U.S. Time, Temperature and Measures

on March 9, 2017

International students sometimes are confused by American life. Here’s a guide to time, temperature and other measures.




The number seven is considered lucky and the number 13 is considered unlucky in America. Tall buildings might skip the 13th floor. A trillion is the number one followed by 12 zeros (1,000,000,000,000), a billion has nine zeros (1,000,000,000) and a million has six zeros (1,000,000). The comma, not the period, is used to separate sets of three digits in numbers that are 1,000 or more. A period is used to separate cents from dollar amounts. The period also is used as a decimal point.




The U.S. has four time zones, Pacific, Mountain, Central and Eastern. Except for Arizona and Hawaii, daylight saving time is used during the summer months, from the second Sunday in March to the first Sunday in November. Follow the rule of thumb: spring forward and fall back. The time change occurs at 2 a.m., moving the clock forward to 3 a.m. in March and backward to 1 a.m. in November.




The month is written first, before the day, in the U.S. (e.g., MM/DD/YYYY and not DD/MM/YYYY).


Government Holidays


There are 10 government holidays in the U.S., when government offices, schools, banks and post offices are closed. If the holiday falls on a Saturday, the holiday will generally be celebrated on the preceding Friday. When the holiday falls on a Sunday, the holiday will be celebrated on the following Monday.


The government holidays are New Year’s Day (January 1), Martin Luther King Jr. Day (third Monday in January), President’s Day (third Monday in February), Memorial Day (last Monday in May), Independence Day (July 4), Labor Day (first Monday in September), Columbus Day (second Monday in October), Veteran’s Day (November 11), Thanksgiving Day (fourth Thursday in November) and Christmas (December 25).


Other Holidays


Other popular holidays in the U.S. include Groundhog Day (February 2), Valentine’s Day (February 14), St. Patrick’s Day (March 17), April Fool’s Day (April 1), Mother’s Day (second Sunday in May), Flag Day (June 14), Father’s Day (third Sunday in June) and Halloween (October 31). Government offices remain open on these days.




Temperature in the U.S. is written in degrees Fahrenheit (°F), not Celsius (°C). To convert from Fahrenheit to Celsius, subtract 32 and multiply by 5/9. Water freezes at 32°F (0°C) and boils at 212°F (100°C). Room temperature is 72°F (22°C). Normal body temperature is 98.6°F (37°C). Climate varies by city. Boston, Chicago, Denver and New York can get very cold in the winter. Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami and Phoenix can get very hot in the summer.


Weights and Measures


Weight is measured in ounces (1 ounce = 28.35 grams) and pounds (1 pound = 16 ounces, 2.2 pounds = 1 kilogram). Length is measures in inches (1 inch = 2.54 centimeters), feet (1 foot = 12 inches), yards (3 feet is about a meter) and miles (1 mile = 1.61 kilometers). Volume is measures in cups (1 cup = 8 fluid ounces), quarts (1 quart = 4 cups, about a liter) and gallons (1 gallon = 4 quarts). A tablespoon is 3 teaspoons and a teaspoon is about 5 milliliters.




Most electronic equipment in the U.S. uses 110-120 volts, not 220-240 volts. Standard is 60 Hz (cycles). You might need a transformer and a plug adapter. DVDs and Blu-Ray discs have region encoding that can prevent a disc made for a foreign market from working on American equipment.




If you eat a meal in a sit-down restaurant where a server brings you your meal, you are expected to leave a tip of 15 percent to 20 percent of the cost of the meal for the server.


Taxi drivers also expect a tip of 15 percent to 20 percent. At hotels, tip the bellhop $1 per bag if they help you with your luggage. Tip $1 for valet parking. Do not offer tips or gifts to government employees, including postal carriers and police. Bribery is illegal in the U.S.

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