Addressing letters to foreign countries

What is the proper way to address letters to a country whose populace speeks a different language from yours? For example, would I send a letter to “München, Deutschland”; or to “Munich, Germany”?

I’m asking because the wife of a co-worker, who is from Mexico, addressed a letter to Nueva Mexico instead of New Mexico. The letter was returned a few weeks later because the USPS tried to send it to the city of Nueva in the country of Mexico. This same co-worker was stopped by someone on the street and was asked for directions to “Statta Co-yeh-hay”. It took him a minute to figure out that the guy was looking for State College Blvd. (Not that it would make a difference as an address printed on an envelope.) And I’ve seen Spanish-launguage news boradcasts where they refer to “Neuva York, Nueva York”.

What if you’re sending a letter to someone in a country that uses a different alphabet, like Russia? If you use the Roman alphabet, would you write “Moscow”; or “Moskva”? Or are you expected to write the address in Cyrillic characters?

I’ve used both of the following methods with no problems whatsoever:
[ol][li]Write the address in the normal manner and script of the country concerned. Then write the name of the country in English below that so the USPS will where to send the letter.[/li][li]Write the address in English with the name of the country, also in English, below the address.[/ol][/li]
Apparently, I was only partially following the USPS’s instructionf or sending international mail:

Hope this helps you.

The country name must be understood by your postal service (to know what country to forward the letter to). So you should use the English name. In your example, if you used “Deutschland”, the USPS guys might scratch their heads then put the letter on the plane to the Netherlands (as “Dutch” and “Deutsch” are often confused).

The rest of the address should be in the format used in the destination country, if at all possible with the real i.e. geographic names e.g. in your example the address would be
$street-name $house-number
$five-digit-postcode München

Using Latin script to countries with non-Latin (e.g. Cyrillic) alphabets seems to work in my experience. I imagine there are offices in these countries full of people who transcribe the addresses to the local script.

More information on international addressing can be found on the Universal Postal Union’s site.

ts: You stopped one click away from the definitive answer. See my posting above.


well, the address

06570 ST PAUL

quoted by the USPS guide might possible lead to problems. Translating a street name looks not very sane to me.

I see nowhere that anyone said to translate the names of the street. There is a huge difference between translation and transliteration. The example was obviously using a fictitious address–you might’ve noticed it was the same resident, residence number, and street name as the example to its left.

When addressing foreign correspondence, always put the country name on the last line, by itself, in capital letters, in the language of the country you’re sending it from.

You should not translate the street address or the city name, but you should use arabic numerals. If you think our postal workers had trouble with “Nueva Mexico”, can you imagine them trying to find “45 Rue de Pomme” (45 Apple Street). Oi!!

To say nothing of Anglicizing “Rambla de Circoncision” and other fun ways of designating address in foreign languages!

Reading the USPS site more carefully, it also suggests that the postal code be placed on the 2nd-to-last line, and that the “post office name” (presumably usually the city name) be given in English as well.

Probably a good idea if you’re sending a letter from Alaska to Kamchatka, and don’t want it to go via Moscow…

dna: It makes sense for the USPS to have the foreign postal code not go on the last line. If that code happens to be five (or nine) numerals, the USPS’s machines will read it as a US ZIP code and the thing won’t even leave the country!

When I sent mail from China to Canada I addressed it in English but wrote “Canada” in Chinese script (or more precisely, C&P’d the symbols onto a sticker,then slapped it onto letter). They were all delivered.