American Exceptionalism in Data Management

The term American exceptionalism is born in the political realm but certainly also applies to other areas including data management.

As a lot of software and today cloud services are made in the USA, the rest of world has some struggle with data standards that only or in high degree applies to the United States.

Some of the common ones are:

celcius fahrenheitFahrenheit

In the United States Fahrenheit is the unit of temperature. The rest of the world (with a few exceptions) use Celsius. Fortunately many applications has the ability of switching between those two, but it certainly happens to me once in a while that I uninstall a new exciting app because it only shows temperature in Fahrenheit, and to me 30 degrees is very hot weather.


The Month-Day-Year date format is another American exceptionalism in data management. When dates are kept in databases there is no problem, as databases internally use a counter for a date. But as soon as the date slips into a text format and are used in an international sense, no one can tell if 10/9/2014 is the 10th September as it is seen outside the United States or 9th October as it is seen inside the United States. For example it took LinkedIn years before the service handled the date format accordingly to their international spread, at there are still mix-ups.


Having a state as part of a postal address is mandatory in the United States and only shared with a few other countries as Australia and Canada, though the Canadians calls the similar concept a province. The use of a mandatory state field with only US states present is especially funny when registering online for a webinar about an international data quality solution.

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2 thoughts on “American Exceptionalism in Data Management

  1. Gino Fortunato 22nd August 2014 / 17:53

    I worked for a software company that had an initial approach of doing a new build for each language. Obviously, that didn’t scale very well. We finally bit the bullet in the early 2000’s and rearchitected the entire stack to be unicode compliant with the idea of a ‘locale’ for each time/date, number separator, time zone, etc permutation. It was a big effort, but well worth it. Today, I think most developers understand the need to do this. With the rise of China and new ideas generating there, it should be interesting if we start seeing Chinese ‘exceptionalism’ where local companies built things for use there and then try to internationalize them.

    • Henrik Liliendahl Sørensen 23rd August 2014 / 08:11

      Indeed Gino, we will see Chinese exceptionalism in the future. Some years ago I worked with a German data quality tool vendor, and there we had German exceptionalism.

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