What’s better, Celsius or Fahrenheit? Left side of the road versus right side of the road?
In the last 2 ½ years, Robyn and I have traveled to 4 countries: Italy, Singapore, Japan, and Australia (technically 5 if you count a day trip to Malaysia).
And in my travels, I’ve made some observations about things that other countries do that are different than America.
It’s safe to say we in America have got some things right, and some things wrong.
Let's see how we stack up...
USA vs World: A scorecard of 8 different approaches to life
1. Metric System versus Imperial System
This one is a landslide... I can practically hear all my European friends moaning in angst.
And they would be justified.
The metric system is superior in a few very key ways:
- Everything is divisible by 100. Logical, and easy.
- Easy to figure out both distance AND measurement (none if this inches and miles, pounds and ounces business)
"Feet" as a measurement in the imperial system is my favorite.
Whose feet are measured? What size of shoe did they wear? How is this standard?
Some historians believe the original American foot measurement was based off of none other than George Washington's boot.
While that's not true (gotcha!), it' still ridiculous nonetheless.
So, clear victory for the world.
America: 0 | World: 1
2. Centigrade versus Fahrenheit
Alas, this one as well is not even close. I'm sorry my fellow Yanks, but we're gonna go down 0 - 2.
Let me tell you one reason why: 9/5
That's right. Anybody who works with data and has to convert from Fahrenheit to Celsius would like to strangle Daniel Fahrenheit.
But really, Celsius is better for one main reason:
- Starts at 0 degrees for freezing and 100 degrees for boiling. Logical, easy to remember. Versus an obscure 32 degrees for freezing and what is the boiling point of water again? 212 degrees? Yeah, that makes perfect sense.
Some argue that Celsius has better scientific documentation.
I don't care much either way, but what I do care about is getting back those 6 years of elementary school where I had to do umpteen conversion calculations - and for what?!
Point goes to the World.
America: 0 | World: 2
3. Driving on the left side of the road vs Driving on the right side of the road
Oddly enough 3 out of the 4 countries we’ve been to drive on the left-hand side of the road.
We rented a car and drove in Australia and it wasn’t a big deal, you just make a mental switch and fall in line with traffic.
But seriously, I think it should just be standardized. I mean, why even bother with this whole left / right thing.
The fact is that most of the world drives on the right-hand side (66% actually). But in our scorecard, we’ll give this one to America, because we need the point.
And we did get it right after all (pun intended - get it, right-hand side of the road)!
Special note: Ever hear of “H-Day”? It’s September 3, 1967 and it’s infamous in Sweden for the day the entire country switched from driving on the left side to driving on the right side.
Listen to this fascinating 99% invisible episode for the full story.
America, we're on the board.
America: 1 | World: 2
4. Traffic Lights versus Roundabout
Speeding ahead to number four, we stay on the roadways for this one.
First, let's look at some data.
Roundabouts reduced injury crashes by 75 percent at intersections where stop signs or signals were previously used for traffic control, according to a study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)
The study quoted above was completed by the WSDOT (Washington State Department of Transportation).
There are several reasons they cite as to why roundabouts help reduce the likelihood and severity of collisions:
- Low travel speeds – Drivers must slow down and yield to traffic before entering a roundabout. Speeds in the roundabout are typically between 15 and 20 miles per hour. The few collisions that occur in roundabouts are typically minor and cause few injuries since they occur at such low speeds.
- No light to beat – Roundabouts are designed to promote a continuous, circular flow of traffic. Drivers need only yield to traffic before entering a roundabout; if there is no traffic in the roundabout, drivers are not required to stop. Because traffic is constantly flowing through the intersection, drivers don't have the incentive to speed up to try and "beat the light," like they might at a traditional intersection.
- One-way travel – Roads entering a roundabout are gently curved to direct drivers into the intersection and help them travel counterclockwise around the roundabout. The curved roads and one-way travel around the roundabout eliminate the possibility for T-bone and head-on collisions.
Luckily, I think due to experiments like this we are seeing a movement of more roundabouts in the US of A.
Plus one more for the World.
America: 1 | World: 3
5.Tipping versus Not Tipping
After traveling in other countries, it’s absolutely liberating to not have to worry about tipping.
And I honestly don’t think the argument that tipping encourages better service holds water most of the time. Good service is relative and so is a good dining experience.
Not having to worry about tipping and just enjoying your meal with your companions without a tip-hungry server breathing down your neck... Yeah, I would classify that as a good dining experience.
So dear American restaurant owners - pay your servers better!
America: 1 | World: 4
6. Coins versus Small Bills
Don't worry my red white and blue friends, this one is all ours.
Most places I’ve traveled have lots of coins - for what? Is this the Byzantine empire?
It's called paper, it fits nicely in your wallet and the color is green by the way, not this fancy dancy multicolor funny money.
To sum up, coins are archaic, confusing and annoying to carry around.
America: 2 | World: 4
7. Trains versus Planes
Trains are awesome. So convenient, relatively fast and usually work great.
Obviously for us in America, trains aren’t as convenient for long distance travel as they are in Europe for example as it's just too big. And we have things called planes.
Many major US cities have trains, but I don’t think we’ve designed them the best. Robyn could understand the Germany trains better than the NYC trains.
For that reason, the World gets this point.
America: 2 | World: 5
8. Restrooms vs No Restrooms
Try finding public restrooms anywhere near a cathedral in Italy...
Oh, and if you do find one, make sure you have one of those trusty coins because it aint free!
Let’s be honest, it’s nice to have bathrooms nearby at major venues and just in the general public.
Point goes to America.
America: 3 | World: 5
Slight edge to the World in this matchup.
I do want to say a disclaimer, that since my recent travels have taken me to only first world countries, this is skewed to observations in those locales.
In America, we may not have everything right, and for sure my scorecard has us missing the mark on the majority of metrics, but in spite of all this, I still believe America is the greatest country on earth (more on that in another post).
Wherever you stand, I know one thing’s for sure - I still love traveling and visiting new places!