It never really dawned on me that the Germans don’t use apartment numbers – until I lived in a German apartment house. The only way the postal carrier (Postbote/Postbotin) can deliver mail to the correct apartment in even a large apartment complex is by the surname on the mailbox. In my case, not even my own last name, but that of the people I was subletting the apartment from. And my apartment complex in Berlin even had a Hinterhaus, another building facing a courtyard behind the front building, and all of them were five stories high. Yet the only numbers in sight were for the floors.
My first reaction to the lack of apartment numbers (Wohnungsnummern) was, “How ridiculous is that?” But then I remembered that the Japanese don’t even have street names in most of their cities (except in Kyoto and Sapporo). They use block section numbers in a confusing (to us Occidentals) address system that makes the Germans look like the height of logic and reason. The Japanese also write a postal address in the reverse order of most of the world: starting with the geographic location and ending with the name of the recipient. Continue reading