How Much Should You Tip?

By Scott Sanchez at English Wikipedia (Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

A tip is a small amount of money for some kind of service. A tip is not included in the price or cost of something. For example, when you eat in a restaurant, you pay for the food, but you should also give the waiter or waitress a tip. It is a way to say “thank you” to a person who does a good job.

We also use “tip” as a verb. When food is delivered to my house, I ask my husband, “Did you tip the delivery man?” That means, “Did you give some extra money (a tip) to the delivery man?”

Tipping is very common in the United States for many kinds of service. In other countries, people are not required or expected to give a tip. How much money is a good amount for a tip? Are tips different for different kinds of service? When should you tip someone, and when is it not necessary? These are important questions, and many people disagree on the answers. However, here is a general guide for leaving tips.

Food Service

  • photo by WTCC instructor ecparent

    photo by WTCC instructor ecparent

    Waiter/Waitress – Most servers in the United States receive VERY little money from the restaurant. They depend on tips to make a living. Most people leave 15-20% for good service. If your food costs $10, a good tip is $1.50-$2.00. If you have a terrible server, you can leave less (maybe 10%). If you have the worst server in the world, you do not have to tip him/her at all. If you have an amazing server, you can leave a bigger tip (more money).

  • Delivery Person – When food is delivered to your home, a 10% tip is customary. Most people give a minimum of $2.
  • Barista – A barista is a person who makes coffee. You do not have to tip a barista, but they usually have a cup or jar beside the cash register. You can put some money into it if you want to. This is true in some restaurants also. When there is no server (waiter/waitress), there is often a container beside the cash register for tips. You are not required to put money into it, but you can.
  • Bartender – You can give a bartender $1 for each drink or 15% of the total bill. If you tip the bartender at the beginning of the night, you might get better service.
  • Takeout – If you order food from a restaurant, go to the restaurant to get it, and take it home to eat it, no tip is necessary.

Hotels

  • Bellman/Bellhop/Porter – This is the person who helps with your luggage. Maybe they take it to your room for you. Maybe they help you take it out of the car (or put it into the car when you leave). Many people disagree about how much to tip this person. I think it depends on the hotel. At a very expensive hotel, you should tip more. At a cheaper hotel, you can tip less. In general, $1-$2 per bag is customary.
  • Concierge – The concierge can give you information about the city, directions to restaurants, recommendations, and more. If the concierge gives you simple directions or tells you about a good restaurant, you do not need to tip him/her. However, if you receive excellent service, you can tip $5 or more.
  • Housekeeper – Depending on the hotel, you can tip a hotel housekeeper $2-$5 per day. You can leave a tip in the room each day (ask the front desk for an envelope) or leave one big tip when you pay your bill.
  • Parking Valet – A valet parks your car for you. This rule is for hotel valets, but some restaurants and even hospitals have valet parking, and the tipping rules are the same. When you get your car back, tip the driver $2-$5. You can also tip when you leave your car, but it is not required.
  • Room Service – When you order food at a hotel and it is delivered to your room, tip $3-$5. Sometimes, a tip is included in the cost of the food, and a tip is not necessary. Look for the words “gratuity included.” That means the tip is included in the price, and you do not need to pay a tip.

Personal Service

  • Barber/Hairstylist –Many people disagree on this, so you can tip anywhere from 10-20%. Again, I think it depends on the quality of service and how fancy the salon is. If you go to a barber shop and pay $8 for a haircut, the barber probably does not expect a big tip. If you go to an expensive salon and pay $90 for a haircut, they might expect you to tip the person who cuts your hair AND the person who washes your hair!
  • Manicurist – 15% is a normal tip for a manicure or pedicure.
  • Massage Therapist – We usually tip 10-15% for massages and other spa services (like facials).

Travel

  • Taxi Driver – Cab (taxi) drivers usually get a 10% tip.
  • Skycap/Porter – This is the person at the airport who helps you with your luggage. Just like a hotel porter, they receive $1-$2 per bag. They usually get $2 if the bag or item is very heavy.

Other Tips on Tipping

  • photo by WTCC instructor ecparent

    photo by WTCC instructor ecparent

    You can always tip more than the recommended amount for excellent service.

