German Mail (Especially in Times of Covid): A Satire


German Absurdity: Getting Mail (Especially in Times of Covid)

Disclaimer: This photo is not my own and found in a random 2011 folder so I could never track who took it down ... tag them and do not murder me ... I write posts on my iPhone SE Gen. 1 okay

Also, mail in Germany is and was a mess way before Covid ... everything I put here is from my perspective and personal experience --- if mail here is spectacular for you please carry on

The postal system in America is run differently than everywhere else*

*everywhere else is Germany, France and The Netherlands - all places I have mailed mail

You can mail a banana in the States without packaging. You can write an address on it, stick a stamp on the other end and it will be sent like everything else. No one is going to ask you anything. It will be placed along the conveyor with other mail. If you wish you can insure it for an additional cost or ask for a receipt of delivery. I can do all the above with the United States Postal Service or USPS because of the last word. They are there to service the American people. There is literally no pushback when it comes to mailing whatever, wherever. There are people there who will guide you through the process. They will advise you on the best options. They will ensure a price and that your mail gets there. 


I know a lack of customer service is the price of admission here in Deutschland but with the mail, um echt!? Unfortunately, you the customer have to know how to navigate the entire postal system and manage your own mailings. The Deutsche Post is the German mail provider in Germany. However, there are other couriers for mail, packages etc. But all of the providers all over Europe work as middle men with customs and financial institutions. You have to know how to mail things so that they do not fall by the wayside or get confiscated. USPS also provides other services like money orders and passports but having those services doesn't distract them from their primary purpose which is to service the customer. Surely, there is customs in America but it is very rare that international mail is disrupted in transit. Outgoing and incoming international mail is often kept at a standstill at the Frankfurt airport awaiting customs approval or further tax penalty also know as Zoll. Regular, degular mail runs at a even slower pace forget snail mail think sloth in a DMV. And unlike America, there are other metered mail carriers beside the main one so even that is also confusing. Then factor in the major carriers like DHL and UPS as well as a myriad of other German ones all in the mail game with no customer service. I mean you can barely find an actual physical place dedicated solely to mailing mail in Germany.

Where do you mail stuff in this country?

So Deutsche Post has multiple options but there is no actual post office solely dedicated to mailing mail. I know right, how? Again this is perspective and satire. So I think Germany decided that Germans cannot wait in a line without shoving and skipping each other. Their answer was to create multiple places where one can stand in line in their own neighborhoods to shove and skip their own neighbors instead. While USPS has physical post offices in just about every major neighborhood there are blue outgoing mail boxes, self service machines and third parties that can mail regular metered mail via the postal service - Deutsche Post has PostBank. Yeah there are yellow outgoing mail boxes too and even little service centers that are also bright yellow the PostBank is the physical outlet that just happens to be a bank, mortgage lender, real estate office and DHL servicer all in one. Basically, what that means is when you enter one of these places there is hell of a lot going on besides the mail. So the people working there do not have time for inquires, they aren't providing tape and they expect for you to have it all figured out. Your other option which I feel is on par with lack of customer service in Germany is going to a Kiosk or a Packstation. UPS offers their own thing called an AccessPoint.

What is special about the kiosk?

