Almost Universal Standards
October 25, 2013 3:24 AM   Subscribe

Inspired by this thread, where it was stated by the DHS that '"international standards are not necessarily applicable" to the US' I was wondering, what things have international standards which are ignored by one country. I'm thinking of things like the metric system, famously used by everyone except the US and Burma. Are there other similar cases?
posted by Just this guy, y'know to Grab Bag (31 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
 
Ethiopia uses a different calendar. Unlike, say, Islamic calendars, the difference is sufficiently slight (7 or 8 years) that it can be very confusing in certain contexts. This year, for example is 2006, and began in September.
posted by MuffinMan at 3:32 AM on October 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


The US will never be able to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, because the Convention forbids the imprisonment of and death sentences for children. The only other countries that haven't ratified the Convention are Somalia and South Sudan.

The Convention also stipulates that children who are adopted must know their original identies. Which is the opposite practice of most US states. Starting in the 1930s and 1940s, most US states passed laws forever making secret the original identities of adoptees, even when they are adults.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 3:37 AM on October 25, 2013 [6 favorites]


Ireland, I think uniquely in Western countries, has no postcodes outside of Dublin (though this is supposed to change next year.) This tends to surprise people, who's minds are further blown by the fact we can reliably deliver post with even less information than that. I have a friend who doesn't even have a house name OR NUMBER so her address is literally:

Jane Bloggs
Foster's Cross
Caragaline, Cork

...and all her mail gets to her.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:39 AM on October 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


mm/dd/yyyy.
posted by pompomtom at 3:49 AM on October 25, 2013 [12 favorites]


When piloting a boat back to port in the USA (or more generally, the Americas) the motto for interpretting the bouyage is "red, right, returning" - the rest of the world puts red on the left for this instance.
posted by rongorongo at 3:51 AM on October 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Technical standards....

There are things like frequency allocations for radio communications that are more or less unique to the US - really for historical reasons more than politics. Remember when your U.S. mobile phone wouldn't work in Europe? That was only solved by putting multi-band transceivers in mobile phones.

For a long time the US would not permit the legal use or export of certain encryption schemes used in other parts of the world.
posted by three blind mice at 3:52 AM on October 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Not quite one country, but the US and Canada are the only countries to use the spelling "aluminum", everywhere else uses the international standard "aluminium".
posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:59 AM on October 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


Special mention, this respect, should probably go to France. Historically the Gauls had a system for counting in 20s (which we why the French still refer to 80 as "quarte vingts" for example). This was then replaced by a the Roman habit of counting in 10s. There is little tradition of a "dozen" here - even eggs tend to come on a "dizaine" of 10. Later on the French revolutionaries tried to take decimalization further - notably by getting the decimal-based French Revolutionary Calendar enforced for a while. Days were divided into 10 hours - each of 100 minutes. Their hour corresponded to 144 of our minutes. There were still 12 months - each of 30 days. Months were named according to what normally happened in them - hence we have just begun the beautifully named Bumaire - the month of fog.
posted by rongorongo at 4:06 AM on October 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


To a much lesser extent: NTSC vs. PAL .

(And yeah, France - it uses SECAM.)
posted by DarlingBri at 4:21 AM on October 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Standard paper sizes are close, with the US, Canada, and Mexico not using ISO 216.
posted by neushoorn at 4:44 AM on October 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


The three-ring binder is only standard in the US and Canada, according to this previous thread.
posted by lollymccatburglar at 5:47 AM on October 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


If you're looking for current exceptions to actual standards, France no longer uses SECAM, does not publish calendars with revolutionary names, and the word douzaine means "dozen" and you can find them everywhere. Sorry to burst the bubbles, but misinformation does not help and also doesn't answer the question.

The only one that's true is that some numbers in French (which is not only spoken in France so also doesn't fit the "single country exception"), namely 70, 80, and 90 are indeed based on Gaulish counting schemes.
posted by fraula at 5:58 AM on October 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Track gauge is pretty fragmented, but it's converged to large regional standards, with some random exceptions. Finland was on Russian gauge, but Russian gauge was redefined and Finland didn't switch (and apparently Estonia changed back to match Finland), but it's interoperable with Russian track. Spain and Portugal share a gauge, but not with most of the rest of Europe (go far enough east and Russian gauge appears). There's little incentive to have a world-standard because, well, oceans exist.

The three-ring binder is only standard in the US and Canada, according to this previous thread.

Along with this, a two-hole punch in the US (and presumably Canada) has its holes a different distance apart than a two-hole punch made for two-ring binders. (The US ones are made for punching at the top of the page to fit onto pronged clasps. Lawyers use them. I don't know if anyone else does.)
posted by hoyland at 6:05 AM on October 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


France no longer uses SECAM

Ack, I looked it up to check and everything! My apologies, dear France; I know how annoying it is when people get national peculiarities wrong.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:07 AM on October 25, 2013


House numbering systems are somewhat variable anyway, but the Czech Republic (and Slovakia?) is the only country I know of where houses have two numbers, from two completely unrelated numbering systems: the 'descriptive' number and the 'reference' number. In general the reference number is more useful if you want to find somewhere, because the descriptive numbers are not in any topographical order: but on the other hand the reference number is not fixed and may have changed if your information is out-of date, whereas at least the reference number will definitely be the same.

At least, that's how I think it works.

the beautifully named Bumaire - the month of fog.