  • If you receive terrible service, you do not have to tip.
  • If you sit at a table in a restaurant for a very long time, you should leave a bigger tip.
  • If you use a coupon or a gift card, calculate your tip based on the full price, not the discounted price.
  • In general, we do not tip public officials or government employees. If you want to offer a tip, you can, but they might tell you that they cannot accept it.
  • If someone says that they cannot accept a tip, just say “thank you” and leave. In some cases, an employee could get into trouble for accepting a tip.

American Banking

For all ESL levels, 1 and up.

Do you have a bank account?

Banks are probably not exactly the same in the United States as they are in your country. This video will help you understand American banks and banking words.

Your Turn

You do not have the worksheet and homework from the video, but you can still practice. Click here to download a practice worksheet.

Talk about these questions with your classmates:

  1. Do you have a bank account in the United States? What kind?
  2. Are banks in the U.S. similar to banks in your country?
  3. Do you think that everyone should have a bank account? Why or why not?

American Time

photo by WTCC instructor ecparent

photo by WTCC instructor ecparent

In different cultures, people think about time differently. When I lived in Honduras, I went to a wedding. As an American, I was very worried because we were late, but my host family told me not to worry. They said, “The invitation says that the wedding starts at 5:00, but that just means that the wedding definitely will NOT start before 5:00.” In the United States, if a wedding invitation says 5:00, the wedding will begin at 5:00, so you should arrive before 5:00.

In Madagascar, a bus leaves the station when it is full. In the United States, the bus leaves at a scheduled time.

In some cultures, people think about time as a circle or a pool they can move around in. In American culture, we think of time as a line with a past, present, and future.

image by WTCC instructor ecparent

image by WTCC instructor ecparent

American Time

Here is what you need to know about American time:

  • Being “on time” is very important to Americans because we think that time is limited. We have 24 hours in a day, and when the day is finished, that time is gone. Therefore, we try to be on time because we think it is more respectful. We don’t want other people to lose time. And we try to be on time because it is more efficient. We want to complete all of the day’s tasks before the end of the day.
  • Americans think about time as a valuable resource. That’s why we talk about time and money in similar ways with expressions like “save time,” “spend time,” “waste time,” and “time is money.”
  • It is considered rude and unprofessional to arrive late to an appointment, meeting, or job.
  • If you are late to a class, you might get in trouble or not be allowed to enter the class. It can also affect your grade in some cases.
  • If you are going to be more than 5 minutes late to meet a friend, you should call or send a text message to apologize and tell them when you will arrive. It is never ok to be more than 30 minutes late to meet a friend. It is disrespectful to be late every time you meet, and it can hurt your friendship.
  • Americans get upset (frustrated, anxious, or angry) when they know that they will be late.
  • Americans think about the future a LOT. We have planners (books for writing future plans), we make grocery lists before we go to the store, we check the weather forecast in the morning so we know what to wear and whether to take an umbrella with us, and we put money into special bank accounts for babies so they can pay for college when they are 18 years old. In fact, it is very difficult for Americans to enjoy the present moment because we are always thinking about the future.
  • Americans do not usually visit or call each other after around 9:00 p.m. unless there is an emergency.
  • Americans think about time in 5-minute chunks (periods/pieces). We say it takes 5, 10, or 15 minutes to go somewhere or do something. In other cultures, people think of time in 15-minute chunks, so they say it takes 15, 30, or 45 minutes. This is not a precise way to talk about time, but it’s interesting. If it takes me (an American) 8 minutes to drive to work, I say it takes 10 minutes, but someone from another culture might say it takes 15 minutes.

Your Turn

Why do you need to understand American time? Think about the following questions and discuss them with your classmates.

  1. What will happen if you are late to work every day in the United States?
  2. What time does your class begin? What time do you arrive? What happens if you are late?
  3. Why are Americans always so angry when they drive?
  4. An American friend invites you to a dinner party that begins at 6:30 p.m. What will happen if you arrive at 10:00 p.m.?
  5. Is it important to you that people show you respect? How can this information help you to show respect for your American friends?
  6. How is American time different from your culture’s time? How can this information help you not to be upset about those cultural differences?

