Why do Americans insist on being different from the rest of the world?

There is something about Americans that bothers me more than their insistence that capitalism is the best model, more than their rabid patriotism, more than their religiosity... it's that they always insist on doing things differently. It's almost as if they think it is they who set the standards of the world and everyone else is to follow. And yet when you examine the actual world you find that the Americans refuse to conform on so many counts it is just baffling.
In Canada our poor citizens live a schizophrenic life, using International, British and American standards interchangeably due to their influence.

Date format

Seriously, guys, month-day-year? Medium-small-large units of time? Look, I know that in speech we commonly denote the month first, but that's a quirk of English and when written down (for say, accounting purposes) it makes much more sense to follow a logical incremental scheme (or a descending one)

The worst part of the damn thing is that in Canada, you never know if 01/02/2010 is January 2nd or February 1st unless it is explicitly labeled.


A worldwide standard, meters is designed to be simple, uses a coherent system of prefixes and makes conversions very simple. The prefix system accounts for 24 orders of magnitude in either direction from the base unit (meters, gram, second, etc). All conversion factors of are factors of 10. Even switching between units is elegant:

Since a cube with sides of 1 decimetre has volume of 1 cubic decimetre, which is 1 litre and, when filled with water, has an approximate mass of 1 kilogram, water has an approximate density of 1 kilogram per litre, which is equal to 1 gram per cubic centimetre and 1 tonne per cubic metre, and will freeze at approximately 0 degrees Celsius at 1 atmosphere of pressure.
A litre is one thousandth of a cubic metre.

Now tell me, non-americans, can you guess how many yards are in a mile? How many inches in a foot? Square feet in an acre? Quarts in a gallon? Ounces in a pound?

How about knowing the prefix scheme of the metric system, can you make a reasonable guess how many meters are in a kilometer? How many centimeters in a decimeter? Grams in a kilogram?

I've become convinced that Americans just like dealing with awkward fractions. Ever gone shopping for drill bits? What the hell kind of measurement is 1/32," who can intuitively conceptualize such a small fraction of a unit of measure?
Oh, and don't get me started on the difference between a metric tonne, a British ton and an American ton.

Again, the worst part is being Canadian - I don't know my height in meters or my mass ("weight") in Kg, but I also can't conceptualize a mile and have no ideal how big a quart is.


The Fahrenheit scale is used in the United States, Jamaica, Palau, Belize, Burma, and Liberia for non-scientific applications. Most other countries have adopted Celsius as the primary scale in all use.

Alright, so we all know what the two scales are based on: 0 °F is the freezing point of brine, and 100 °F was supposed to be the human body temperature. Fahrenheit was meant to represent the range of temperatures that humans could live in. 0 °C is the melting point of ice and 100 °C is the boiling point of water [technically ~99.9839 °C] at 1 atmosphere. Celsius is based on a common substance's properties that can be repeated under the same conditions.

Celsius is also easily converted into Kelvin by adding a constant (273.15).

Arguments in favor of Fahrenheit are often ridiculous and weak - such as:
- "there are more degrees between 0 and 100 so Fahrenheit is more precise"
(you can achieve arbitrary precision in both scales by using decimals)
- "Fahrenheit is more useful for the average person because its range is more appropriate and based on the tens value you can tell what to wear: 40s is a coat, 50s is a jacket, 60s is a sweater etc."
(This is just... Look I can do it too! To 5°C is a jacket, to 10 is a sweater, to 15 is long sleeves, to 20 is t-shirt, etc)
- "80°F just sounds "hotter" than 27°C"
(not even worth my time)

Anyway, there is no good reason to resist standardizing to Celsius. It's going to happen some day - the longer you wait the more expensive and difficult it becomes! It's already the standard in the scientific community and is being taught in many public schools...

Alcohol by Volume (ABV)
The source of the commonly-cited myth that American beer is weaker than Canadian beer (I'm guilty of believing it too).

The world standard is to calculate alcohol content as the percentage of the volume - a 4% beer means that 4% of the liquid is alcohol. Of course, never ones to follow standards, some American states require alcohol content to be measured by the percent of the mass of the drink - Alcohol by Weight (ABW). It would be the mass of all the liquid divided by the mass of alcohol. This will end up being a lower value than ABV - since alcohol is lighter than the other stuff it's mixed in with, it weighs less but takes up the same volume. To get ABV from ABW you multiply it by 1.25.

It's their own damn fault that the rest of us think Americans are pussies who can't handle beer.

As I find more I'll be sure to append

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Why do Americans insist on being different from the rest of the world?

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