Converters and Conversions

Although Arabic is the official language of the UAE, English is the “common” language. Only 12% of the UAE population is native to the country. South Asians make up the bulk of expats, along with Brits, Americans, South Africans, New Zealanders, Australians, and Canadians. In the past two weeks, I’ve met people from every corner of the world, and almost everyone speaks English to some degree. So Americans have it easy in that respect. What’s difficult as a foreigner is getting used to converting everything: how many dollars am I spending in dirhams?? What is 47 degrees Celsius (aside from very hot) in Fahrenheit? How deep is the pool (m)? At the grocery store, do you walk up to the deli and place your order in grams or fractions of a kilogram? What litre capacity are you looking for in a washing machine? How many cm wide is the space for your refrigerator? Some things can be estimated but, as we all know, when buying furniture and appliances it’s better to be exact. I’ve caught myself drifting back to “the land of feet and inches” when talking to salespeople and I know I must sound crazy; after all, the rest of the world adopted the metric system long ago. While shopping last week, we avoided buying sheets because we couldn’t figure out the sizes. Turns out they use some sort of guestimation process for many brands of sheets anyway, so we weren’t entirely to blame for our confusion. Even so, I’m hoping to catch on to the metric system eventually. I’ve already learned that it’s much more fun to be weighed in kilograms as opposed to pounds; I haven’t seen double digits on the scale since 7th grade!

Another American hassle is that the voltage of our household appliances is 110 while the rest of the world is 220. Therefore, we not only need an adapter so the plug fits in the outlet, but we also need to use a converter to change the voltage. That’s doable when vacationing but not for an extended stay since, over time, things tend to blow up regardless of the precautions taken. Because newer laptops and cell phones are dual voltage, I bought UAE charging cords to avoid the need for an adapter at home and school. Unfortunately, I put a small dent in my furniture allowance because I had to buy a brand new iron, blow dryer, printer, and other household items.

So there you have it- the United States is stubborn and I’m paying the price for it right now! But because I’m forced to adapt, I’m learning… which is one of the reasons I decided to come here in the first place.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Deb Mech
    Aug 24, 2014 @ 23:23:42

    Hey, we are still teaching the metric system in elementary school. I think it lasts for maybe 3 days or so? It’s just enough for the kids to memorize and forget in time for the following year’s lesson!



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