Easy Guide to Celsius and the Metric System for Americans

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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.

Convert Temperatures from Celsius to Fahrenheit

Celsius Fahrenheit
-20 -4
-15 5
-10 14
-5 23
0 32
5 41
10 50
15 59
20 68
25 77
30 86
35 95
40 104

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.

Celsius Fahrenheit Uses
140-150 284-302 Slow roasting tender cuts of meat
165-180 329-356 Baking cakes and cookies
190 374 Roasting chicken or meat
200 392 Roasting veggies
220 428 Baking bread
250 482 Getting the perfect pizza crust

Convert Centimeters, Meters, and Kilometers

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.

Square meters Square feet Apartment style
10 108 Studio
20 215 Studio
30 323 Studio
40 430 1 Bedroom
50 538 1 Bedroom
60 646 1-2 Bedroom
70 753 2 Bedroom
80 861 2 Bedroom
90 969 2-3 Bedroom
100 1076 2-3 Bedroom
120 1292 2-3 Bedroom
150 1615 3 Bedroom
200 2153 3 Bedroom

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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