They Measure Things Differently Over Here…

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DIY / french life / measurements / metric system / recurring dreams / shopping / teeth
No man, they got the metric system...

No man, they got the metric system…

There’s a wonderful scene at the beginning of Pulp Fiction where John Travolta explains the ‘little differences’ in Europe to Samuel L Jackson and, in discussing the name of a Quarter Pounder he says, “No man, they got the metric system…”

But whilst this may take some learning for an American, British ex-pats shouldn’t need to worry – after all, Bishop John Wilkins published a proposal for a universal decimal system of measurement in 1668 and, whilst it didn’t make it compulsory, The Weights and Measures (Metric System) Act legalised the metric system in 1896; provided you have a metric tape measure it shouldn’t be any problem at all buying goods.

Or so you’d think.

Until you look at the growing list of redundant/incorrect items in our back room. From plumbing supplies to windows there’s a whole stock of things we should return.

Take plumbing, you can use 12mm, 14mm, 16m or 20mm pipes and fittings, male and female and it all changes again if you want to swap from plastic to copper tubing and vice-versa! Some say it’s so that you can control the water pressure but I suspect it’s just to add to the variety of life. After all, our house, which is blessed with strip-your-skin-off water pressure, employs every single pipe size with no correlation to distance from water meter, floor of house or any other conceivable reason.

And we have a beautiful oak-framed window upstairs which doesn’t fit our gap although the stated measurements on the product itself are exactly to our requirements. The French just don’t measure their windows like we would – a 1000mm window will not fit in a 1m hole and, be warned, there is no logic to their measurements (or, at least, not one that we’ve found). The same is true of kitchen sinks but fortunately by the time we were purchasing one we had realised the only safe method of filling gaps is to take your own tape measure.

And finally there are interdental brushes. I like to brush between my teeth. I don’t like floss. It gives me panic-attacks and I have a recurring dream where I’m walking around town naked and it’s not the lack of clothes that bothers me but the long piece of floss that’s hanging permanently from between my teeth! After months of searching I was delighted last week when I found a pack of 4.5mm interdentals – whilst they may not squeeze between my front teeth they would, at least, be a replacement for my 5mm brushes. I should have known better. I don’t know how these brushes have been measured and I don’t have a micrometer to hand but suffice it to say that no amount of levering will even get them between my most widely spaced teeth – not without possibly dislodging a molar in the process.

So, if you’re coming to France, bring your own measuring devices and keep them with you at all times and, in the meantime, if anyone wants to send me a pack of 4mm TeePee brushes I’d be more than grateful.


The Author

I am a writer. I also travel, cook, eat, drink good wine and read - in no particular order.

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