Going Postal

To anyone who grew up in the United States, the United States Postal Service uniform and vehicle livery is such a common sight that it’s immediately recognizable.  In the US, there’s only one postal carrier, and it’s a government agency.  Not so, in Germany.  Here, mail is privatized.   There are many different carriers in Germany, and the available carriers vary from city to city.  Here, the two big postal carriers are Deutsche Post and CityMail.

The Deutsche Post began life as Deutsche Bundespost, originally a government agency like the USPS.  It was privatized in the 1990s, although there is still governmental oversight.  The Deutsche Post went on to acquire DHL in 1998, and now it stands as the world’s largest courier company.   The distinctive logo for the Deutsche Post is visible on signs and bright yellow mailboxes all over Germany.

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Most places you can mail or ship things are just counters inside other stores, but there are a few main branches. The inside of the main post office near the Hauptbahnhof in Regensburg contains the same sorts of things that you would find in a US post office-  counters with lines of people, and displays of shipping and mailing gear you can purchase.

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As in the United States, postal vehicles are a pretty common sight.

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A much more common sight in Germany, however, is the postal delivery bicycle.  I see these on the street year-round- small packs of yellow-and-black-clad postal bikers traveling together in the morning.

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The postal delivery bike isn’t just limited to the Deutsche Post, however.  CityMail, Regensburg’s other often-seen postal carrier has the same delivery modes.  Here’s a CityMail delivery bike.

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As for packages, there are many carriers that have a presence here, but the Deutche Post owned DHL is by far the most often-seen one.  They have a rather nifty innovation in place all over Germany called a Packstation.  The Packstation is a sort of as-needed post office box.  When you sign up for the service, you’re issued a plastic card with a magnetic stripe, and you specify which Packstation location is closest to your home.    When you order a package, you can use the Packstation address and your unique Packstation account number as a shipping address.  On delivery, the Packstation service will send you a single-use PIN code to retrieve your package.  With your plastic card and PIN code, the Packstation machine will open a door so that you can retrieve your package.  It’s really, really nifty.

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Here’s one last picture before I wrap up this post.  While I was in Amsterdam, I noticed that DHL has adapted to the tremendous number of canals in the city by switching to a delivery boat.  I thought this was kind of interesting.

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Is the postal service where you live government-run or privatized?  Do you have more than one option for sending stuff?

7 thoughts on “Going Postal

  1. Elle

    Thanks for the tip on the poststation. I just moved to Darmstadt and was wondering how I could best pick up packages when I’m at work. Keep up the great posts!

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