Half metric, half imperial Brits

Half metric, half imperial Brits

The British Government officially adopted the metric system in 1965, but our research shows that the public have been reluctant to adopt this changeover and are continuing to think in imperial units- four in five UK adults (81%) will naturally think in miles rather than kilometres (6%) when assessing distance.

Whilst the imperial system is still very much ingrained in our everyday lives; from our road signs to the labelling of our food packaging, children are taught in metric units and it is used in our legal system for most purposes. Are we creating a generation of Brits who can switch between the two systems with ease on a daily basis?

Our results show that those in the lower age brackets have adapted to thinking in the metric system to a greater extent than the older generation, however this trend is not exclusive. When thinking about lengths, two in five 20 to 29 year olds (59%) will use metres and centimetres, whilst three quarters (76%) of those aged 70 and over use feet and inches, but in terms of measuring liquids, a third (35%) of all adults will naturally think in both pints and litres/millilitres.

This confusion has been encouraged by the media, who commonly report in imperial units especially in regards to the weather. Over half of all UK adults naturally think in Celsius (52%) when referring to the weather, but are required to revert back to Fahrenheit when reading about the weather in the news. A quarter of all respondents (24%) agree that they will naturally think in both Fahrenheit and Celsius now.

In spite of adoption at many levels we have been running on a confusion of imperial and metric systems for almost half a century. Whilst it would be a move backwards to revert to the sole use of imperial measurements, let alone seemingly rejecting the world and European standards, perhaps we should finish the conversion and make Britain fully metric.