New immigrants may see something as they walk around their neighbourhoods that they don’t have in their home countries: garage sales. Likewise, they will likely come across thrift stores or flea markets in their neighbourhoods.
A lesson on thrift stores, garage sales and flea markets could be incorporated into a lesson on community. It could also fit into a shopping unit or one on the environment. Buying second hand comes under Reduce in the 3 R’s (Reduce, Reuse and Recycle) of being environmentally friendly.
Attitudes toward second hand shopping have changed a lot in North America in the last 25 years and immigrants’ attitudes may differ. Unlike in some immigrant cultures where buying something second hand might be an embarrassing secret, North Americans will often brag about a money saving second hand deal.
The following beginner reading exercise has questions on garage sales, flea markets and thrift stores. (Click on the image below to download. )
Bargaining (or haggling) takes place all over the world. North Americans often think of it as restricted to places like flea markets or garage sales, when in fact bargaining takes place in a wide variety of business transactions. Think of the negotiation involved in the purchase of expensive items, such as cars or real estate.
One of the challenges in adjusting to a new culture is cracking the cultural code on when and how, or often how soon, to bargain. This topic is rife with opportunities to teach soft skills, the skills beyond language that are so needed for successful social interactions in a culture.
Students from other cultures often overlook the importance in North America of the brief exchange of pleasantries before launching into negotiations. This kind of language exchange is referred to as the phatic function. Phatic language doesn’t really convey any information. Its function is social. In a garage sale setting, it might involve talking about the weather. In a more hectic setting, it might be reduced simply to saying “hi”, but without it, in North America, the transaction is less likely to satisfy both parties and may result in negative first impressions.
Another notable difference between North America and some other countries seems to be in the way North Americans will often start the “creating value” stage of the transaction. Take a look at this interaction from the excellent video Linc 2:19 Buying a Used Bicycle:
Notice how Tasha begins the creating value stage of the transaction by complimenting Luigi on the bike. Over the years, I’ve had so many students tell me how different this is from their own cultures where a criticism of the item would more likely be the way to start negotiations.
Staging a garage sale in your classroom is a great way to practice the idioms related to haggling as well as important soft skills.
This dialog sheet for conversation practice uses a variety of common bargaining idioms. You are welcome to download this free handout for use in your own classroom. Clicking on the image below will enable you to view the PDF large on your screen and then print it out.