Nothing! There is absolutely and zero incentive in choosing between going to the PostBank or a kiosk. At least PostBank has some signage about postage and rates. The Kiosk is an independently ran corner store that just so happens to assist with the influx of mail Deutsche Post and other carriers just cannot handle on their own. And no kiosk is the same as one may offer Deutsche Post another exclusively DHL and maybe Hermes or UPS or DPD or GLS. I cannot make this up! If you need to mail a stamped letter the kiosk is not bad but just as convenient as a yellow mail box. If you need to buy stamps you can ask the clerk in the kiosk but do not expect them to know which stamp does what. If you have a package you wish to send you should already have it labeled before you enter the kiosk. It is a terrible experience having to ask about what options are available while holding your package as someone buy gum, another returns his bier flasche and Oma scratches lottery tickets. Again, there is no dedicated space to just mailing mail and the kiosk is sort of a convenient obstacle to mail mail. What they are absolutely good for is collecting packages. They take in packages the delivery men cannot deliver if the recipient wasn't home or they were just incompetent. They accept return packages as long as you are in the correct kiosk for that return - i.e. z.B. is it an Hermes kiosk or a DPD kiosk? If you are picking up your missed package you also want to be sure you are at the correct kiosk as these places are numbered, addressed and your incompetent delivery guy may not tell you which one your package is at i.e. z.B. DHL Packstation 182. If you Google Map "post office" you will get about a thousand numbered packtstations and any of them could have your package. He or she hould have written it down if they have missed you on a sorry I missed you note but if they cannot find an address clearly marked on your mail they cannot write either. Ironically, they place those notes in your mailbox 75% of the time and 100% of the time the note is given when you were at home waiting - more on this later. 

Clearly, we are the mailmen (and women)

You're probably asking what about Amazon? Doesn't Amazon have their own hard working, dutiful and charming delivery people that ride around in blue vans. People in America love them, provide them snacks and they do they lil dances on the Ring camera. They do not exist here. It is completely random if you get the blue van or a motorized vehicle at all. Most couriers for everything in Europe ride on bikes. Surely UPS has their same brown truck and DHL has the yellow one but there is so much mail these days delieverymen and women are using whatever means provided. On an average day in Köln, you will see multiple bikes - a yellow Deustche Post one and an orange Postcon one. Postcon is strictly B2B and where most bulk and mass mail comes from. Instead of them distributing to Deustche Post they are sort of in competition with them exclusively in the Rhein area. Your package deliveries are exclusively held by the carriers mentioned above. They also have reputations like those in the States. Similar to thoughts on USPS being slow, Amazon being thoughtful, UPS getting there and FedEx just throwing it on your door step the same could be said for DHL, Hermes, DPD and GLS in that order. DHL is touch and go. Hermes loves to say your address doesn't exist and send your package back to the sender. DPD is a funny one where a man usually shows up at random and tries to demolish your package. GLS is the most random and if they deliver to a packstation it will be in the most far away fucking place. Thankfully, UPS is so limited here they tend to keep their missed deliveries in more quieter places like copy shops instead of kiosks. DHL has options to deliver to a physical Packstation - a bot box in the cellar of a hyper store or in the back of a gas station where you can retrieve and send off on your own. 

If you just want to mail someone a birthday present

  • Do you know the current rates for stamps, packaging and distances? 
  • Is it wrapped, boxed, tapped and or labeled correctly? 
  • Do you have a manifest of what is inside? 
  • Did you get your DHL box in advance? (Boxes and other various mailing materials aren't free)
  • Are you okay with tracking being non existent for days, weeks and even months?

P.S. If it doesn't get there or returns back to you, it is entirely your fault.

Knowing the basic rules for entering a post office in Germany, it sort of deters you from wanting to mail anything. You already know you cannot ask questions. You already know you cannot waste time. You already know the entire system is at your own risk. You already know the mail is completely unreliable for the sender and recipient. Your best, fail safe option, is to never mail anything ever. I mean you can go to a kiosk or visit one of the "service centers"at the back of a kiosk. Most of the time a person in a kiosk doesn't even acknowledge your existence. You can request stamps, they will sell them to you but they themselves have no idea if those stamps work for the where you are sending whatever article of mail. Postage differs for each size of the package and can be one thing for a rectangle verses a square making the sending of just a greeting card a fucking nightmare. If you are sending something back home you will need an international stamp but again most people in a kiosk don't know the difference.You have to ask what stamps are available and see them to figure out if you are being sold the right one. And good luck managing that in German or whatever language they can decipher as most kiosk owners and operators aren't German and Deutsch can be their second, third or never language. If they have a line out the door because Covid mandates two persons at a time ... egal!

