Swedish Language Blog

The Mysterious Ways of Swedish Post Office Posted by 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 😉
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  1. wrinkled weasel:

    What a marvellous blog. Thank you for all the time you spend making it so.

  2. Gimena:

    Oh that was so interesting! And trust me, it explained A LOT! Now I understand why it takes sooooo long for my packages to get to my friends in Täby.
    Hey Ana, btw, have you read about the guy in Gothenberg cutting female’s hair inside buses? Hahahaha, I read it in The Local. Soooo funny!

  3. Kenia:

    I don’t doubt it works well, but yes, it can be inconvenient not to have your post stuff delivered to your door, mostly in a country like Sweden, where the weather is pretty bad almost all the year.
    I love Sweden, its language and everything related to it, but swedes have a weird way of thinking sometimes, like arriving to this conclusion that normal post offices were no longer necessary =)

  4. ceci:

    it was just today that i was on the statoil, ( waiting to pay bensin…now i understand, she was searching some package) and i realized that it was a post office there and that people can take there big packages…you are great, i was wondering about it on my way to my friend that was without bensin on the road….tack sa mycket anna!

  5. Anna:

    Ceci, Kenia, Gimena and weasel,
    yes, I do miss “normal” post office. A lot. The new system is convenient (sometimes) but the old system was better. One place for everything. Not like now. Some packages and letters – at ICA, some packages and letter – at the gas station. And if there’s a problem – then the main office downtown.

  6. Stu:

    I just learned the vocab “post kontoret”, but had to laugh now that it’s obsolete!

    Oh, and the Local mentioned “the snipper” but since I’m from the DC area, I thought it said “sniper”! Much less sinister. Still weird, but not what I thought it was.

  7. Linda från kalifornien:

    Hej Anna! I’m a little late in commenting, but I must say the post system reminds me of the old days of the US, where the General Store in each town was the Post, the Market and the Telephone/Telegraph Operator. I see Sweden saves alot of government kronors by making a Post Office obsolete, and overcharging for overseas shipping.

    I posted a paket home to US when I was visiting last month. It was outrageously expensive to send 15kgs, we paid $60USD. It took a little over a week to arrive home. From the US, we sent a paket of about the same size for about $30USD and it arrived the same week we sent it.Strange, how that works.

  8. Anna:

    Hej Linda!
    I don’t think they’re overcharging for overseas shipping. I think that the prices are simply the reflection of the cost of doing business in Sweden. Everything costs more here and this general difference has to go somewhere. And shipping prices are no exception. Which, of course, doesn’t change the fact that they are outrageously expensive!

  9. Roger Willis:

    Hi folks. Does anybody know why I am getting ungummed stamps from a Swedish new issue stamp agency? Does this mean that the stamps are not new and have been forged?

  10. Will Hawkins:

    The Post Offices in the UK are declining in number by the day because more people are emailing and have less need to go to the post office. They are aiming to sell more financial and banking services to their customers but more people do this in town now.

  11. victoria:

    I must say your postal article was very well written and concise. Would love more interesting articles of everyday situations. We are a family with hopes to move to Sweden from Hawaii. Both my parents have Swedish citizenship passports, myself included. How to locate jobs, housing, etc. is no easy task. Helpful advice greatly appreciated! Tack!

  12. Dieter Schoen:

    Looking for First day cover of stamps with Swedich Canada May 13.2010. I have Canada and Sweden FDC. Thank you for any help. Dieter Schoen

  13. Simon:

    The thing that you are missing here is that in Sweden you CAN NOT get something delivered.
    EVERYTHING goes to the supermarket or video shop or somewhere else.
    I order things online and want them delivered to my my door.
    In any country in the world that is possible. Just not in Sweden.
    They deliver everything to the supermarket and then you have to go an collect it.
    Unless you use DHL or UPS

  14. Kevin:

    Amazing that in a country with such high taxes (over 20% sales tax) we don’t have door-to-door delivery of mail.

  15. Jane:


    Do you know if you need to be “written” to a swedish address to have a package delivered to you?