Community Buildings and Places – Education

By Surrahwall (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Our area of NC is called the Triangle. The cities that make the points of the Triangle are Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill. The Triangle also includes smaller cities and towns in the area – Cary, Morrisville, Apex, etc. This area – the Triangle – is one of the most highly educated areas of the country. Both the Raleigh/Cary and Durham/Chapel Hill areas are in the top 10 most educated cities in the nation. It’s easy to see why. We have many colleges and universities. Chapel Hill has the University of North Carolina. Durham has Duke University, North Carolina Central University, and Durham Technical Community College. And Raleigh has NC State University, William Peace University, Meredith College, Shaw University, Saint Augustine’s University, and Wake Technical Community College.

Wake County also has 171 public schools, 78 private schools, hundreds of preschools, and 20 public libraries! (Click here to find your nearest library and learn how to get a library card.)

All children in North Carolina are required by law to attend school until they are 16 years old. Let’s look at the different kinds of schools we have.

Elementary Schools

By woodleywonderworks (http://www.flickr.com/photos/wwworks/2458666314/) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Elementary schools usually include Kindergarten and 1st-5th grade (some include 6th grade). Children usually begin Kindergarten when they are 5 years old. Most American children begin school in Kindergarten. They do not usually start with 1st grade. When children finish elementary school, they are around 11-12 years old. In elementary school, children have one teacher for all their academic subjects (math, writing, reading, social studies, geography, science, and history), and they have different teachers for music, art, P.E. (physical education), and foreign languages. They stay with their class (about 20-30 students) all day. They play together, eat lunch together, and go to art, music, and other classes together. In each grade, children will have a different teacher and be in a different class (with a different group of students). In the lower grades (Kindergarted-3rd grade), there is often a teacher’s assistant in the classroom.

Middle Schools

By Jeff Billings [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Middle schools usually include 6th-8th grade (some are 7th-9th grade). These schools are sometimes called junior high schools. Children begin middle school when they have finished elementary school, usually around 11-12 years of age. In middle school, children have different teachers for different subjects. They have a math teacher, a history teacher, a P.E. teacher, etc., and they can begin to choose their classes based on their interests. For example, students are not required to take a music class, but if they are interested in music, they can choose to take a chorus (singing) class or a band class. Middle school students go to a different classroom for each class, and they may have different students in each one.

High Schools

By David Shankbone (David Shankbone) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons

American high schools usually include 9th-12th grade (some are 10th-12th). Children begin high school (sometimes called senior high school) when they have finished middle school (or junior high school). High school is similar to middle school. Students change teachers and classrooms for each subject, and they can choose some classes based on their interests. For example, they are required to study a foreign language, but they can choose which language to study. They can also choose to take some classes that are designed to prepare them for college and some classes that can help them get college credit while they are still in high school. When we talk about a high school student’s “class,” we might mean an individual course (a history class), or we might mean all of the students in the same grade. I graduated from high school in 1998. All of the students who graduated that year are called the class of 1998.

Public vs. Private

All public schools (elementary, middle, and high schools) in the United States are free for students to attend. It does not matter if they are American citizens or not, and they are not required to take an admissions exam. Private schools, however, require tuition (money paid for education), and they can require students to interview and take admissions tests. The things that students learn in public schools are regulated by the government, but private schools have more freedom to teach what they want. For example, public schools do not teach classes based on one religion, but private schools can teach religious classes. Also, children in NC public schools do not usually wear uniforms, but children in private schools often do.

Homeschools

Some parents choose to teach their own children at home rather than sending them to a public or private school. These parents homeschool their children. In NC, parents need to:

  • tell the NC Division of Non-Public Education that they will homeschool their child(ren)
  • give their school a name
  • have at least a high school diploma
  • keep attendance records
  • operate on a regular schedule for at least 9 months of the year
  • keep records of the children’s immunizations
  • give a nationally standardized test each year

A homeschool cannot teach children from more than two families. However, many families who homeschool their children get together once a week so their children can socialize, give presentations, and work on group projects.

