Culture Shock #3: A Post about the Post

Germans are stereotyped the world for many things, but their efficiency, meticulousness, and desire for order might be the best-known. Elaborate filing systems, with their own naming devices, color-coding, and dates, are things I’m no stranger to (and in fact, I might be known as well for being a little OCD about tracking my documents). The difference? My stuff is all online. And Germany’s? Well, it comes via the Post.

That’s right, THE POST. It’s almost like a punchline. I could go days in San Francisco without receiving anything in the mail besides the flimsy grocery coupons and some catalogs addressed to the previous tenant. But in Germany, if I don’t check my box every day, I am missing out on crucial information. That includes key bank statements, passwords, customer numbers, and log-in information, in addition to bills and important notices. And God forbid one of these important bits of paper gets accidentally thrown out—because there’s basically no way to retrieve that information unless (you guessed it) they send you another copy by mail.

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Signing up online is easy…accessing your account requires a mailman.

And these pieces aren’t standalone. Oftentimes, the information in one letter unlocks the other—a mailbox version of the DaVinci Code. For example, my username for my bank login came in one envelope, and several days later, a password arrived. I also got a separate letter stating my account was active. That’s not only three distinct pieces of paper—it’s three distinct mailings!


I figured there has to be a way to opt-out of these mailings and get them sent digitally instead. But despite the fact that this is 2016…it was a no-go. So like a good little German-in-training, I bought myself a file box and some clear folders. (Confession: the colored post-it flags I already had). If this is how it goes in Germany, I guess there’s nothing left to do but carry the mail.

Culture Shock #2Those Doors Are Closin’
Culture Shock #1Your Money’s No Good Here

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Culture Shock 3