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How to mail to and from your country

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We are quite an international group here on FF, and we often send each other letters and packages and things. But every country has its own quirks in their mail service/address format that not everyone may know of, so let's use this thread to share tips to make sure our mail arrives safe and sound!

Here are my tips for international mail TO the United States:

1. A typical US address is very simple:

Mr. and Mrs. Penpal Name
123 Main Street
Las Vegas, Nevada

The Zipcode (eg: 90210) and street name (eg: Main Street) is very important! Our postmen/women can usually figure out which area of the country you're in just by looking up the Zipcode, and from there they just need your street name and house number to deliver it. So you can decorate your mail as you like, but make sure the Zipcode and house address/street name is legible. Sometimes our Zipcodes have an extra four numbers (eg: 90210-1234), which pinpoints the location further but not necessary if you don't know it. It's usually for places that has high volume mail like a PO box or apartments.

2. In my experience the USPS (our United States postal service, not to be confused with UPS, United Parcel Company, a private company) is pretty lenient... I have put stickers, glitter, pearls, washi tape etc on, and it still delivered. But don't expect it all to arrive (some pearls would be missing)... and mail time may be delayed.

3. Since the mail gets tossed around a lot, it's a good idea to use a good quality paper envelope (not too thin or it'll tear) and make sure it is completely sealed. I've received international (and domestic!) mail with torn or shredded corners cos of the thin paper, or barely sealed mail due to the glue unfastening. Better safe than sorry!

Here are some tips mailing FROM the United States
Some of these may be pretty obvious, but believe me it was not obvious when I first came to the US! Lol!

1. Since postal rates are always going up ( >:( ), the US has a special kind of stamp called Forever stamps... even if you buy a Forever stamp for 5 cents like 20 years ago, you can still use it to mail today.. cos it holds its value Forever! As long as your envelope is less than one ounce. You can totally double up two or three Forever stamps if your postage is extra.

2. If you don't have a Forever stamp, you'll have to look up what the current rate is.. right now an envelope less than 1oz costs 49 cents to mail within the US, and the same 1oz letter to an international destination is $1.15. Usually I just put maybe 20-30 cents extra, in case it is a little heavier.

3. To protect your envelope from smudging/rain you can always slip it in a clear plastic sleeve, but put the stamps on the sleeve (so the post office can stamp it). Make sure to account for the additional weight too, though. I usually put extra stamps anyway... better spend a few cents extra than to have it come back!

4. You don't need to write a customs form if you're sending a flat letter internationally... just stick your $1.15 stamp, write the address and return address and off it goes. You'll have to fill in a customs form if you're sending a package though.


I'd like to ask for advice for other international areas, specifically Germany! What is up with the Hausestrasse line? Is that the house name? Do I absolutely need to do the squiggly ß and umlaut thing? Is German mail very strict and should we tone down the flourishing?

Please share more tips and tricks and advice!


--- Quote from: schin on May 04, 2015, 02:04:13 PM ---I'd like to ask for advice for other international areas, specifically Germany! What is up with the Hausestrasse line? Is that the house name? Do I absolutely need to do the squiggly ß and umlaut thing? Is German mail very strict and should we tone down the flourishing?

--- End quote ---
Let me shed some light on that, since Austria speaks the same language as Germany.

The -straße-line is not the house's name, it's the street name ;) Straße simply means street. To make it more clear:
German addresses often have the following suffixes:

-straße: -street; e.g. Lorystraße simply means Lorystreet
-gasse: -a word for a small street; e.g. Sumpfgasse just means Sumpfstreet
-platz: -square = e.g. Heldenplatz means Heldensquare

But please don't ever translate it in the address, even if you know what it means now! ;)

As far as the eszett (ß) is concerned: You can just substitute it with double s (ss), that's fine. No need to write the ß. E.g. instead of Blumenstraße you can just write Blumenstrasse.

The umlaut thing: Well, you should probably write them. But it's really just two dots over the letter. For instance, in Austria, Ubelbach and Übelbach are two different towns, so the two dots above the u are mandatory. But you can also replace them if you don't want to dot your letters: ö becomes oe; ä becomes ae; ü becomes ue. E.g.: Mrs. Bäumel -> Mrs. Baeumel. I recommend just making the dots!

International Mail TO Austria/Germany follows a very simple formula:

Penpal Name
Street Name 123
1110 City

The street number comes after the street name; the zip code comes before the city name.

Omg! I always thought that Strabe/Strasse means House, and all houses there has a whimsical name like Lory House, Sumpf House etc, and that the number afterwards is some kind of organized street number.

