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When a location like a town is mentioned in (American) English, the state and country that town is part of is often also stated, e. g. to specify which place exactly it is that is being talked about.
This is done in a particular, fixed order, namely going from small to large: town, state, country.

San Francisco, California, USA

Does a comparable convention exist in the German language when speaking or writing of locations like towns?

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    In welchem Kontext? – user unknown Feb 27 '18 at 8:39
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    Are you speaking about the address written on a letter? If so, the habit in German speaking regions is to go "inside out", i.e. Paul Müller, Blaue Straße 15, Grünstadt, Germany", whereas I have seen in other countries "outside in" methods: (which are actually more logical from the postman's perspective): "Germany, Grünstadt, Balue Straße 15, Paul Müller". – Christian Geiselmann Feb 27 '18 at 9:07
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    Great edit, Philipp :) – Takkat Feb 27 '18 at 14:14
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    I don't know why this question is closed. Of course, there could be more context, but it is totally fine this way. – RoyPJ Feb 28 '18 at 8:32
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The short answer is: other than in the USA, where it is common to add to names of towns and other inhabited places an abbreviation to indicate the federal state, e.g.

Milan (OH)

Paris (MS)

Stuttgart (AR)

Berlin (NH)

Potsdam (NY)

Wien (WI)

Roma (TX)

this is not common in German speaking countries.

There are, though, traditional additions to names such as Frankfurt that exist twice or more. These additions, however, do not follow a general rule. They are specific in kind and spelling for each individual place. Therefore you have

Frankfurt (Main) [also: Frankfurt am Main]

Frankfurt (Oder) [interestingly never heard: Frankfurt an der Oder]

Neustadt an der Weinstraße

Neustadt am Rübenberge

Biberach (Baden)

Biberach an der Riß [also: Biberach/Riß]

Some of these additions have remained pure disambiguations; other have become practically unseparable parts of the toponyms e.g.

Zell am See

which nobody would think of as just "Zell" leaving out the lake, whereas one usually would go nach Frankfurt, and only add the river when there can be doubts.

Some municipalities have incorporated landscape features into their official names in order to use it for marketing (making clear that this particular place is situated in a region known for its beauty), e.g.

Leutkirch im Allgäu

where "im Allgäu" is not really necessary as there is no other Leutkirch anywhere, but people want to mention the Allgäu region because it is famous for being lovely (green grass and forests, brown cows, undulating hills), and part of the economy relies on tourism.

(Anekdote: I once spent a weekend to visit the aforementioned Neustadt am Rübenberge because I imagined the town being situated at the foot of some lovely hill in the otherwise flat and boring Lower Saxonian landscape. Boy was I disappointed. No distinguishable Rübenberg there far and wide. Obviously the municipal marketing had gone too far here.)

Otherwise, it is not common to add the German federal province to a place's name. German federal provinces are also not mentioned in postal addresses. Exception: with the emergence of US-based online traders, sometimes we are faced now with customer profile forms that necessarily require a "state" to be entered, clearly just because the form was desigend like that for use in the US market. For Germans (and I suppose also for Austrians and Swiss etc.) this is rather a nuisance.

  • Out of curiosity: Why would you rather exclude "Frankfurt an der Oder"? – Arsak Feb 27 '18 at 15:19
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    @Marzipanherz "Frankfurt am Main" and "Frankfurt (Oder)" are the official names of the two cities. – Uwe Feb 27 '18 at 15:28
  • @Marzipanherz I don*t know. It just so happens that people say the one but not the other. Of course, as Uwe mentioned, the "official" usage leaves its mark on popular usage eventually. – Christian Geiselmann Feb 27 '18 at 16:31
  • @ChristianGeiselmann Interesting - I hear both versions and couldn't even tell which one I hear more frequently. I wonder if this is a(nother) regional thing... – Arsak Feb 28 '18 at 23:53
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Same order. Usually one would not include the state, like "Heidelberg, Germany", because we don't have that many city names that exist multiple times. But if they do, you would write it in brackets:

Walldorf (Baden), Germany

You usually don't even include the whole state (Baden-Württemberg), but the informal region (Baden). But it would also be okay to write

Walldorf (Baden-Württemberg) or
Walldorf, Baden-Württemberg, Germany

Note that we usually don't include "Deutschland" and implicitly assume that it's a German city. If you write a postcard from a foreign country, you write "Germany".

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    Contrary to the more modern habit of writing the country name in English ("Germany") on letters to recipients abroad, I stick to the old manner of writing it in French ("Allemagne"). French was, for quite a time, the official language of international postal services and railway communication, and I somehow suppose that postal services even today are able to deal with French country names. So far I have not been proven wrong. – Christian Geiselmann Feb 27 '18 at 9:02
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    I find adding the state (like Baden-Würtemberg) unusual. Often ambiguity is resolved by e.g., adding the river, like Frankfurt (Main) vs Frankfurt (Oder). – Robert Feb 27 '18 at 20:28
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There is no special convention to supplement the name of a town with the the state, opposed to US. There are not soo many towns with ambiguous names apart from Neustadt, where typically the river or region is added.

So San Francisco alone would default to the well-known city and Paris without suffix denotes the French capital.

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    There is no general convention, but there are lots of special conventions for ambiguous names, say, Frankfurt am Main vs. Frankfurt (Oder), Neustadt an der Weinstraße vs. Neustadt bei Coburg, Halle (Saale) vs. Halle (Westf.), Oldenburg (Oldenburg) vs. Oldenburg in Holstein, Hagen (Westf.) vs. Hagen im Bremischen, ... – Uwe Feb 27 '18 at 11:43
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No, I would go with SF, CA, USA. If I would use state and country at all. Most people know, where San Francisco is.

Could you give some more context to your question?

If you want to specify to someone, where some small village is, in German we usually refer to the next big city, as in "Reinbek, zwischen Hamburg und Lübeck". People know where Hamburg is, most people know where Lübeck is, no more clarification needed. For people from outside Germany, we either specify by "nahe Hamburg" or we go for the vague "Norddeutschland". Keep in mind that most countries are much smaller than the US.

  • This works great most of the time but sometimes, villages with the same name can be quite near. E.g. look up Beienrode for two villages of the same name less than 10km away. – Janka Feb 27 '18 at 10:56
  • Considering there was a town called San Francisco in Minnesota sometimes it may be better to include the state. i.e. take a look at these places in america New York, Berlin . – mtwde Feb 27 '18 at 11:13
  • This does not work well for mail addresses. – Robert Feb 27 '18 at 20:31
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    Why would it have to work for mail adresses? That's where postal codes come in. – Erik Mar 1 '18 at 14:01

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