Icelandic Language Blog

Post office Posted by on Apr 23, 2012 in Icelandic customs

One thing you’ll probably be doing whether you’re a tourist or immigrant is going to the post office. The downtown (area code “101” – Icelandic area codes are just three digits) post office is one of the places I’ve found where they’re always friendly and we always have a completely Icelandic conversation.

They don’t call the postal methods “priority mail”, “express mail”, “SAL”, etc. Instead they usually ask you “A or B-post?”. A is most expensive, B is less expensive. I thought there was a C-post too but I can’t find it on their website so I’m probably misremembering because they have “A, B, C” prices on some postcards right now. Alternatively, if you’re speaking in English they may ask something like “priority or economic?”.

The Icelandic colour for the post office is red. Their official boxes are red, logo is red, some buildings are red, and their uniforms are red.

A postman’s bicycle, with cargo bags. Sometimes you can see them wheeling a trolley if they have a lot of houses on their route.

This was a letter from the post office. They have a few things you’re likely to get, one is a letter saying you have a package that they suspect includes something you bought. If so you’ll have to Email them with the package number in the subject of the Email and give them information (usually a receipt of your purchase is fine) about the cost/contents and they’ll decide how much to tax you.

Another is a letter saying you’ve received a package but some items in it are banned (in this one my dad sent me dried meat and meat was banned at the time – this is what the capitalized words say). I had a choice, to let them throw out the meat or let them return the package.

Note that 3.h. stands for “3 hæð – 3rd floor” (in this case, of an apartment building). It’s not necessary to write the floor number when giving people your address, but it’s nice to have it on your front door so the postman knows where to go if he has to deliver something.

The third thing you might receive is a slip saying they came to deliver a package but you weren’t home. They don’t retry deliveries so you have to pick it up at the post office if you miss them. I think that with little things like these slips with single words like “address”, it’s best to look them up in the dictionary (looking them up yourself helps you remember them better) rather than trying to memorize a whole sentence like “you must write your address here”. Unfortunately Icelandic isn’t such a grammar-simple language that you can always recognize a word not in dictionary form, but that’s just a matter of studying grammar.

The last common possibilities are slips saying you have a package waiting at the post office (I’ll edit a photo of that in once I find it). If there is some kind of price printed on the slip it means you’re being charged that much and you’ll have to pay it when you pick up the package. A couple days after you Email customs and tell them about what you bought, you’ll get one of these slips with a price. Sometimes they charge you without asking you anything.

I’ve never used one of these. Guess what it’s for!

The post office is closed on the weekend. I’ve been told this little bit about the post office but this was almost three years ago so it might be incorrect information now: If you work as a mailman and deliver the mail, there’s no time limit and you get paid the same whether you finish in a hour or take all day. So that’s why the mail is never delivered by a specific time of day (except for closing hours of course). Sometimes you get the mail by noon and sometimes it doesn’t come until four in the afternoon.

There’s packing tape and scissors for free use at the post office. The 101 location also sells candy, postcards, misc. tourist items, and reflectors (I mentioned what those are in a previous post). Icelandic stamps can be quite fancy, it was a long time ago so I’m not sure but I think I’ve seen at least glow-in-the-dark ones. They also have a lot of different stamp options even for international stamps.

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About the Author: sequoia

I try to write about two-thirds of the blog topics on cultural aspects and one-third on the language, because there's much more out there already on the language compared to daily life information. I try to stay away from touristy things because there's more of that out there than anything else on Iceland, and I feel like talking about that stuff gives you the wrong impression of Iceland.