This section is no longer updated and remains here for historical reasons. We are getting fewer and fewer questions regarding moving to France; updating these pages would require a huge effort, one that is not justified as our logs show a dwindling visitor count for this particular area. By all means peruse these pages but don't rely on the information unless you verify it with a French embassy or consulate.
This page contains some additional information that did not seem to fit anywhere else but nevertheless struck us as useful.
In 1799, France gave the world the metric system, so it's no wonder that it is used in these parts. Though much, much simpler than other systems, it does take some getting used to for people accustomed to deal in inches, feet, miles, and so on. Here are the most commonly used metric units and their US equivalents:
For lengths, the basic unit is the meter (mètre).
UNITS OF LENGTH | ||
Metric Unit | US Equivalent | |
Millimeter (mm) | 0.001 m | 0.039 inches |
centimeter (cm) | 0.01 m | 0.39 inches |
decimeter (dm) | 0.1 m | 0.328 feet |
meter (m) | 1 m | 1.094 yards |
dekameter (dam) | 10 m | 10.94 yards |
hectometer (hm) | 100 m | 109.44 yards |
kilometer (km) | 1,000 m | 0.621 miles |
For reverse calculations, it is useful to know that:
For areas, the basic unit is the square meter (mètre carré).
UNITS OF AREA | ||
Metric Unit | US Equivalent | |
sq. centimeter (cm^{2}) | 0.001 m^{2} | 0.152 inches^{2} |
sq. meter (m^{2}) | 1 m^{2} | 1.196 yards^{2} |
sq. meter (m^{2}) | 1 m^{2} | 10.764 feet^{2} |
hectare (ha) | 10,000 m^{2} | 2.47 acres |
sq. kilometer (m^{2}) | 1,000,000 m^{2} | 0.386 miles^{2} |
For reverse calculations, it is useful to know that:
For dry measures, the basic unit is the cubic meter (mètre cube).
UNITS OF DRY MEASURE | ||
Metric Unit | US Equivalent | |
cubic centimeter (cm^{3}) | 0.000001 m^{3} | 0.06 inches^{3} |
cubic decimeter (dm^{3}) | 0.001 m^{3} ( = 1 liter) | 0.9083 quarts |
cubic meter (m^{3}) | 1 m^{3} | 1.309 yards^{3} |
For reverse calculations, it is useful to know that:
For liquid measures, the basic unit is the liter (litre).
UNITS OF LIQUID MEASURE | ||
Metric Unit | US Equivalent | |
Milliliter (ml) | 0.001 liters | 0.0338 fl. oz. |
centiliter (cl) | 0.01 m | 0.338 fl. oz. |
deciliter (l) | 0.1 liters | 0.423 cups |
liter (m) | 1 liter | 1.057 quarts |
hectoliter (hl) | 100 liters | 26.417 gallons |
For reverse calculations, it is useful to know that:
For weights, the basic unit is the gram (gramme).
UNITS OF WEIGHT | ||
Metric Unit | US Equivalent | |
Milligram (mg) | 0.001 g | 0.015 grains |
centigram (cg) | 0.01 g | 0.154 grains |
decigram (dg) | 0.1 g | 1.543 grains |
gram (g) | 1 g | 0.035 ounces |
dekagram (dag) | 10 g | 0.353 ounces |
hectogram (hg) | 100 g | 0.221 pounds |
kilogram (kg) | 1,000 g | 2.205 pounds |
For reverse calculations, it is useful to know that:
One of the most often used conversions is the one from kilometers per hour (kph) to miles per hour (mph) and vice versa. A quick estimate for kph may be obtained by multiplying mph by 10 and dividing the result by 6. Conversely, multiplying kph by 6 and dividing by 10 is a good approximation for mph.
