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Old 05-21-2019, 08:16 PM
Jinx is offline
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Sending from USPS to an International Address?


Suppose I want to send a letter to a friend in China. I have an address, but it is written in Chinese, of course. I'm sure the address makes sense in China, but will the US Mail (USPS) know what to do with it? Should an international address be written phonetically using English alphabet characters? Or, will this just confuse the Chinese postman? How does this work?
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Old 05-21-2019, 08:30 PM
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I don't know about Chinese, but when I wrote to someone in the Soviet Union, I didn't use Cyrillic characters. I think the PO on China would slap a label on it with the correct characters.
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Old 05-21-2019, 08:53 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jinx View Post
Suppose I want to send a letter to a friend in China. I have an address, but it is written in Chinese, of course. I'm sure the address makes sense in China, but will the US Mail (USPS) know what to do with it? Should an international address be written phonetically using English alphabet characters? Or, will this just confuse the Chinese postman? How does this work?
At a minium, put the word "China" on the envelope in Latin characters. That way, USPS will know to send the letter to China, where presumably the Chinese postal authorities will have no difficulty dealing with the rest of the address in Chinese.

Postal authorities, however, generally pride themselves on handling international mail, and an envolope addressed in French or English will generally be correctly delivered pretty well anywhere in the world.
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Old 05-21-2019, 10:40 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by UDS View Post
At a minium, put the word "China" on the envelope in Latin characters. That way, USPS will know to send the letter to China, where presumably the Chinese postal authorities will have no difficulty dealing with the rest of the address in Chinese.

Postal authorities, however, generally pride themselves on handling international mail, and an envolope addressed in French or English will generally be correctly delivered pretty well anywhere in the world.
French is the official language of the Universal Postal Union, and English is also acceptable as a "working language."

So write "PAR AVION" on your envelope, or use the cool sticker...

Last edited by DPRK; 05-21-2019 at 10:42 PM.
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Old 05-22-2019, 06:52 AM
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I'm always happy for an excuse to link to Frank's Compulsive Guide to Postal Addresses. Here's what he recommends:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Frank
  1. The Country Line must be understandable by the USPS. Therefore, use the English name of the country (INDEX), not the local name, e.g. use GERMANY, not DEUTSCHLAND. To be more precise, use the same name the USPS uses for the country in the IMM, e.g. GERMANY and not FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF GERMANY. The USPS IMM names are usually the common English names, but not always (for example, the USPS lists C‘TE D'IVOIRE, but not IVORY COAST).
  2. The City Line must be understandable by the postal authorities in the destination country. When the town or province has an English name different from the real name (such as Cologne for KŲln in Germany, or Vienna for Wien in Austria, or Prague for Praha in the Czech Republic, or Copenhagen for KÝbenhavn in Denmark, or The Hague for Den Haag in the Netherlands), you should normally use the local name since the USPS does not pay attention to the City Line in most cases. If desired, however, you can write the name in local notation above the (English) City Line. Example:
    Code:
    ABC Holding B.V.
    Marijkestraat 11
    NL-2518 BG Den Haag
    THE HAGUE
    NETHERLANDS
  3. The lines above the City Line must be understandable by the destination post office. So don't attempt to translate the more specific parts of the address. For example, in a Polish address, don't change "Ulica Piotrowa" in Krakůw to "Peter's Street", since the Krakůw post office is the one that handles the street address. When sending mail to Russia, Israel, Greece, Armenia, China, etc, it is perfectly acceptable to write the lines above the City Line in the native script. According to the USPS IMM, it is also OK to write the City Line in the native script, but it must also be written in English below the native script and above the Country Line (USPS guideline (d) below):
    Code:
    198156 САНКТ ПЕТЕРБУРГ
    198156 SAINT PETERSBURG
    RUSSIA
There are also sections giving guidance for each country. Note that it appears to be acceptable to romanize Chinese addresses into Pinyin; but if you have the address in Chinese characters, it's only necessary to translate "China" and the city name & postcode.
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Old 05-22-2019, 12:19 PM
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The Chinese post office was reliably delivering letters to major city addresses written entirely in Pinyin romanization in the 1980s, so I have little doubt that they can still do this. I would have less confidence for small towns or rural locations, where Chinese characters (provided that they are written accurately) would be much more reliable.

Something to bear in mind is that Chinese addresses are written in reverse order from top to bottom of an envelope, i.e.

Country
City
Street
Recipient's Name

If writing in Pinyin, I'd stick to the Western convention of name at the top, since any P.O. employee who can understand the Pinyin will know the Western convention. But if writing in Chinese characters, the Chinese convention would be better.

I think the most reliable way of getting something delivered to any address in China would be to write the entire address in Chinese characters, in the Chinese conventional order, and written by someone literate in Chinese, not a crude attempt to copy characters manually; with a space and then "CHINA" written at the bottom for the USPS.

Last edited by Riemann; 05-22-2019 at 12:21 PM.
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Old 05-22-2019, 03:45 PM
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The USPS worker doesn't need to know the address, he just needs to know to which country it must be sent. So, you write "China" in English. The Chinese postal worker, on the other hand, will need to know where to deliver it. So, you write the specific address in Chinese.
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Old 05-22-2019, 05:50 PM
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You might ask your friend for the English language version--he has probably had international mail before.
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Old 05-22-2019, 10:18 PM
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As others have said, you only need to have the country and city in English. I’ve gotten many letters to vet they years written in Japanese with only “Tokyo, Japan” written in English.

Mail has gotten though with only the country in English, but maybe that could be a delay.

However, the best was is usually to use pinyin, the official romanization system for Chinese in China.

The post offices there can handle it, and depending on your artistic ability or lack of it, may be easier to read than attempting to write in Chinese.
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Old 05-23-2019, 03:23 PM
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I maintain a large database of international addresses, and they are all stated in English words and Latin characters. I've never heard of delivery problems from our English-ized addresses, I think the world has more or less standardized on the English words and Latin alphabet.
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