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FAQ, Trivia and Information on Life in America: Ask-A-Desi

This section will attempt to address some of the Frequently Asked Questions on Life in the US, Canada and North America that immigrants, visitors and others from different cultures attempt to address. If you have any additional inputs or wish  to see more topics addressed, mail us at

International Mail

Why even English-speaking countries like the US, use “Par Avion” – a French word for Air-mail?

Almost every country in the World is a member of the Universal Postal Union (UPU), which governs and sets the terms for mailing between countries. The official language of the UPU is French and the term 'Par Avion' which dates back to before World War II, is the chosen designation for air mail. Established in 1874, the UPU has its Headquarters, well, not in France but in the Switzerland capital Bern.

About Mail and USPS

You affix an 80 cents stamp for an aerogramme and post it to India. Will the entire 80 cents revenue go to US? Or part of it to India too?

 Yes, India too will receive its share in this revenue. It's called terminal due revenue sharing system. Similarly when you get a 15-Rs stamped envelope from India, part of the revenue goes to US. Mail exchange (weight-in-tonnes per annum) between two countries is the yardstick to determine the ratio of this revenue share. UPU decides the policy.

ZIP codes in US

The ZIP (Zonal Improvement Plan) code was instituted in 1963 and allows for electronic processing and delivery of mail. An envelope that does not include a ZIP code in the delivery address must be manually sorted, which increases the cost of sorting the mail and causes mail to be delayed en route to the delivery address. In 1983, the Postal Service began to use an expanded ZIP code called ZIP+4. It is composed of the original five-digit code plus a four-digit add-on. The four-digit add-on number identifies a geographic segment within the five-digit delivery area such as a city block, an office building, an individual high-volume receiver of mail, or any other unit that would aid efficient mail sorting and delivery.

Postman Brings Letters Drops them in this MailBox!

For example, in Chicago, the famous Sears Tower itself is assigned one ZIP code (60606). Similarly, ZIP code 12345 is assigned to  General Electric company's Schenectady office in New York.

The bar code which you see below your address in the mail you receive is ZIP code + error-checking digit in binary format, generated by OCR.

USPS - ZIP Code Lookup - Search By City

When you are sending an envelope to India, let PIN code be NOT the last line in the address. Instead, write "INDIA" in last line. This is because, if you write PIN code in last line, the outgoing mail sorting machines (OCRs) in US may wrongly identify it as some digits of ZIP code and will not push the envelope into International bin. Then it will be manually picked up, delaying the sorting of your mail. 

Correct Addressing as per USPS

Commemorative Postage Stamps

Making stamps is a function of the federal government, and as is the case with most governmental projects, a committee has been appointed to get the job done. The fourteen members of the Citizen’s Advisory Stamp Committee, representing expertise in American art, business, history, and technology, and sharing an interest in philately, are handpicked by the postmaster general to recommend subjects for commemorative stamps.

US Postal Stamp The committee convenes every two months to sift through the thousands of suggestions that pour in continuously from different states. Of the twenty thousand or so subjects submitted by the general public each year, twenty-five to thirty-five eventually make it through the committee to the postmaster general; once he gives final approval, they can become stamps.

During the watershed postal reorganization in the early 1970s, one of those events that go largely unnoticed by the public but retain deep significance within the government, the postmaster general, with the help of the CASC, established the elementary criteria by which stamp subject selections are made. Since then the list has been expanded to include twelve points:

Special Olympics Commemorative Stamp Stamps on Ladies in Journalism
  1. U.S. postage stamps and stationery will primarily feature American or American-related subjects.
  2. No living person shall be portrayed on U.S. postage
  3. Stamps honoring individuals will be issued in conjunction with anniversaries of their birth, but not sooner than ten years after the individual’s death. U.S. presidents are the only exception to the ten-year rule, and may be honored on the first birth anniversary following death.
  4. Events of historical significance shall be considered for commemoration only on anniversaries in multiples of fifty years.
  5. Only events and themes of widespread national appeal will be considered.
  6. No commercial enterprise; specific product; or for-profit fraternal, sectarian, political, service or charitable organizations shall be recognized.
  7. Towns, cities, counties, municipalities, schools, hospitals, libraries, or similar institutions shall not be considered.
  8. Postage stamps commemorating statehood anniversaries will be considered only at intervals of fifty years from the state’s entry into the Union.
  9. Stamps shall not be issued to honor religious institutions or individuals whose principal achievements are associated with religious undertakings or beliefs.
  10. No “semipostals,” stamps to be sold at a premium over their postal value to raise money for charitable organizations, shall be issued.
  11. Significant anniversaries of universities and other institutions of higher learning shall be considered only in regard to Historic Preservation Series postal cards featuring an appropriate campus building.
  12. No subject, except traditional themes such as Christmas, the U.S. flag, Express Mail, Love, and so forth, will be honored more than once every ten years.


Other FAQ from United States Postal Service. Questions ansered include:

1. Why doesn't the Postal Service offer a service guarantee for International Express Mail?
2. How can I get a ZIP Code directory?
3. Why can't I get my mail delivered earlier in the day?
4. How come vendors can mark up the price of stamps when they resell them?
5. Where can I buy stamps when I don't have time to stand in line at the post office?
6. FORWARDING: How come the Postal Service forwards mail for only one year? and Why don't you forward it indefinitely?
7. Why does the Postal Service have minimum size standards?
8. I am trying to find the address of a friend, can you help or provide the change of address information?
9. What happens to nondeliverable mail?
10. What Criteria Determines Eligibility of Subjects for Commemoration on U.S. Stamps and Stationery?
11. How can I Have my Name added to the Postal Service's Auction List for "Loose-In-The-MailItems"?

Stamps depicting Photography masterpieces

Anyone can petition the CASC with an idea, and if the proposed subject meets the guidelines, it will be considered and possibly recommended to the postmaster general.

The rules, in addition to telling when and how something can be commemorated, dictate to some degree the subject matter itself.

A stamp might be issued, for instance, to celebrate food in general, but rule number six will prevent a specific product, like burger or hotdog, from ever gracing U.S. postage.

Likewise, the government will not issue a stamp to honor one particular hospital, but health care in the abstract could be saluted.

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Trivia and Questions for Indians and Immigrants in America

General Trivia : Introduction //Dollars and Cents // Social Security Number // About Mail and USPS // Story of The Old Glory // Green Card– Why Not Green? // Telephone Area Codes // Convex Mirrors and Caution // Bankruptcy and Chapter 11 // Radio and TV Broadcasting // Consumerism: Trivia on Wal-Mart. // Retail Trivia // Gas Prices– What's 0.9 Cent? // Roads and Interstate Highways // Road Driving Trivia // Finance 101 // Daylight Saving Time // Trivia on Etiquette

FAQ Disclaimer: All information provided in these FAQ’s is deemed to be accurate by the author.  Due care has been exercised to ensure the veracity of this information and guidelines. However, there may be error (s) and omission (s) and all information is subject to change., and its affiliates do not assume any liability for the information provided herein. The reader is strongly recommended to confirm this information from official sources.

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