Question for non Americans - mailing addresses

In the US a common address would be a like:

Joe Johnson
2145 Maple street
Springfield Missouri, 66204.

So name, street address, city, state, zip code. If a person lives in an apartment the address also lists that.

But I notice in many foreign countries they dont use street names for addresses. Its just some postal number.

So in your country, how does the mailing address system work?

Just like yours for my home mail but I have a parcel box at Australia Post that is a pile of numbers but includes the Post Office name.

That would be a P.O. Box here.

The German system is pretty much like the American one, with the exception that street name and street number are in reverse order, and so are postal code and city. Plus we typically don’t use the state, simply the name of the city (if there are several cities in Germany of the same name, they are often differentiated from each other by geographic designators like rivers on which the cities lie, but that can be omitted since the postal code uniquely identifies the city). So a German equivalent of your sample address would be:

Josef Johansson
Ahornstrasse 21*
66204 Sprungfeld

*): German street numbers are typically just sequentially numbered, not in the U.S. where they start with the next multiple of 100 at each block or so, so they would hardly ever go up as high as 2145)

Some countries don’t have door-to-door delivery, so people have a numbered post-office box that they have to collect the mail from.

But countries that do have door-to-door delivery do of course include the street name, except where addresses work differently. For example, in Venice, Italy, each property is numbered within each of the six “sestieri” into which the city is divided, so the address would be something like:

San Polo 2357

In this example, 2357 is the number within the sestiere of San Polo, and 30125 is the postcode.
This site has a comprehensive list of address formats for various countries around the world:

It’s different. I used to have a PO box. It’s an address for me at any post office that has the service but I don’t have a regular box there. I just turn up swipe a code on my phone and some random box opens with my parcel in it.

Missed the edit window, to add: in my country (UK), a typical address would be:

45 Example Street
MN12 3XY

where Villageton is the location of the address and Maintown (written in capitals) is the “post town” (ie where the mail gets sorted). We are not supposed to include county names nowadays, but many people still do.

If the address is in a post town, then the address will have one less line, eg

12 High Street
In rural areas, many houses don’t have numbers, but just have house names, and may or may not require a street name (in very small villages, often you just need the house name and the village name). So you might have:

Thatch Cottage
Church Lane
Little Hamlet
MN20 8GH


Hill Farm
MN13 6BY
The last line is the postcode, which uses an arcane system to specify a group of usually a few dozen addresses, sometimes even a single building.

The Swedish system is basically the same. In rural areas, there might not be a street address, but rather something like “Kånkback 340”. This generally means that you don’t have your mail delivered at your door, but must walk some 70 yards or so to the collection of mailboxes 331 - 340. While you’re at it, you can also pick up your neighbor’s mail and give it to him on your way. We’re a somewhat trusting people.

Japan doesn’t have street names for all but the largest streets. Instead, the neighborhoods are named, and frequently these neighborhoods are divided up into sections called chome.

Each block in that neighborhood is numbered and then the houses are numbered around the block.

Someone may live in Taisho 3-chome, block 15, house number 6 within the Setagaya Ward in Tokyo. The zip would be 111-0011

In Japanese order it would be:

Tokyo, Setagaya Ward
Taisho 3-15-6

Prior to smart phones and GPS, finding houses was a bitch.

I just wanted to point out that the comma is normally between the city and the state, not between the state and zip code.

Where would you put the name of the person getting the letter? After all there could be many people living in the same house.

Also what if it is an apartment building?

Ok, related.

In the US lets say you have to send a letter to a person who might work at a certain company.

So lets say you want to mail a letter to Mickey Mouse and you know he works at the Disney Headquarters then you might see:

Disney Headquarters
101 Happy Lane
Los Angeles California, 90210
Att: Mickey Mouse

Or the same lets say you are sending in your resume to the Human resources department at Disney then you would see:

Disney Headquarters
101 Happy Lane
Los Angeles California, 90210
Att: Human Resources

Ok. But where would you write the persons name and what if it is an apartment building?

Also how would you address a letter to a business or a person who works at a particular business?

The apartment building name would come bellow the address followed by the person’s name.

I being another Brit: I confess to having a probably unfair and un-called-for dislike of postcodes. They were introduced in the UK some fifty years – and the majority of my lifetime – ago. I do fine with remembering stuff which is “mostly words, with the odd figure”; but I completely suck at remembering arbitrary jumbles of letters and figures, and pretty much “can’t do” postcodes. I know by heart, my own, and those of perhaps two or three other people – all others, I always have to look up, which annoys me. I readily admit that with the UK’s growing, and densely-packed, population, postcodes became necessary; and I conscientiously use them – I just hate them.

Re rural addresses: I have a friend who lives in the depths of the countryside, toward the Anglo-Welsh border. Vis-a-vis Colophon’s model above, I suspect that with his address as he routinely gives it, he’s doing things a bit wrong. Let’s say he lives in Yondershire, post town Yonderton with postcodes YN* ***. Style of his address (not the real one !), as given by him, is

The Rill
Small Village

Still, there never seem to be problems with post reaching him. It seems that on the whole, the Royal Mail do not act like sticklers for meticulous correctness with addressing conventions.

Our family have relations in New Zealand; and I am favourably impressed by the NZ authorities’ handling of this matter. With the country being mostly rural with – by general global standards – a tiny population: postcodes, zip codes, what-have-you, are not functionally necessary. And, cheeringly, they are not used: addresses work in the same way as they did in the UK fifty-plus years ago. It’s as simple as

2 Silver Fern Street

–usually, no need even to bother with specifying North or South Island. Humans being the way they are, I’d not have found it surprising if New Zealand officialdom had felt that though the country does not need postcodes / zip codes; they would be introduced anyway, so that NZ could feel that it was at the cutting edge of things, and was keeping up with the postal Joneses. Admirably good sense has obtained here.

One thing I would point out is that in the US it is very uncommon to see the state spelled out like in these examples. I just checked some mail lying around at my house. All the letters had the two letter state abbreviation. So the address from above would more commonly be written as.

Disney Headquarters
101 Happy Lane
Los Angeles, CA 90210
Att: Mickey Mouse

As noted above the comma separates city and state. But I noticed maybe 1/2 the letters had no comma at all.

You shouldn’t. You’re not supposed to put anything below the city/state/zip because it confuses the postal sorters. The attention line on an envelope generally appears below the name of the company/organization and above the street address. So:

Disney Headquarters
Attn: Job Giving People
101 Happy Lane . . . etc.

America is so decentralized that I’m fairly sure that is not the standard throughout the country. Some places increment by 100 each block and some places don’t even have blocks. Many places in the US alternate even and odd addresses and street sides, so all of the even addresses are on one side of the street. But I wouldn’t be surprised if many places aren’t even consistent about that.

The point is that US street numbers are almost never serially numbered (to allow for increasing density and the like) whereas European numbers almost always are. For example, the first house I lived in was 21 Acreman Street, and the houses next door were 21 and 23, the house across 22, etc. In most of the US it would have been 1242 Acreman Street, and the next house would have been 1246, and so on.

I just tried ordering off Amazon for someone in Guatemala, and i just could not get it to figure out the address. There’s no postal code. There’s no street. There’s no house number! It’s basically, take this package to Bob, thanks. Yeah, he’s somewhere in Guatemala over thereish. Like, here’s one for a touristy hotel I just googled:

Bruno’s Hotel and Marina
abajo del puente
Fronteras, Rio Dulce
Livingston, Izabal

Amazon about exploded with errors.

I ended up having it shipped to me in Chicago, where I’ll write the address label by hand and take it to the post office.