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I’m not familiar with sending postal mails. What is the address syntax/format I should use to send a letter/mail to a friend in Germany? I’m sending it from outside Germany.

[First Name] [Last Name]

[Street Address]
[Village] [Postcode]
[State], [Country]

Is this format correct? If not, please correct me.

21
+500

According to Deutsche Post, a domestic mail address in Germany consists at least of

[name]
[street name and number]
[postal code] [place of destination]

For example:

Erich Müller
Goethestr. 13
22767 Hamburg

However, it is customary to add the form of address in the accusative case. (In Switzerland, the form ‘Herr’ is considered permissible.)

Herrn
Erich Müller
Goethestr. 13
22767 Hamburg

(Note that, since 1 September 1999, Deutsche Post prefers that you no longer prefix the numeric postal code with any country code, for example neither “DE-22767 Hamburg” nor “D-22767 Hamburg”.)

For international mail, according to the Universal Postal Union (UPU), the name of the place of destination and the name of the country of destination shall be written in capital letters.

Herrn
Erich Müller
Goethestr. 13
22767 HAMBURG
GERMANY

According to the UPU, the name of the country of destination shall be written preferably in the language of the country of origin. To avoid any difficulty in the countries of transit, it is desirable for the name of the country of destination to be added in English or another internationally known language. (Note that actually French is the official language of the UPU. English was added as a working language in 1994.)

For example, the address of a letter posted in Poland to Germany contains the name of the destination country in Polish and English (or another internationally known language):

Herrn
Erich Müller
Goethestr. 13
22767 HAMBURG
NIEMCY – GERMANY

8

Although Germany, Austria and Switzerland are federal countries like USA who consist of smaller states (»Bundesländer« in Germany and Austria, »Kantone« in Switzerland) you don't write those states into a post address.

The reason is, that postal codes in those three countries are unique across the whole country.

Postal code is written before the name of the city.

So these are correct (fictional) examples:

Frau
Inge Berger
Ottakringerstraße 192-196/5/53
1160 Wien
Austria

Firma ACME
z.Hd. Frau Schöberl
Hauptplatz 13
5541 Altenmarkt im Pongau
Austria

Herr
Jens Friedrichsen
Quergasse 19
81671 München
Germany

Urs Lütti
c/o Lütti & Bucher GmbH
Rundgang 11
3100 Bern
Switzerland

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    While giving the country name in English is likely to work in practice, the official lingua franca of international mail is French. Furthermore, including titles such as Frau or Herr in the address is becoming increasingly uncommon in Germany; but if it is done, it should be Herrn, not Herr (finally, an aspect of this topic that is about language!). – chirlu Feb 14 '16 at 13:02
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    In my experience, the best language to give the destination country in, is the native language of the land of letter origin, because the sorter machines will always be optimized for undestanding the native language and it's this first sorter step that'll be decisive in putting the mailing onto the correct plane/ship. All other languages, including French, which probably hasn't much relevance as lingua franca anymore (because computers), require extra lookups and are thus more likely to fail. – hiergiltdiestfu Feb 14 '16 at 18:34
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    Es fehlt vielleicht der Hinweis, dass man im Inland das Land weglässt. – user unknown Feb 15 '16 at 18:42
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    @O.R.Mapper: In Austria there are 14 villages that are named »Altenmarkt«. Only five of them have additions to their name like »Altenmarkt bei Fürstenfeld« or »Altenmarkt im Pongau«. The other nine just are named »Altenmarkt«. You only can distinguish them by PLZ (Postleitzahl = postal code). – Hubert Schölnast Feb 16 '16 at 21:30
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    @Jan I would not consider those political areas but simply regions. Or would you expect the town to change name in the case of an administrative change? – Chieron Feb 19 '16 at 14:38
5

chirlu has provided a web page by the German Post, and the earlier answers all are correct.

There is only one criterion an address must minimally meet: The information provided must be correct and complete. Such mail should arrive at its destination eventually.

There is a second criterion which should be met: The address should be formatted in a way which allows for quick processing. Quick processing usually involves machine reading of the address and automatic sorting of the mail according to that data. The standards for that differ of course between different national postal services, but there will be a few commonalities.

  • A certain position of the address field on the envelope or box.
  • Free space around it to make it identifiable.
  • A machine readable font (big enough, no hand writing, no cursive font)
  • A certain layout of the data presented on it (e.g. in Germany: zip code first; in the U.S: zip code last). Generally the information flow top to bottom is "specific" to "general", usually from person to city or, for international mail, to country.

As an example, this German Postal Service brochure details the requirements concerning automatic mail processing for Germany.

For international mail potentially a compromise must be found between regulations of the country of origin and the destination. Perhaps it makes sense to follow relevant standards of the country of origin in order to get the mail on the way properly (e.g. the position of the address field); and to follow the regulations of the destination with details, like putting the zip code first.

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    Rather than just posting a link we would like to encourage you to at least give us some of the content you quoted. In case your link becomes invalid over time your answer will be of liitle use. Please edit your question to add the essentials of the content you found there. – Takkat Feb 19 '16 at 19:26
  • "perhaps it's more important to ensure that the post in the country of origin can handle it well?" - any address information beside the country of destination is completely irrelevant in the country of origin (and may well be unintelligible to the people there, such as when sending a letter from France to Thailand, or from Russia to Japan). – O. R. Mapper Feb 19 '16 at 19:56
  • @O.R.Mapper True. But still one may hope that it gets processed automatically if the address is written well and positioned properly. – Peter A. Schneider Feb 20 '16 at 8:42
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    Well, I'm not sure whether post from Luxemburg to Trier goes via Frankfurt or from Basel to Freiburg and Lörrach. – user unknown Feb 26 '17 at 16:51

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