In New Zealand, climbing routes are graded using the Australian rating system, but in Italy (and around Europe, except UK) we use the French grading system, that, as all grading system, is quite difficult to understand unless you have a large number of routes you can refer to for comparison.
A while ago a friend of mine sent me an email with a non technical reading of that grading system:
1 - Everybody can do it
2 - Everybody should be able to do it
3a - You do it without rope
3b - You start feeling the need of a rope
3c - Max grade on which you can find "ferratisti"
4a - Here you will find "ferratisti" stuck on the climb
4b - Min grade on which you can be lowered to lead climb
4c - The perfect grade for your girlfriend
5a - Min grade on which you can be lowered climb on top-rope
5b - Here you start putting effort in the climb and she starts complaining
5c - The ideal grade (universally accepted)
6a - Here you try to climb relaxed, but you can't
6b - You would like to climb relaxed, but you don't even try
6c - Here you feel depressed if you girlfriend can do it, and you can't
7a - Here legs are only an heavy and useless part of your body
7b - Here you don't understand what is on the top of your body: arms or legs?
7c - Max grade for the normal "Homo Sapiens"
8a - Only aliens and extraterrestrials can do it
8b - Only gifted aliens and extraterrestrials can do it
8c - Only very gifted aliens and extraterrestrials can do it
9a - NG
This is a translation from the Italian (so, please, report errors if you find some): Interpretazione semplificata scala francese
Ferratisti means people that climb a Via Ferrata.
On RockFax, a UK and European climbing directory, you can find a grade conversion table, both for rock climbing (PDF) and bouldering (PDF)