Australia Abroad: Convert your thinking to the metric system

Michelle Buser

A view of the Darling Harbour Bridge from Circular Quay. (Photo: Michelle Buser)
A view of the Darling Harbour Bridge from Circular Quay. (Photo: Michelle Buser.)

I have done a pretty good job taking care of myself here. Most of my meals are either grilled cheese sandwiches, quesadillas or noodles with chicken if I am feeling fancy. I’ve had to compromise on what I eat because the kitchen is not fully stocked with appliances, since we are all only here for four months.

One night, my roommate and I decided we were going to cook chicken bow-tie pasta for everyone in the house.


First, we went to the grocery store to buy all of the ingredients except one — cilantro. They didn’t have cilantro. We even asked someone in the store where the cilantro was, and she answered back, “What is cilantro?” Our jaws fell to the floor with shock.

How were we supposed to cook this meal without the most important ingredient? This wasn’t the only set-back we had. Once we got home, we got out the recipe for the delicious meal and read through the instructions. The first thing it said to do was to preheat the oven to 325 degrees, so with confidence we went to the oven only to realize the maximum temperature was 225 degrees.

What were we supposed to do? The meal ended up working out, but we definitely had some challenges getting to the finish line. 

After a couple of days went by, I came home from class and my roommate said sternly, “Michelle.” Then he paused. I was worried something had gone terribly wrong. He continued, “The oven is in Celsius, not Fahrenheit.” We both just looked at each other in astonishment and bursted out laughing. How could we be so oblivious?

I have encountered this kind of situation a lot while I have been here. At the gym, the weights are in kilograms, so I either have to get a converter out or just guess the approximate weight by picking them up. The treadmill speeds are in kilometers per hour, not miles per hour. You can only imagine how I found that out.

The two simplest activities for me to do in the States have just become the most challenging.

You don’t know how many times I have been on Google to convert measurements and distances. I continue to struggle with the metric system and quite honestly probably won’t be able to learn it by the time I leave, but I’m willing to try.


Collegian Australia Abroad Blogger Michelle Buser can be reached online at or on Twitter @buser_Michelle.