The German postal service: an expat guide

Bas

Updated on Dec 04 • 4 minute read

The German mail service Deutsche Post has been the face of mail in Germany for a long time. It was privatised in the ‘90s but is still the primary and even ‘official’ way of sending mail. Alongside DHL, they take care of most of the mail in Germany! So, if you’re an expat looking to send mail or packages home, Deutsche Post is there for you. So let’s dive into how the German mail system works, so you can get your mail to its destination as fast as possible!

How to send a letter in Germany

Sending mail in Germany is very easy!

  • Write your letter or postcard,
  • Put it in a standard envelope,
  • Write down the correct address,
  • Make sure you have the right amount of postage
  • Drop it in a postal box or bring it to a postal office.

You can purchase envelopes and postage stamps at the local postal office or at local shops. You can tell if the shop has these basic items available if they display a Deutsche Post or DHL sticker in the window. These days, postage stamps are also available online! More about that later. If you want to send a package, DHL is your best bet. Bring your package to a Deutsche Post office or a DHL Package Point and your package will be weighed and labeled appropriately there.

How to write an address on an envelope in germany?

So, you want to make sure your mail arrives quickly and at the right place? Well, then you’ll need to know what the proper way of writing addresses in Germany. In the German postal system, addresses are read by machines! So to make sure the machine can easily figure things out, make sure you write clearly, preferably in capital letters. Additionally, you can follow the following conventions:

  • Write only on the front of the envelope (the side without the flap)
  • Write your own (the sender’s) address in the top left corner.
  • Write the recipient and their address in the bottom right corner.
  • The top right corner is reserved for stamps or other printed postage.
  • Make sure there’s no other print on the envelope that could be confused with postal labels or prints.

The formatting should be like as follows:

Deutsche Post AG (company name, if applicable) Maria Schwien (Recipient name, can be Herr or Frau plus last name, if the first name is unknown) Mariastrasse 55A (street name + building number and denomination) 53325 Berlin (postal code + city)

Mail pricing in Germany

You can pay for your mail by purchasing physical postage stamps, but these days you can also pay for your postage online! All you need to do is select the right type of mail, pay online and print the postage certificate yourself. Once you’ve done so, make sure you stick the stamp at the top right corner of your envelope.

Local mail

Sending mail inside Germany itself is quite affordable! Local mail usually takes one or at most two days to arrive.

Formatdimensionsmax weightprice
Postcardsmax 23.5 x 12.5 cm150-500g€0.60
Standard envelopemax 23.5 x 12.5 x 0.5 cmmax 20g€0.80
Compactmax 23.5 x 12.5 x 1 cmmax 50g€0.95
Largemin 14 x 19 cm - max L+W+H 90cm2max 500g€1.55
Maximin 14 x 19 cm - max L+W+H 90cm2max 1000g€2.70

International mail

Sending mail or packages abroad is, as you might have guessed, slightly more expensive. Sending international mail takes longer, as it also depends on the foreign postal office and their operation. Generally, air mail takes around 3-4 days to arrive, but it could take up to 2 weeks.

Deutsche Post charges the following for international mail:

FormatDimensionsMax weightPrice
Postcardsmax 23.5 x 12.5 cm150-500g€0.90
Standard envelopemax 23.5 x 12.5 x 0.5 cmmax 20g€1.10
Compactmax 23.5 x 12.5 x 1 cmmax 50g€1.70
Largemin 14 x 19 cm - max L+W+H 90cm2max 500g€3.70
Maximin 14 x 19 cm - max L+W+H 90cm2max 2000gup to €17.00

Local and international packages

The pricing of local and international packages is variable, as it depends on the exact size, weight and destination of your package! To find out how much you owe exactly, you can use this calculator provided by Deutsche Post. In general, there are two tariffs for local and international mail, the affordable option, and the one which includes insurance for your package. So, if you’re sending or receiving something valuable, I recommend you spend the extra euros to make sure your goods are well insured!

receiving mail and packages in Germany

Most German homes have a mail slot in the front door, or in the case of an apartment building, large rows of mailboxes, intended to accommodate paper mail like envelopes and postcards. For the delivery of packages, a delivery person will simply ring your doorbell to have you accept the package. Alternatively, you can have packages delivered to a nearby postal office, if you know you won’t be able to accept the package at your door. Make sure you bring your ID, otherwise the clerk is not allowed to give you your mail.

In general, paper mail and packages are delivered separately, and you can expect your mail on any day except Sundays and public holidays.

What if I’m not home?

We’ve all seen the videos from the US, where people steal packages right from other people’s porch or front door. Fortunately, that kind of occurrence is rare in Germany. If you’re not home to receive your mail or package and it doesn’t fit your mailbox or mail slot, the delivery person will simply try again. If you’re not home for multiple delivery attempts, they will either deliver your packages at one of your neighbours (And leave a note for you) or leave it at a nearby post office or package pickup point, such as a local shop. If your package requires a signature, Deutsche Post will deliver it at the post office, so you can sign for it there.

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