Your Turn

Discuss these questions with your classmates:

  1. How does education in the United States compare to education in your country? How is it similar/different?
  2. What do you think about NC’s law that children must attend school until the age of 16? Do you think they should be required to graduate from high school? Do you think they should be allowed to drop out of (quit) school before 16?
  3. Why do you think some parents choose to homeschool their children?
  4. Do you think homeschooling is a good idea?
  5. Do you think NC’s requirements for homeschooling are enough? Should parents be required to have more than a high school education?

Community Buildings and Places – Emergency

Welcome back to our Community Buildings and Places series! This week, we’re going to look at places you might need to go in an emergency.

Hospital

WakeMed Cary

photo by WTCC instructor ecparent

Wake County has several hospitals. In eastern Raleigh, you can go to WakeMed Hospital. In western Raleigh, you can go to Rex Hospital. In southern Raleigh, Cary, or Apex, you can go to WakeMed Cary Hospital. If you have a medical emergency, go to the Emergency Room (E.R.), or call 9-1-1. At the hospital, the doctors see people in order based on the seriousness of their problems. That means the doctors see people with more serious problems first. For example, if you are bleeding a lot and another person is bleeding only a little, the doctor will see you first. If you are having a heart attack while another person has a broken arm, the doctor will see you first. It doesn’t matter who arrived first. The person in more danger will go first.

 

Urgent Care

photo by WTCC instructor ecparent

photo by WTCC instructor ecparent

You don’t need to go to the hospital for every problem. When you go to the E.R. with a problem that is not very serious, you will have to wait for a long time. Also, the E.R. is very expensive. It might be better for you to go to Urgent Care. Here are some reasons to go to Urgent Care:

  1. You are sick, but you do not have a doctor.
  2. You are injured, but your injury is not life threatening (You will not die because your problem is not serious). You don’t want to wait at the E.R. and pay for the E.R., but you need to see a doctor.
  3. You are sick or injured, and your regular doctor’s office is closed. Most Urgent Care offices are open on weekends and in the evening during the week.

To find an Urgent Care near you, search the internet for “urgent care near me.”

Police Station

You probably will not need to visit a police station, but you can. They are safe places to go if you need help, and you can also find information at the police station about all kinds of things. For example, you can get information about domestic violence, calling 9-1-1, and more

Fire Station

photo by WTCC instructor ecparent

photo by WTCC instructor ecparent

There are many fire stations in Wake County. You probably live very close to one. Fire stations are also safe places to go if you need any kind of help. Firefighters can:

  • check your home for fire hazards (things that might cause a fire) and help you make your home more safe
  • check the baby seat in your car to make sure that it is installed correctly
  • help you in a medical emergency
  • talk to groups of children or adults about fire safety
  • show you the fire station, fire equipment, and fire trucks

How to Call 9-1-1

If you have an emergency, you should call 911. DO NOT CALL 919. The phone number for emergencies is different in every country. In the United States, we call 9-1-1. Here are some instructions for calling 9-1-1:

  1. Wait for the operator to answer.
  2. When the operator answers the phone, try to stay calm.
  3. Speak slowly and clearly. Describe your problem.
  4. Give your name and phone number.
  5. Give your location. Give an address if you can. If you don’t know the address, or if you are not at an address (on the highway, maybe), tell where you are.
  6. DO NOT END THE CALL. Stay on the phone.
  7. Answer the operator’s questions.

If you do not speak English, just say, “Help.” Do not end the call. Stay on the phone, and wait for the fire department, police, and ambulance to arrive.

Your Turn

Discuss these questions with your classmates, or ask your teacher:

  1. You think you have broken your toe. Should you go to the hospital or to Urgent Care?
  2. You think you have broken your arm. Should you go to the hospital or to Urgent Care?
  3. How can you find an Urgent Care near you?
  4. Name 3 situations when you should visit Urgent Care, not the E.R.
  5. Who will the doctor see first in the E.R. – someone who has pain in their chest or someone who has pain in their leg? Why?
  6. If you have a medical emergency, can you go to the fire department? Why or why not?
  7. Where should you go to make sure your baby’s car seat is safe?
  8. What is the emergency phone number in the United States?
  9. What should you do if you call the emergency number but don’t speak much English?
  10. If you do not feel safe in your home, where can you go for help?