Here are the current rates for stamps to send domestic mail ... I am not including dimensions which are also a strict requirements

Rectangular mail with less than three A4 sized papers folded inside - ,80€
Compact mail also rectangular but up to 50 grams -,95€
Groß mail square format is "possible - 1,55€

You know what the current rate for stamps are in the U.S. for domestic mail

It's .55¢ for a forever stamp that will never lose its value and if I want to cover a banana in them to make sure it reaches the farthest domestic location no one is going to bark about its dimensions not qualifying for that particular stamp. I can also take a free flat rate box and whatever fits inside within reason will also be sent to its destination without any inquiry into dimensions or weight. Now surely there are requirements for these things but they are so fucking lenient no one would ever dare exceed them. I have only been turned away from a post office once for trying to mail a baby gate. It was ultimately cheaper to just replace the gate and have it shipped from Amazon to its destination. To be perfectly honest, this is how Europeans operate because the mail is such a drag here. They just replace things that can be easily shipped. Or they send a gift direct from a store or manufacturer. Wherein in America it is cheaper for me to order a gift online, send it to myself for proper gift wrapping and then send to a recipient in a flat rate box. A box that is free to me and the person in the post office will seal it and tape it and have a discussion with me about the worth of the gift so that it is properly insured and tracked at a small additional cost. I cannot do this standing at a counter covered in gummi candy and German Playboy magazines now can I? And if sending a letter is as much as a chore as above then fuck sending anything outside of a square even if it is going to a friend living around the corner. 

So what about Covid...

Well, now people are relying on the mail for everything. I needed to do an update, it required a USB drive, well I didn't have one because I sadly am a technical minimalist. I am sure DM or Rossman carries them but we are in a pandemic so my husband had no choice but to order one. And currently we are ordering everything from sponges, to oatmeal, to vitamins ... and I hate it. I prefer to touch my purchases and I also really despise the mail delivery system here. It is totally unpredictable. Delivery involves interaction here and I will never get used to it. I expect that if I made the decision to order online it is expected that I do not want to interact with anyone. But when I receive orders here in Germany the person delivering the item needs me to remind them where I live, remind them of my name, open my door to them, engage with them in whatever way and if they don't want to do that I myself have to track down my own package in a kiosk, Packstation or bot Packstation. All I wanted was for my shit to be placed in my mailbox or at my front door. I was told that isn't safe so this is why German couriers require receipt of delivery. I should be pleased this person is double checking my name. I should be delighted they are engaging with me and asking for a signature for a spoon I ordered. When the pandemic happened it was oh so pleasurable to hear this was no longer possible. No more signature, no more engagement - it would be like the good ole days where mailmen were loathed and bit on the ankle by the dog ...... but that lasted all of fifteen seconds. 

These fucking guys are back full force with ringing, knocking, banging and begging for some sort of confirmation that the spoon with my name and address on it is really my spoon. It helps greatly that I have a weird long name and I am Black because they then question repeatedly if the item in question is really mine or if they have met the right person. It drives me absolutely insane to be interrupted in my sleep, work, cooking, watching TV to answer multiple rings for multiple carriers and then be interrogated. I have to put on clothes. These days I have to put on a fucking mask because these guys literally step over the threshold to give you a bubble envelope containing a spoon! I have tried everything B.C. (Before Covid) and now to make them stop. Unfortunately, nothing works! They also attempt to leave mail for neighbors here too as they cannot just leave mail anywhere. The best part is when I wait around expecting something and they never show. Then I finally leave my apartment to find the following...

  • A note in my mailbox claiming they tried to deliver but no one was home
  • An illegible note in my mailbox saying my package is at a neighbor or nearby business
  • A illegible note in my mailbox saying my package is at an location that I cannot decipher
  • A form saying my package is at a bot Packstation but there is no barcode for me to use the bot
  • A note of any kind under my door mat
  • A note of any kind floating in the lobby because it was placed in haste
  • The item is stuffed in my mailbox with zero confirmation (where the USB drive was)
  • And I saved the best for last --- me stepping on my doormat and breaking the spoon 
I was home the entire time, I wasted my day and this is the thanks I get?

