Ask most people why they don't use metric measurements and the usual response will be, "I don't understand metric", "it's too complicated" or "I'm too old to start using it". But you don't have to follow the old ways.
The metric system is very easy to learn and understand (see Basics and Benefits of the Metric System).
The main reason that
most people don't use metric measurements is that they don't think in
There are several reasons why Britain has been slow to adopt "metric thinking":
Resistance to Change
Britons have traditionally been resistant to change and it takes some time (often many years) to replace a familiar system with a new one; even if the new system offers significant benefits. It is perceived that somehow we would be destroying part of our heritage if we were to abandon our 'traditional' imperial measurements, even though most of the imperial measurements originated from outside the UK.
Although children are taught the metric system in school (and have been for over 30 years), at home they see and hear parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters using only imperial measurements in everyday situations.
Whilst the UK government has introduced more legislation relating to metrication, it has provided little or no consumer education regarding the changes. Contrast this with the changeover to decimal currency in the early 1970s when there was widespread public information regarding the changeover from the old pounds, shillings and pence.
Most shops that sell goods by weight or length must, by law, display measurements in metric sizes. However many, retailers continue to display imperial equivalents alongside. Although this is seen as being helpful or "customer friendly" (and in some cases to make goods appear cheaper), it simply reinforces the dependence on imperial measurements and the reluctance of consumers to learn the metric system.
It is unfortunate that some use the changeover to metric for their own political gain, saying that it is due to the European Union that we must change over to metric. Not so, as every country in the world except the USA now predominantly uses metric, including all British Commonwealth countries.
A very good reason for the UK to complete its changeover to go metric is to align itself with the rest of the world. Whether or not the UK is a part of the EU, it would still be necessary to use metric to trade with every other country in the world (especially as the USA does not even use the same imperial units as the UK does).
The process of converting Britain's
weights and measures to the metric system is generally considered to have
started in 1965 and was due to be completed by 1975. But even today, Britain's
measurement system is still in a state of confusion and muddle. For further
information on the mess that Britain has today in its measurements, please
read a copy of "A Very British Mess", download it at http://ukma.org.uk/sites/default/files/VBM.pdf or
obtain copy at http://www.ukma.org.uk/obtaining-ukma-publications .
If you are a metric fan, or simply want to be "metric-savvy", there are many things you can do. The easiest way is simply to use metric whenever and wherever you can.
Use metric measurements when describing sizes or dimensions, e.g. length of a room in metres, area of land in square metres or hectares, size of a TV screen in centimetres, size of a floppy disk as 90 mm, size of a compact disc or DVD as 12 cm (or 8 cm for the smaller discs), volumes of petrol, water, drinks, etc. in litres and millilitres, and so on, the list is endless.
Measure, weigh and cook using metric units, which are much easier to use than non-metric; more about cooking in metric can be found at http://www.ukma.org.uk/cooking.
Find out what your mass (weight) is in kilograms and your height in metres or centimetres. Use them whenever you are asked. If you use electronic scales to weigh yourself, try setting it to the kg switch and see what your weight is in kilograms. Get used to this and leave it on the kg switch. If you have an analogue scale (i.e. with a pointer) then look at the kg values to see your weight that way. Remember, with kg you only have to remember one unit of measurement, not two or more! And when you know your weight in kilograms you can relate that to other things that are measured in kilograms, including in lifts where the gross capacity is often labelled as so many kilograms. And if you know your weight in kilograms, quote this to your doctor when you see him, so that he does not have to convert from non-metric.
Buy metric-only scales, measuring tapes, rulers, thermometers, etc (if you have difficulty finding such items, see the UKMA web site for a list).
Measure temperatures in Celsius. Get used to different temperatures outside and inside and note the temperature given in °C, either by a thermometer or from the weather forecast. When they say on the weather forecast on TV it will be 15 degrees today, go outside and feel what 15 degrees feels like, around the middle of the day or early afternoon when the maximum temperature is reached.
Set your software to use metric. There is no reason why page margins have to be in non-metric units, millimetres are far more accurate, and a good guide is between 20 and 30 mm, depending on your preference and needs. Remember that all page sizes are metric when using sizes like A3, A4, A5. And think of A4 paper as being one sixteenth of a square metre, and having dimensions of 297 by 210 millimetres. Any sizes quoted in inches are not as accurate as millimetres.
Start thinking of distances in kilometres, even though in the UK the road signs will still show miles for the time being. Eventually they will be in kilometres, and kilometre-markers are already in use along motorways for location finding in the event of a breakdown. Since January 2005 Ireland uses kilometres for distances on roads and speed limits in km/h. If you plan to visit Ireland, get used to thinking in kilometres now, you won't find any miles there. Or if you plan to visit any country in the world other than the majority of places in the USA, you will find it much easier to think in kilometres as that is what they are all using today. This author has travelled to many countries around the world and has never seen a sign in miles other than in the UK and USA. They really do use kilometres throughout most of the world and it is very easy to understand once you start thinking in kilometres.
If you really want to get involved with the metrication issue why not check out the UK Metric Association website at www.metric.org.uk / www.ukma.org.uk and see the links page as well for further organisations and metric friendly sites.
"...no nation which has adopted the Metric
system has failed to derive the greatest benefit from such adoption, or,
after adoption has shown any desire
to abandon it."
— Report from the Select Committee on Weights and Measures (1862).