I know that the postal service in the US is currently under scrutiny, so I thought it might be interesting to take a look at the postal service in the Netherlands. First off, just like in the US, there is the postal service, PostNL, as well as several private carriers such as FedEx and DHL. Unlike in the US though, there are no post offices but rather PostNL locations usually located in retail stores such as the grocery or card and stationary stores. At these locations, you can buy stamps as well as first class style mailing supplies. You can also mail letters and packages both domestically and internationally and pick up packages being held for you at these locations. If you do not need to mail a package or have special postage put on an envelope, you can drop stamped letters into a post box-there is no pick up of letters at a home mailbox. The post boxes are located all around the city both around commercial areas as well as residential. There are two slots on the mail boxes, one for “local mail” which falls within certain postal codes and another for overage mail which is anything outside of those postal codes as well as international. Mail is picked up from the boxes every evening.
For receiving mail, mail carriers walk or bike through residential areas and leave mail at your home box or mail slot. There are actually 2 types of carriers-the ones that bring actual mail and the ones that bring circulars, local papers and other flyers. If you don’t want to receive circulars, flyers and other such mass mailers, you can put a sticker on your mailbox that indicates that those should not be put in your box. In terms of packages, if you are not home to receive your package, the carrier typically will not leave it at your door. Usually they will first see if a neighbor is home to receive it, and then they leave you a slip in your box indicating which house it is at. If that is not possible, they take it to a location that is authorized to hold and distribute packages. We have had packages at places from tobacco shops to hair salons so where your package will be can vary greatly each time.
So how much does it cost to mail things in The Netherlands? One regular stamp is .91 Euro which means it is slightly over 1 USD. An international stamp is 1.50 Euro which is 1.82 USD. Prices for mailing packages seem fairly reasonable.
One final thing to note-here in The Netherlands, the postal code is very important in locating an address. If you know the house number and postal code, the street can be automatically generated by address databases and this is because even within the same area of the city, there will be multiple postal codes. Houses on a different street from ours will likely have a different postal code.
And there you have it-a quick overview of how to send and receive mail in The Netherlands.