If I do have something to go retrieve my package, oh well because then...

  • The package is still in the delivery truck and will not be at said location until the next business day and it is a Friday
  • The package is in someones business that is now closed because it is Friday
  • My neighbor decided to go to Mallorca for three weeks the moment they accepted my package on my behalf (FUCK)
  • The kiosk owner doesn't understand me and the note is illegible and so still no package
  • The kiosk hasn't been cleaned or organized in a thousand years and although my package is confirmed there no one in the place can find it 
  • Me seeing my package in a sea of packages at whatever location and having the person look for it like a terrier despite me pointing at it and telling them that is mine
  • And again I saved the best for last --- The clerk at the kiosk who is the gatekeeper to the Black Gate and refuses to assist me with my package that I know is in his kiosk but he doesn't trust ausländers and he needs to speak with my husband and or see my passport for a ... spoon
And all of these kiosks and bots need a retinal scan to give me something that is rightly mine and during Covid this is the absolute last thing I want to do - THAT IS WHY I ORDERED ONLINE 

Most Americans will find this aspect of the German mailing system the most painful. One can eventually get the hang of the domestic mail or even how to send an international piece of mail. But the idea that what you ordered isn't yours is excruciating. And if you live in a building especially on the first floor you will find a plethora of lazy, entitled delivery personnel who will stick you with your upstairs neighbors packages. They will fail to let those people know you have their shit and you will be obligated to safely keep it because you signed for it. For me I am the only active person at home during the day. I however am on a high floor but even still I have been stuck with multiple packages from multiple neighbors and nearby businesses. I have also found my own packages keyword found at a local pizzeria, a law firm and the best one was at a tax facility which of course has very limited hours. I have also received a package for a nearby tax accountant who failed to pick up for three weeks. Every opportunity I took to personally hand over the package was met with a closed office and the fear of what the contents were. I also learned the hard way when a neighbor accused me of stealing his iPhone. Well sir, I am a former IT guru and the last thing I want is anyones iPhone. He accused me then later begged me to assist in the investigation of the rogue Hermes driver who was found to have stolen it and re-taped the package. Besides empty packages there is also a lot of damage as these drivers just lose patience. They sometimes throw, kick and destroy your shit just because you live in a walk up. I have an elevator so there really is no excuse and if I buzzed them in they know I am home so why do you need me to open the door. My new method ...  I just do not answer the fucking door. I send my husband on whatever wild goose chase to pick up "we missed you" packages. Or we ask for things to go directly to a chosen Packstation or bot or AccessPoint. Again, I don't order things online, he does.

I do not even have an Amazon account and praise be. But Covid is forcing me to sort of get with the times.

If only Germany could catch up as well. 

Now granted if you really hate the aspect of playing hide & seek with your mail there are some familiar alternatives. You can seek out a third party mailing company like Mail Boxes Etc. which do operate internationally and have locations in Germany. I have personally seen locations in Köln and Düsselfdorf. These locations have rented, addressed boxes available for purchase and they will ensure that whatever mail and packages are kept for your retrieval. They can also act as your post office working with couriers to ship your items domestically and internationally. This is ideal for a ex-soldier, a busy professional or an influencer even. This way you know your mail is safely arriving and there is an entity that speaks the language and can navigate the postal system on your behalf. Most of these places will also offer other services that are vital to the types of people I mentioned like mass mailing, copying and printing. They also operate and function in the English language. I personally am thinking about it because I do not receive mail frequently but when I do I just want it to be left for me. I also do not like being the mailman when there are already too many of them that just need to do their job. Frankly, I do not give these people a hard time but they are giving me one instead. I sometimes have to rob them of my own shit. Just drop it already! I am sleepy, over it and I need my spoon left right there!