Oh don't worry I love making umlauts, it makes my mail look super fancy ;D

Hehe, let me add my two cents: in Germany only Straße with ß is correct … but it is understood if spelt with two s's. You can also use the very current abbreviation Str. or -str.! House numbers are usually after, not before the street name.

All the rest like Natascha said ;). Endings like Gasse, Platz etc. can't be abbreviated as far as I know. Ah, and ZIP codes in Germany have 5 digits!

About flourishing etc.: I have had problems with envelopes inside Germany that didn't arrive, when a similar design to the USA or Phillipines arrived!! But that involved nearly always metallic or white inks. I also asked a lady in the post office, and she said it could take a bit more time (because it needs to be read by a person), but should be treated like any other mail. My Christmas mail, which was quite flourished, did arrive as far as I can tell. I used walnut ink on white envelopes … so my guess is, for whatever reason maybe better avoid metallic or white ink …

Hehe, and usually only very poche houses … well, actually castles or manors etc. have names ;D!! But some street names are really funny or historical …

Thanks for starting that post and for all your info!

Inked botanicals:
Very useful information!!

For Spain it is very easy:


The typical address is

Penpal Name and Surname
Street Name 123, 1ºA
12345 City, Province

1. Here, you know, we have two surnames, so the name in the letter could be quite long. It is not mandatory, mailmen just deliver the mail to the address unless it is some sort of official mail, which usually has to be delivered personally and you have to sign that you receive it.

2. The name of the streets depends on its category and it has an abreviation characteres before the street name:

c/  - Than means "Calle" and it is the usual street.
Avda.  - That means "Avenida" and it refers to a very wide and important street of a city.
Pza.  - That means "Plaza", a square.

There are more categories, but they are not common and usually full written. You can have "Paseo", "Vía", "Rotonda", etc. The street number is written after the street name.

3. In cities here there are few unifamiliar houses, mostly big buildings of apartments. So, normally, you have some numbers and letters after the street name and the street number. You will have at leats one number which means the floor, and letters which depends on the appartments on that floor. In my building there are 4 apartments in each floor, and they are called A, B, C and D. So my appartment is 5ºA. (For the exchanges I just write my address for you as 5A to avoid symbols and that works too, but the real correct should be 5ºA). At other buildings you can see just two appartmens called "dcha" (abreviation for "derecha", or right) and "izda" or "izq" (abreviation for "izquierda", or left). Sometimes I have seen 4 appartments in each floor and called "dcha-izda", "dcha-dcha", "izda-izda" and "izda-dcha". It can get complicated, but if you just write those numbers and letters as they are given to you, next to the strret name and number, you will be fine!

4. The zip code is always before the city name. And we also write the Province name, after the city.


The spanish mail service is Correos. You can take your letter to an office and pay there for postage, they weight your letter and tell you how much does it cost for where it is addressed. They have a nice website, where you can estimate the postage costs at home: It is possible even to pay that postage from home (via credit card or paypal I think) and then print a sticker with their codes and just give it as it is at the office. (But, that sticker is not calligraphied! ). If you pay at the office they put a smaller (but quite big) ugly sticker with some codes. At some offices you can ask for stamps, but not always.

Stamps are only sold at tobacco shops (called Estancos), but nowadays they only carry the strictly neccessary because people don't buy a lot, and it is not usually the international stamp, although you can add as many stamps as you want to get the neccesary postage. People here only sends letters for wedding invites, and only for those who can't give in person! So, if you want stamps you need to contact Correos, where they sell full sheets of decorated stamps for collectors (but usable! and you can choose from the full catalog).

About stamps, there is also a nice service Correos offer. Usually for weddings, you can order personalized stamps (usable!). They will use your images to make full sheets of current stamps, with some conditions (I think you can not use real-look human faces, and things like that). Those stamps will have the normal postage, but they are going to cost you quite more because of the personalization service.

If you have stamps, or pay in advanced via the website, for your letter, it is not neccesary to go to an office to send it. There are, at the streets, big yellow mail boxes, there you can insert your letters (there is no way you can get them back once inserted) and the mail man will take them to be sent.

FLOURISHES: I have absolutely no idea. I know that normalized envelopes and addresses cost a bit less. Those are the ones which are automatically manipulated. For that it is neccesary to be a rectangular white envelope (they accept other light colors, but not blue) with some limits on the measurements , written with black or dark ink in comercial fonts (no flourishes, no caligraphy, no lettering, no even underlined letters!) and no more that 20 g. If the letter does not fit, it costs more, but it is sent. I only know that they do not sent anything smaller than 14 x 9 cm, or anything with draws or texts violating any human fundamental right.


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