Community Buildings and Places – Government

For the next several weeks, we’re going to talk about buildings and places in the community. All cities and towns in the United States have some of these places. This week, we’re going to talk about government buildings and what happens there.

City/Town Hall

Every city and town needs a place for the local government workers to work. A city hall or town hall might contain offices for the mayor (the head of government in a city or town) and other government officials, and it may have a space where the city or town council can meet. This council is a group of people who make decisions for a community. They decide which projects are the most important. These projects could be parks, playgrounds, sidewalks, new buildings, libraries, garbage collection, street lights, or many other things. A large city or town hall could have an auditorium where members of the community can come for meetings. At these meetings, community members can talk about problems in their neighborhoods or projects they want to do to improve their community.

Municipal Building

photo by WTCC instructor

photo by WTCC instructor

A municipal building is similar to a town hall, but it probably does not have an auditorium for town meetings. It probably only has offices and rooms for small groups, like the town council, to meet. Raleigh’s municipal building is called the Avery C. Upchurch Government Complex. It holds offices for city government administration, and Raleigh’s city council meets there. The building was named after a former mayor of Raleigh. It is located on Hargett Street in downtown Raleigh.

Courthouse

By Daderot (I took this photograph.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


A courthouse is a government building for a county (not a city). All kinds of “legal” things happen there. You will probably need to go to the courthouse if:

  • you are arrested.
  • you take legal action against someone (or someone takes legal action against you).
  • you want to get married.
  • you want to get divorced.
  • you want to adopt a child.
  • you want to register a business.
  • you are called to jury duty.
  • you get a traffic ticket.

Judges and some kinds of lawyers have offices at the courthouse.

Capitol Building

By Jim Bowen from Fort Worth, US [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons


Because Raleigh is the capital city of North Carolina, it has state government buildings in addition to city and county government buildings. The NC Capitol is located in downtown Raleigh. Many years ago, North Carolina’s General Assembly (law-makers) met in this building. Now, the governor, Pat McCrory, and lieutenant governor, Dan Forest, have their offices here. A governor is the head official of a state. A lieutenant governor is the person who will become the governor if the governor dies or cannot continue in his/her office. The United States has a president and a vice president. North Carolina has a governor and a lieutenant governor.

Legislative Building

By Abbylabar (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons


As the population of NC grew, we needed more representatives in our state government. We needed more people to represent us, more people to make laws for us. These people make up the General Assembly. They used to have their meetings in the Capitol Building, but now there are too many of them for that space, so they meet in the Legislative Building, which is also in downtown Raleigh.

Your Turn

Can you answer these questions from this post?

  1. What is the difference between a town hall and a municipal building?
  2. What is a city council? What does it do?
  3. Where does Raleigh’s city council meet?
  4. Name three reasons you might go to the county courthouse.
  5. Name two state government buildings.
  6. Where does the NC General Assembly meet?
  7. Who is Pat McCrory, and where is his office?
  8. Who is NC’s lieutenant governor?
  9. Where is the NC Legislative Building?
  10. What happens in the Legislative Building?

How to Send Mail in the United States

Most countries have a postal service (a way to send mail). It’s a basic service, so you might think that it’s the same in every country. Have you noticed differences between the way we send mail in the United States and the way people send mail in your country? Today, we’re going to talk about how to send mail in the United States.

First, let’s talk about mailboxes.

There are a few different kinds of mailboxes. If you have a mailbox at your house, it might look like one of these:

Used with permission from capl@washjeff.edu

By http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Steevven1 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Mailbox_USA.JPG) [CC BY 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you live in an apartment or townhouse, you might have a group of mailboxes for your neighborhood or your building. Those look similar to these:

By Dmitry G (Own work) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By Dwight Burdette (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) also has mailboxes in public places all around the city. They are large, blue boxes like this one:

Coolcaesar at the English language Wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons

You can only RECEIVE mail in your home or apartment mailbox (not the blue Postal Service boxes). You can SEND mail from all of these mailboxes, but the way you do it is different for each one.

