Das Postamt • The post office
The German postal service (Deutsche Post) has undergone dramatic changes since the days of the old federal Bundespost that existed until 1994.
The old government-run German postal service, established in 1947, was known as the Deutsche Bundespost after 1950. It was organized along the lines of the traditional PTT model (postal, telegraph, telephone) found in most European countries. Up into the mid and late 1990s, a trip to a German post office still revealed remnants of the old PTT style post office, with special counters for various services and phone booths for making long distance calls.
After German reunification in 1990, the eastern and western post offices were merged into the Bundespost, but the move to privatization was already beginning. In 1995 the old postal, telecommunications and banking divisions became separate companies: Deutsche Post AG (the old “yellow” gelbe Post), Deutsche Telekom AG and Deutsche Postbank AG. Headquartered in the 41-story Post Tower in Bonn, the Deutsche Post AG has entered the 21st century with major changes in the way it delivers the mail and deals with customers.
Through its DHL International arm, which it purchased in 2002, Deutsche Post also operates express delivery service in about 170 countries. DHL and Deutsche Post caused a furor with the shutdown of US operations in 2008. Also in 2008, DHL moved its European airfreight hub from Brussels to the newly expanded Leipzig/Halle airport.
Going to the Post Office
The old Bundespost, with large, dark post offices in old, stodgy buildings, has given way to many smaller, bright post offices in shopping centers and other convenient locations – displaying the familiar yellow and black Deutsche Post sign (above). The new Deutsche Post has also entered the 21st century with extensive online services, from printable stamps to a Postfinder that helps you find the nearest post office or mail box. (See links at the bottom of this page.)
Luftpost becomes Priority
What used to be called “Luftpost” (Airmail) is now “Priority.” In January 2011, Deutsche Post revised its international rates for letters and postcards. There is now a single rate for any mail sent outside Germany. It doesn’t matter if your letter is going to neighboring France or faraway Australia, the postage is the same. This means that it costs 0.75 € to send either a postcard or a standard letter from Germany to any other country in the world. Sending a book via international mail (up to 500 g) will set you back 3.45 € Priority or 3.00 € Economy. For current rates in all categories, you can download PDF “Preisblätter” from Deutsche Post.
Many German post offices now resemble a stationery store more than a post office. Besides stamps, you can buy greeting cards and postcards. Even smaller branches also offer postal banking (Postbank) and mobile phone packages through T-Mobile (a German company and a division of Deutsche Telekom).
For those occasions when you really need a post office after hours or on a holiday, there are some options (including Deutsche Post’s online services). Although smaller branches observe fairly standard business hours, you should be aware of the old reliable standby that Germans have used for years: the train station. In larger cities the main Bahnhof usually has a post office somewhere in the station that is open late and on even on Sundays. In Berlin, even the Ostbahnhof, which is not the main station, has a post office with extended hours.
International airports are another option. The post office at the Frankfurt airport is a 24-hour operation. (See the photo at the top of this page.) And the airport is only a 12-minute S-Bahn trip from the Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof. Other larger German airports also offer 24/7 postal services.
So the next time you’re standing in einer Schlange (in line) behind ten other people at your local German post office, remember that it not only could be worse, it was worse!
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