The Mysterious Ways of Swedish Post Office Posted by Transparent Language on May 4, 2009 in Culture
People abroad are always very surprised when they hear me say things like, “Oh, I have to go to the gas station and pick up my package” or “we pick up our mail at the supermarket.”
“What? Don’t you have normal post offices over there?”, they ask.
Well, as a matter of fact, we really don’t.
Posten (the Swedish Postal Service) decided to abandon normal post offices sometime in 2001. Since then, we’ve had “postal service points”, where we can send and pick up letters and packages. Those are for individual clients, such as you and me and can be found, yes, you guessed it, at gas stations, supermarkets and convenience stores.
There is one main “post office” in our town, and while anybody can send stuff from there, in order to pick up your mail there, you need to be a business client. And they don’t even call it a post office anymore – it’s a “Postal Service Center”. Because the Post Office, as we know it in the US, or the UK, in Sweden is no more.
I like the current system. You have to admit, it’s very convenient. You go to buy milk and bread and can pick up that parcel your cousin in Chicago or Sundsvall sent to you. Just be sure to remember to take that little slip of paper (avi, it notifies you that there’s something waiting for you at the “post office”) you got in the mail with you. No paper – no package. And don’t forget your ID either, you may need to show it when signing for your package.
We send and pick up mail at our local ICA supermarket. But not always. Express mail (but not EMS) ends up at a nearby gas station. That’s why it’s important to read the avi very carefully. It tells you where you need to go. And you will need to go, because unless your cousin in Chicago (or Sundsvall) used DHL to ship the package to you, chances are it will not be delivered to your door. In fact, at least in our town, anything larger than a C4 size envelope (big enough to stuff an A4 page in it) has to be picked up. Ordered a book from amazon? You’ll hike to pick it up. Expecting a registered letter? You’ll get on your bike and ride to the supermarket/convenience store/gas station with the avi in hand. I don’t mind, our postal kiosk is very nearby. But it’s not so convenient anymore if it’s 10 below outside, or snowing, or raining, and you have quite a way to go.
The problems also arise when a package goes missing. If you have a “normal” post office, it’s much easier to complain and find out what happened. If all you have is a “postal service point” it’s very hard to even locate a person, who can tell you how to file a claim. Simply because your average ICA employee working a postal desk shift has no clue himself.
Luckily, most of the time, the system works amazingly well. Things get delivered, and things get sent. Except for EMS – the kids at our ICA still haven’t figured out what it is and how to deal with it.
- avi (def. avin, pl. avier, def. pl. avierna) – meddelande o matt man har fått t.ex. ett paket, brev, eller pengar som man kan hämta.
- kuvert – the final “t” can be silent or not, depending on where you live (def. kuvertet, pl. kuvert, def.pl. kuverten) – brevomslag av papper – envelope
- frimärke (def. –märket, pl. –märken, def.pl. –märkena) – pappersbitt som man klistar fast på t.ex. ett brev för att visa att man har betalat för att skicka det. – postage stamp, and despite the “fri” part of the word, it’s not 😉