How to Send Mail

Here is how you send mail from each kind of mailbox:

  • Home Mailbox – To send mail from your home mailbox, put the mail inside the mailbox, and raise the red flag on the side. When the flag is up, the mail carrier will take out the mail that is inside.
  • Neighborhood Mailbox – Most neighborhood mailboxes have a special box that says “Outgoing Mail.” You can put mail into this box, and the mail carrier will take it.
  • Postal Service Mailbox – Just put mail into the box. There is a sign on the box that tells you what time the mail carrier will pick it up.

You can also take your mail to a post office. Near the entrance, there is an “outgoing mail” box. You can put your mail there if it is ready. In order to send mail in the United States, you must pay. We pay to send mail by buying stamps. You buy a stamp and put it on your mail. It is very important that you put a stamp on your mail. If you don’t use a stamp, the mail carrier will not deliver your mail. You can buy stamps at the post office. You may also be able to buy stamps at Wal-Mart, a gas station, a bank, a pharmacy, an office supply store, or a grocery store. You can buy stamps online at Amazon.com or USPS.com. Look for the word “forever” on the stamps. You can use those even if the price of stamps goes up in the future.

How to Address an Envelope

In different countries, people address envelopes differently. It’s important to do it correctly so that your mail goes to the right place. Here is an envelope that is ready to mail:

image by WTCC instructor ecparent

image by WTCC instructor ecparent

In the United States, we write the “to” address in the middle of the envelope. This letter is going to Bob Vance. Bob is the recipient of the letter (the person who will receive it). On the first line, we write the person’s name. On the second line, we write the number of the building (house/apartment/townhouse/office) and the name of the street. If we need to add an apartment number, we can put it in the same line or a different one. Below that, we write the city, state, and zip code. You can also write the zip code on a different line if the city and state are very long and you don’t have space.

In the top-left corner, we write the return address – the “from” address. This letter is from Phyllis Lapin. Phyllis wrote the letter. She is sending it to Bob. If there is a problem with the letter, the mail carrier can return it to Phyllis at this address. We write it the same as the “to” address:
Name
Street Address (number of building + name of street)
City/State/Zip Code (*Notice that we put a comma between the city and the state.)

The stamp always goes in the top-right corner.

Your Turn

Find a partner in your class. Write your partner a letter and send it to him/her. When you receive a letter from your partner, bring it to class. Is the U.S. Postal Service fast or slow?

Discuss these questions with your classmates:

  1. Can you send letters from your home mailbox in your country?
  2. Can you receive mail at home in your country, or do you have to pick it up from another place?
  3. Is sending a letter in the United States cheap or expensive?
  4. Have you ever been to a U.S. post office? What was your opinion of it?
  5. Is the postal service in the U.S. the same as in your country or different? Explain your answer.
  6. In the United States, postal mail is sometimes called “snail mail.” What do you think that means? After you discuss it with your classmates, ask your teacher to explain.

What should I do if I am stopped by the police?

By Scott Davidson from United States (Police Car Lights) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Imagine that you are driving in your car. Suddenly, you see blue lights behind you. The police want you to pull over (stop on the side of the road). When this happens, most people are nervous or scared. You might be confused or worried. These are normal feelings. Try to remember two important things in that moment:

  1. The police officer’s job is to keep us safe.
  2. The police officer has a dangerous job, so he/she is probably a little anxious (worried/nervous about what will happen) too.

Here is some more advice about what you should do when you are stopped by the police:

  • Stay calm.
  • As soon as you see the police emergency lights or hear the siren (the sound an emergency vehicle makes), you should slow down and stop your car at the first safe location off the road. Do not stop in the middle of the road. Use the shoulder (the area beside the road, not for walking), or go into a parking lot.
  • Stay in your car and wait for the officer to come to you. Do NOT get out of your car. You should only get out of the car if the officer asks you to do so. Getting out of your car does not help the officer. In fact, he/she might think that you are going to attack. For everyone’s safety, stay in your car.
  • If you are stopped at night, turn on the inside lights in your car.
  • Keep your hands in a place where the officer can see them. Your steering wheel is a good place.
  • Don’t make any sudden movements, such as reaching under the seat or into the back seat or glove box. You may need to get something, but wait for the officer to ask for it, and then do it calmly.
  • If you have weapons in your car, tell the officer of the location immediately. Do not reach or point to the location.
  • When the officer arrives at your car, he/she will tell you of the purpose of the stop. He/she will then ask you for some information. When the officer asks to see your driver’s license, registration, and proof of insurance, this is normal. Stay calm, and find your license, registration card, and insurance card.
  • Answer all questions honestly.
  • The officer might decide to give you a citation (ticket) for a traffic violation. The best time to explain your actions is before he/she writes the citation.
  • If the officer asks you to sign a citation, sign it. Your signature does not say, “I agree that I am guilty.” It only says, “I received this citation.” The officer will explain what you can do next.
  • Do not be mean, rude, or threatening to the officer.
  • If you feel that you are innocent, you should go to court on your court date to talk to a judge about the charges. The side of the road is not the place to argue.

But my English is not good!

If you are worried about your level of English, I understand. Don’t worry. If you speak Spanish, many police officers can communicate with you in your language. If you speak a language that the police officer does not understand, he/she can call an interpreter. If an interpreter is not available, the officer will work hard to make sure that you understand why he/she stopped you, what you did wrong, and what you can do next.

Getting Involved – Volunteer

I hear the same two questions from a lot of students:

  1. How and where can I meet more Americans?
  2. What can I do after I graduate from ESL/ERV?

Many students want to know how they can get involved in the community. American communities aren’t the same as communities in other countries. Neighbors don’t always know each other, and if you don’t have a job, it can be difficult to meet Americans.

Over the next few months, we will look at several ways you can participate in your community. This month, our topic is volunteering. Volunteering is very common in the United States, and there are many organizations that accept volunteer workers. You just have to find an organization that you care about. Here are some suggestions.

photo credit: P1000275 via photopin (license)

photo credit: P1000275 via photopin (license)

Rebuilding Together of the Triangle – Do you like building things, working with tools, painting, learning construction skills, or helping people? You might want to volunteer with Rebuilding Together! This organization fixes (repairs) and updates homes for low-income people. Many of them are retired (too old to work) or disabled (not able to work, physically), and their houses have a lot of problems. Rebuilding Together uses volunteers to make these houses safe and comfortable again, and they can teach you how to do simple jobs if you don’t know how.

Wake County Public Libraries – Do you like books, reading, or organizing? The public library system might have the perfect job for you! Volunteers at the library help keep the library organized and pretty. Click here for an application to volunteer at your local library. Print the application, and take it to the library where you would like to volunteer.

Raleigh Rescue Mission – Did you know that more than 1,100 people in Raleigh don’t have a place to sleep at night? The Raleigh Rescue Mission is a Christian organization that helps these people, but you do not have to be a Christian to volunteer. You can volunteer to prepare and serve food, work with children, work in a store, answer the phone and talk with visitors, or help an adult who is preparing to take the GED test. Go here to see which volunteer jobs are available and fill out an application.

SPCA of Wake County – Do you love animals? The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is an organization that protects animals and tries to find good homes for them. Click here to see a list of volunteer opportunities.

Ten Thousand Villages – Do you like shopping, sales, home decorations, talking with people, or helping people earn money to support their families? You should consider volunteering at Ten Thousand Villages. It is a store that sells fair trade products. This means that the people who make the products earn a fair amount of money for them. Many people in other countries work very hard to make products, but they receive only a little money. Fair trade means that people get paid a good price for their products.

Hospitals – Do you like helping people who are sick? Are you interested in healthcare? Maybe you should look for volunteer opportunities at one of the hospitals in the area. You don’t need medical knowledge or experience to volunteer at a hospital. They have many different ways for you to get involved. For volunteer information at Rex Hospital, click here. For information on volunteer opportunities at all Wake Med Hospital locations, go here. And to find out how you can volunteer at Duke University Hospital, visit this site.