What an unfortunate typo! 'Bumaire' would presumably have been the month of wind.
posted by Segundus at 6:38 AM on October 25, 2013


Shoe sizing systems and clothing sizes have country and regional variations, often varying between US and EU, though UK and Japan sometimes have their own variations.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:37 AM on October 25, 2013


North America is, as far as I'm aware, the only region in which some mobile networks support CDMA phones that work without SIM cards. GSM, the main standard that does use SIM cards, is supported all over the world. LTE does use SIM cards and is a frontrunner to be the 4G standard for a while, globally.

As mentioned above, NTSC vs. PAL, but I would add that Japan uniquely has NTSC-M (commonly called NTSC-J) which resembles NTSC except for one property, "black level," which is valued the same as PAL's value, rather than the slightly different NTSC value.

Sign Languages seem to be nationally or regionally based rather than based on the local spoken language-- though American and British English are mutually comprehensible dialects, ASL and BSL are not mutually comprehensible. I've read that ASL has more in common with FSL, French Sign Language. Sign Language standardization occurs at a national level through the nation's special-needs education apparatus, which can be elaborate and powerful, or underfunded and half-assed, as the case may be, but there's no global agency that has the reach and clout to compel global standards.

Also, there are still a few nations, all island-nations without bridges to other countries as far as I know, that're driving on the left side of the road.
posted by Sunburnt at 7:58 AM on October 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


everywhere else uses the international standard "aluminium"

Except hispanohablante countries, where it's aluminio. And Finland, where its alumiini. And Czechia, where it's hliník. And Mandarin, where it's 鋁, and...
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:03 AM on October 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Except hispanohablante countries, where it's aluminio. And Finland, where its alumiini. And Czechia, where it's hliník. And Mandarin, where it's 鋁, and...

I get where you're going with this, but I think it's nitpicky. Scientists in Finland and in China commonly write in English (as it's the international language of science) and the point that Ends of Invention was making is that they would use the spelling aluminium which is standard everywhere except for North America.
posted by andrewesque at 8:21 AM on October 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


Also, there are still a few nations, all island-nations without bridges to other countries as far as I know, that're driving on the left side of the road.

About 40% of the world's population lives in countries that drive on the left, including places like India, Thailand and a big chunk of southern Africa (as well as islands like the UK, Japan, Australia). In fact almost all of Thailand's land borders are with right-side driving countries (Burma, Laos, Cambodia all drive on the right.)

So I wouldn't really say that driving on the left is any sort of exception to a universal standard, as it is more the less-popular but by no means minor standard worldwide.
posted by andrewesque at 8:27 AM on October 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Not sure if this counts, but sovereignty of Taiwan? Even though the US and some other countries tiptoe around the issue to appease the mainland, I think only China completely refuses to acknowledge Taiwan's independence (in principle, if not in practice).
posted by trivia genius at 9:03 AM on October 25, 2013


Shoe sizing systems and clothing sizes have country and regional variations, often varying between US and EU, though UK and Japan sometimes have their own variations.

I'm not sure these are necessarily comparable, though, as each store may cut to its own silhouette or set of measurements. For example, the clothing in Miss Selfridge will tend to be smaller than that in Marks and Spencer.
posted by mippy at 9:20 AM on October 25, 2013


From the Wikipedia Time Zones entry:
Today, all nations use standard time zones for secular purposes, but they do not all apply the concept as originally conceived. Newfoundland, India, Iran, Afghanistan, Venezuela, Burma, Sri Lanka, the Marquesas, as well as parts of Australia use half-hour deviations from standard time, and some nations, such as Nepal, and some provinces, such as the Chatham Islands, use quarter-hour deviations. Some countries, most notably China and India, use a single time zone.
More details at Interesting and confusing facts about time / time zones.
posted by Rash at 9:23 AM on October 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


(I go by European size when buying shoes, as some stores think a UK8 is a 41, and some a 42. Euro sizes seem more consistent.)
posted by mippy at 9:24 AM on October 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


The UK uses a different bra size fitting system to continental Europe - one is in centimetres, one in inches, so the sizes don't exactly convert. There is a Polish company that uses its own system too, including a cup size that doesn't exist elsewhere.
posted by mippy at 9:28 AM on October 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Politically, there are some interesting refuseniks, as per ImproviseOrDie's interesting comment.

For example: India, Israel, Pakistan and South Sudan are non-signatories to the UN Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. North Korea withdrew in 2003.

Israel and Burma have not yet ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention. Angola, Egypt, North Korea and Burma have not signed it.
posted by MuffinMan at 9:39 AM on October 25, 2013


This is confined to the US, but Louisiana's legal system is unique among the states for being based on Roman civil law, as opposed to English common law.
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:28 PM on October 25, 2013


In the US/Canada/Mexico(?) our power is 110 volts at 60Hertz. Almost everywhere else it's 220Volt at 50Hertz.
posted by Mr. Big Business at 1:00 PM on October 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Whitworth and other British Standard threads were a big problem in World War 2, as compared to the Sellers thread, which is a profile in use today in North America as UTS with imperial measurements for inner and outer diameters and as ISO in the rest of the world with metric diameters.

Apparently, though, in Australia, BSW (Whitworth) screw threads are still a common choice, whereas in the UK they're obsolete, and you'll only find metric threads on sale.
posted by ambrosen at 1:37 PM on October 25, 2013


All but a handful of nations are parties to international copyright treaties. Some of the exceptions like Iran recognize copyright for domestic works but not foreign ones. Afghanistan has no copyright law at all.
posted by mbrubeck at 7:30 PM on October 25, 2013


The common rat is endemic to virtually all human-inhabited territories... except Alberta.
posted by Rhaomi at 5:58 PM on November 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


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