In the United States, gasoline consumption is measured in miles per gallon; in most of Europe, it is measured in liters per 100 kilometers. The conversion is a bit tedious, knowing that there are 1.609 kilometers to the mile and 3.785 liters to the US gallon. A very quick, and nevertheless amazingly accurate shortcut consists in dividing 235 by the number of miles that can be driven per gallon; the result is the number of liters consumed for 100 kilometers driven. Similarly, dividing 235 by the number of liters required to drive 100 kilometers yields the number of miles that one can drive with a gallon of gasoline. In the UK, imperial gallons are used (there are 4.546 liters to an imperial gallon). Simply substitute the number 282 for 235 when dealing with imperial gallons. For example:
Another frequently used conversion is that from degrees Celsius (C) to degrees Fahrenheit (F) and vice versa. This is also one of the most annoying to perform:
Thus, water freezes at 0 C or 32 F and boils at 100 C or 212 F; normal room temperature is around 20 C or 68 F; normal body temperature for humans is 37 C or 98.6 F, and so. There is actually a third temperature-related scale in France: the one for oven settings. French recipes often give a number from 1 to 10; this corresponds to a setting on the oven. Assuming one believes manufacturers' claims that all ovens follow the same standard, here's how to convert from number to temperature:
OVEN TEMPERATURES | |||
Setting | Celsius | Fahrenheit | Description |
1 | 135 C | 275 F | very low |
2 | 150 C | 300 F | low |
3 | 160 C | 325 F | moderately warm |
4 | 175 C | 350 F | warm |
5 | 190 C | 375 F | medium |
6 | 200 C | 400 F | moderately hot |
7 | 220 C | 425 F | hot |
8 | 230 C | 450 F | hotter |
9 | 245 C | 475 F | very hot |
10 | 260 C | 500 F | extremely hot |
France uses the 24 hour clock (also called "military clock" in some parts) rather than an AM/PM system. For example:
The times of day are called matin (morning), midi (noon), après-midi (afternoon), soir (evening), and minuit (midnight). When listing times with hours and minutes (such as on schedules, for example), the French usually separate the units with an "h" (for "heures"). For example, 9:45 PM would be written as 21h45.
Dates are a never-ending source of confusion: whereas the US use the convention month-day-year, the French (and, indeed, most Europeans) use day-month-year. Therefore, the date 3/2/99 means March 2, 1999 in the United States, but it means February 3, 1999 in France. We experienced this first hand: a date of December 6 on one of our official US papers was incorrectly registered as June 12 by the French administration, and it took us more than a year to straighten out the error! To avoid any kind of ambiguity, it is usually best to write the month name. Using the example of March 2, 1999, the French can write
It may be very important to check this before signing a French contract! Note that the month name is never capitalized unless it is at the beginning of a sentence. In all cases, the year may be written as two or four digits.
For people from the United States or the United Kingdom, shopping for clothes or shoes in France (as well as in other European countries) can be a baffling experience because a different system is used for sizes. The tables below should help:
WOMEN'S CLOTHING AND SHOE SIZES | |||||
Dresses, Sweaters, Shirts | Shoes | ||||
Europe | USA | UK | Europe | USA | UK |
36 | 6 | 8 | 36 | 5 | 3 |
38 | 8 | 10 | 37 | 6 | 4 |
40 | 10 | 12 | 38 | 7 | 5 |
42 | 12 | 14 | 39 | 8 | 6 |
44 | 14 | 16 | 40 | 9 | 7 |
46 | 16 | 18 | 41 | 10 | 8 |
48 | 18 | 20 | 42 | 11 | 9 |
MEN'S CLOTHING AND SHOE SIZES | ||||||
Shirts | Suits | Shoes | ||||
Europe | US/UK | Europe | US/UK | Europe | USA | UK |
36 | 14 | 44 | 34 | 40 | 7 | 6 |
37 | 14 1/2 | 46 | 36 | 41 | 8 | 7 |
38 | 15 | 48 | 38 | 42 | 9 | 8 |
39 | 15 1/2 | 50 | 40 | 43 | 10 | 9 |
40 | 16 | 52 | 42 | 44 | 11 | 10 |
41 | 16 1/2 | 54 | 44 | 45 | 12 | 11 |
42 | 17 | 56 | 46 | 46 | 13 | 12 |
Throughout the year, there are numerous religious and historical festivals. Some are public holidays (jours fériés), others are simply traditions. The celebration of most of these days inevitably involves some gastronomic element; after all, this is France!
In the calendar, each day of the year is associated with a particular Saint. It is customary to celebrate the day by wishing Bonne Fête to anyone having the first name of the Saint. A verbal greeting is usually sufficient, though children often receive a card and perhaps a small present.
The practice of celebrating birthdays with a card and a present is a tradition in France. Bon Anniversaire means "Happy Birthday" (the anniversary of the person's birth).
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