Inter-Faith Food Shuttle – Do you care about food education, feeding hungry people, nutrition, or gardening? You might be interested in the work of the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle. This organization’s goal is to end hunger in our area. Many people don’t have enough money to buy food for their families. There are also areas where it’s difficult to find fresh, healthy food. The Inter-Faith Food Shuttle gives food to people who need it. They also teach people about food, cooking, nutrition, and gardening so that they can get jobs, make healthy meals, and grow their own food. Go here to see all the ways you can volunteer with this organization.

photo credit: IMG_0248 via photopin (license)

photo credit: IMG_0248 via photopin (license)

Girl Scouts/Boy Scouts – The Girl Scouts and the Boy Scouts of America are two organizations for children and teenagers. Both groups teach young people about responsibility, character (being a good person), team work, and citizenship so that they can make the world a better place. Click here to learn more about volunteering with the Girl Scouts. Go here if you are interested in volunteering with the Boy Scouts of America. And if you have children between the ages of 5 and 18 years old, these organizations are a great way for them to get involved in the community!

Schools – Did you know that you can volunteer at your child’s school? Many teachers love having parent volunteers in their classrooms, but you can also volunteer in the school’s office or library. In middle and high schools, you might be able to volunteer with a sports team or club. You can also join the PTA (Parent-Teacher Association) or PTSA (Parent-Teacher-Student Association) at your child’s school for more volunteer opportunities. Check your school’s website for PTA/PTSA information, or ask your child’s teacher or the school secretary how you can help.

InterAct – InterAct is an organization that helps, protects, and educates women who have been victims of domestic violence (violence, danger, harm, injury at home), rape (sex without permission/agreement), or sexual assault. If a woman’s husband/boyfriend hurts her, she (and her children) can go to InterAct for help. There are many ways you can volunteer with InterAct. You can work with the women and their children, you can help in the office, you can help with special projects, and more. Click here to see all the ways you can volunteer.

Other Volunteer Opportunities

If you aren’t interested in any of the organizations above, there are PLENTY more places you can volunteer. The following websites can help you find a volunteer job that you will love:

Your Turn

Discuss these questions with your classmates:

  1. Is volunteering common/popular in your country? Why/why not?
  2. Have you ever done volunteer work?
  3. Is volunteering a good way to spend your time? Why/why not?
  4. Why do you think there are so many opportunities to volunteer in the US?
  5. Which programs listed here would be good for people who don’t speak much English? Which programs would be good for advanced students?
  6. What kind of volunteer job would you like to do? Why?
  7. What kind of volunteer job would you NOT like to do? Why?
  8. Do you think children should volunteer? Why/why not?
  9. What kinds of volunteer projects can families do together?
  10. Choose an organization above that has group volunteering activities. Would you enjoy volunteering there with your classmates? Why/why not?

Fun Facts about North Carolina – Beginner

NC Flag

By Dave Johnston (http://ideaspot.net/world/index.html) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

With a partner, practice asking and answering these questions about North Carolina. For each one, “Q” means question, and “A” means answer. Take turns asking and answering the questions. When you see “NC,” you should say “North Carolina.” We write NC because it’s shorter, but we usually say the whole name of the state.

  1. Q: Who is the governor of NC?
    A: Pat McCrory is the governor of NC.
  2. Q: What is the capital of NC?
    A: Raleigh is the capital of NC.
  3. Q: What is the largest city in NC?
    A: Charlotte is the largest city in NC.
  4. Q: When did NC become a state?
    A: NC became a state in 1789.
  5. Q: What is NC’s state flower?
    A: NC’s state flower is the dogwood.
  6. Q: Which famous basketball player went to the University of NC at Chapel Hill?
    A: Michael Jordan went to UNC Chapel Hill.
  7. Q: How many counties are there in NC?
    A: There are 100 counties in NC.
  8. Q: What is the tallest mountain in the eastern United States?
    A: Mount Mitchell, in the Blue Ridge Mountains of NC, is the highest mountain in the eastern United States.
  9. Q: What are people from NC called?
    A: People from NC are called North Carolinians.
  10. Q: Which states border (touch on one side) NC?
    A: Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia, and South Carolina all border NC.