French Language Blog

La Poste – Sending Snail Mail In France Posted by on Jun 8, 2016 in Culture, Vocabulary

Before I had trouble figuring out how to send un mail, I had trouble figuring out how to send le courrier (the mail). La Poste (the French postal service) isn’t very different from other postal services around the world, but it is somewhat unique in that it is also une banque et un opérateur de téléphonie mobile (a bank and a mobile phone operator)!

You’ll see several different queues (lines) at La Poste for these different services, and along with les enveloppes et les colis (envelopes and packages), you’ll also see cell phones for sale. All that in the same bureau de poste (poste office)!

When sending une lettre (a letter), first you need to buy les timbres (stamps), and they’re sold at le bureau de poste, which is easy to guess. However les timbres can aslo be bought at un tabac.

C’est quoi un tabac ?
What is un tabac?

Un tabac is a café/bar combination that also sells cigarettes and stamps. They’re something like a convenient store combined with a café/bar.

Ensuite (next), don’t put your mail in a mailbox and stick up the little flag to send your letter! You have to go to un bureau de poste or find a yellow boîte aux lettres (mailbox) to envoyer le courrier (to send mail). There are many boîtes aux lettres everywhere in France, making it easy to find one wherever you are.

Once you’ve found une boîte aux lettres you’re greeted with a rather intimidating decision:

The left will have a list of des départements nearby, but the right will look the same. This is meant to help sorting long distance mail easier, but can be intimidating if you see a list of numbers representing des départements that you’re not familiar with!

It’s also possible to see des boîtes aux lettres with just a single slot for le courrier, but just remember if you’re trying to send something to a country other than France it’ll always go in the Étranger (Foreign) slot.

Don’t worry, witing a letter and sending it can be difficult for French people as well. Norman made a funny video about the common issues people have with writing by hand and La Poste in France.

La vidéo is in French, but try to watch it to practice your French!

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About the Author: John Bauer

John Bauer is an enthusiast for all things language and travel. He currently lives in France where he's doing his Master's. John came to France four years ago knowing nothing about the language or the country, but through all the mistakes over the years, he's started figuring things out.