Culture Shock: Measuring Body Temperature in America

thermometer, fever
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I was reading an academic article for one of my Communication classes when suddenly I felt my whole body aching.

I put aside my article and decided to make myself some hot tea with lemon. A cup of hot tea with some lemon always helps me when I feel sick or have a cold, but on that day it didn’t help me. In fact, by the time I finished my tea, I felt even worse. Now my body was not only aching, but also shivering from chills.

It couldn’t be the consequences of the jet lag because it’s been over a week since I arrived to the States. “A fever,” – I thought in a panic. Whenever I feel as if I have a fever, I always want to know how high it is. Otherwise, I’ll probably die from panic that it is too high. I am just a little “worst -case scenario” when it comes to health issues.

So just imagine how fast my  level of panic rose as I realized I didn’t have a thermometer, and I was nowhere near a pharmacy to get one. Luckily, my American roommate was home and I asked her if she had a thermometer.

A few minutes later, my roommate knocked at my room door and gave me a strange device. It was in a plastic case, round at one end and had a screen. It didn’t look like the thermometer I knew – a narrow tube with a bulb  at one end containing mercury.

 

Measuring a body temperature in a mouth?

“Is this a thermometer?” I asked with my eyes wide-open.

“Yes, just put it into your mouth,” – my roommate answered politely and I could see she was weirded out by me.

“My mouth???” I almost yelled as if I was just told the Earth was flat.

My roommate gave me a terrified look and didn’t say anything as she walked away.

“Americans!!! Why? Who on earth puts a thermometer into their mouth?” I thought, feeling amused. Where I am from, we put the thermometer under our armpit for 5 minutes. That’s how I have measured my temperature for 24 years, and didn’t know any other way.  Now I was being told to measure my temperature in my mouth. That was a gigantic culture shock!

I put the strange thermometer under my tongue and a few seconds later my temperature in Fahrenheit appeared on the screen (Fahrenheit is something I will probably never learn). After converting Fahrenheit into Celsius (thanks to Google), I realized I didn’t have a fever. Hooray!

I felt relieved, took a nap, and felt better in a few hours. But measuring my temperature in my mouth has remained something that just shocks me. It also shocks everyone from Armenia when I tell them about American way of measuring temperature!

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