here in Ireland. By my understanding, distance signs have only been listed in kilometers since the early 1990s and until 2005, speed limits were posted in miles per hour. As a result, a lot of people still talk about distances in miles, except for those who talk about it in kilometers. Again, it’s probably good that I don’t drive so I don’t really need to care about this one too much.
I am not sure that I will ever become “fluent” in these measurements, that my brain will ever think in celsius or kilos. Will I always have to do the math in my head or run to the widget on my desktop? I suppose only time will tell. And time, thankfully, is measured the same way here as it is back home.