Does the UK use metric system?

Here in the US, we’re stubbornly sticking to “English” units for everyday measurements: pounds, miles, cups, gallons, ºF, etc. Even though we all have kilometers marked on our speedometers, miles are highlighted.

But when I’ve read various stories from the UK, I see weird mixtures: temperatures in ºC, MPH instead of KPH, stones for body weight, and so on.

So, are they officially metric, but still use other units for everyday? Or has metric only made a tiny dent there?

Both. Temperatures are displayed in ºC and ºF, road distances in miles, most speedometers have miles and kilometres per hour, older people usually describe themselves using feet and stones, younger people use metric. It’s the law you can only sell foods in metric, so you go to the shop and buy 454 grams of beef, or 568 ml of milk or beer (although a lot of shops also sell milk in litres and 2/4 pint jugs.

Clothes sizes seem to depend on what the designer was drinking the night before :dubious: and vary from shop to shop.

Officially the UK is nearly all metric. Exceptions are miles (and yards) on roads (Hence MPH and MPG) and pints for milk and beer. Or currency went metric in the 70s.

In the supermarket you will commonly see both, although pricing has to be in metric. I am looking at today’s till receipt which shows the one tomato I bought at 0.196kg @ £1.99 per kg. In the machine shop or timber yard, it’s all metric. Temperatures are only given in degrees C in newspaper and TV forecasts.

Kids at school are taught the metric system only but they will mostly be bi-lingual in tat they will be familiar with feet and inches and gallons and pints, even though all their work will be in metric units.

So the answer is - officially metric, but with pockets of imperial clinging on for dear life.

Nitpick: the currency went decimal, not metric. British currency is not tied to any metric weights or measures, though decimalization is closely associated (politically) with metricization.

The first time I visited the UK (I’m American), I had it all figured out. I’d rent my car, get the whole “driving on the left” thing squared away and then head out on the A4 from London to where I was going. I figured that 100 kph was about 65 mph, so I’d stay at about that speed until I really got the feel of things. However, I did notice that I was flying by almost everyone on the road, and wondered why they were all driving so slowly. Oh, wait, it’s not kph, it’s mph… :smiley:

Everything is presented as metric, but it’s easy to instantly adjust the settings to imperial.

Kinda like a weather site online.

I think that was pretty inevitable, given the growing use of computers and the lessening in value of the Pound. When the Pound was worth something (often half a weeks wages up until the early fifties) it was divisible by 2,3,4,6,8,10,12 and other numbers above. Obviously, the Guinea had to be invented for those who had a predilection for dividing things into seven.

I think that, generally, in our “mustn’t grumble, but don’t tell me what to do attitude” we pick and choose…

Construction is always metric (thank God, or the French), yet buildings are sold or leased in square feet.

Temperature is Fahrenheit in the summer “Phew, what a scorcher! 90 degrees at Heathrow”

And Celsius in winter “The Big Freeze… Temperatures set to hit minus 10!”

Go on you Texans and Canadians, have a good laugh at our expense…

The problem is when we use decimal units of money AND decimal units of quantity, it’s too easy for the end consumer to find the best value. In the USA, we use decimal units of money and fractional units of quantity as to allow producers to rip off the general public … [ka’ching] … capitalism at it’s finest.

IME it would be incredibly rare to find anyone here who would describe their height in cm/m or weight in kg. Not sure what they teach in schools these days, but my 21yo co-worker uses imperial.

Is this a new thing? I don’t remember ever hearing a temperature given in Fahrenheit in the UK outside science classes.


  • read temperature in Celcius
  • weigh food in grams and kilos
  • but sometimes use imperial because of online American recipes
  • weigh myself in stone
  • measure my height in feet
  • measure short horizontal distances in metres and centimetres
  • measure long horizontal distances in miles
  • measure my waist in inches

So make of that what you will :smiley:

It’s a newspaper headline sort of thing, really.

Even the BBC, the unelected license funded lefty liberal propaganda organisation* noted the first recorded 100F temperature in the UK.

*Danny Baker excluded. Red Sauce, Brown Sauce, or No Sauce At All…

Only in brackets after the Celsius number though BBC NEWS | UK | Sizzling temperatures break UK record OK, that’s online, but that must have conformed to the house style at the time.

It was still the breaking of the 100 degrees Fahrenheit that made the story.
More importantly, what about your sausage sandwich? Red sauce, Brown sauce, or No Sauce At All?

I’m sure the highest ever recorded temperature in the UK had something to do with it too.

No idea what this means, sorry.

FiveLive… Saturday mornings, starts around 9:30: Famous people are asked about their choice of condiment on a sausage sandwich.

It really shouldn’t be utterly compelling listening but…

Ah, I do know :smiley: I find a little bit of Danny Baker goes a very long way. There should be more Danny Kelly on the radio, imo. He was always the brains of the two Dannys.

Maybe it depends on where you live and who your friends are. My doctor records my height as 1.75 and my weight as 90kg. New babies are weighed in kilos and there is a handy chart for those who want to convert them for the older generation. I haven’t seen temperatures quoted in fahrenheit for years.

I admit to using inches though as they seem to me to be a more useful measure for smaller things, but centimetres or inches, it isn’t that important. Anything at all scientific is exclusively metric.

I think that newspapers have a lot to answer for. If they dropped the old imperial system altogether then the public would soon follow. As long as they insist on converting things for us, I guess many people will not bother.

I find many websites will ask for your height/weight in decimal, and the younger people will know those off pat. Maybe they’re just better at using both systems, but when I can real off imperial measurements and hesitate to convert to decimal/metric, they can give their height and weight in metric and often don’t know what a stone is. For example my ideal weight is 13 stone, which is …er …82.5538 Kilograms, which just sounds wrong.

82? 83 pounds is 5.9 stones and really unhealthy. 13 stones is nicely between 12 and 14; 12 hours in the daytime, joints in your fingers, months in the year, star signs. I can be a bit over 12 and it’s okay, 13 is ideal (and the imperial system allows for a bit of discrepancy), 14 is a bit much, 15 is just being really not good, 16 is a lard arse. In decimal those are 79 Kg to 101! Now I’m enormous and in three figures or healthy and only in two - 99 Kg is just over 15 and 1/2 stone. For me that would be blubberly, but at least I’m not in three figures, eh?

YMMV or YKMV of course.