Thursday, December 8, 2011

Die Post

Most mornings around 8:45 someone rings our buzzer. At first this scared me, partly because I was surprised to hear the buzzer and partly because I didn't know who could be ringing it or what they would say when I picked up the phone. But every time I pick it up and say "hallo", a voice at the other end says, "danke, die Post." It's the mailman. In American apartment buildings, the mailboxes are usually in an entryway before you get to a locked door, but here the outside door is locked and someone has to buzz in the mailman. I think he has figured out that I am here most mornings and rings my bell first, and if I don't answer he just rings all the others until someone buzzes him in.

Deutsche Post is the same company as DHL. The mail carriers wear yellow and black and ride around on yellow bikes with big saddle bags to hold all the mail. The people who bring the packages are separate and drive a truck. When they ring they say "hallo, paket post". If you're not home they usually leave your package with a neighbor. This was actually a good way to meet some of the neighbors, especially the first couple of months we were here when I ordered a lot of stuff from Amazon. And it was a good way to measure my progress in speaking German. When I got the little ticket that said who had signed for the package, at first I would ring the neighbor's doorbell and stand there smiling, holding out the ticket and hoping they'd figure out what I needed. Now I stand there smiling, holding out the ticket, and I say "Hallo, haben sie meinen paket, bitte?"
It's all about baby steps.

The last few times we've gotten a delivery I missed it and had to go to the post office. The post office is also a bank, which I find fascinating. I like how they combine your waiting-in-line-for-someone-at-the-counter experiences into one place. in order to pick up the package. In order to pick up the package you have to show the ticket and your passport. I tried using a drivers license once and the postal employee lady was not happy with me. She gave me the box anyway, though. Yesterday I mailed off a box to the US for the first time. I knew I'd have to fill out a customs form, and that I'd have to know how to write down the contents of the box in German, but I  was not prepared for the question about would I rather send it by economy mail or air mail and what the prices were for each and how long they would take to arrive. That was a little too advanced for me. Luckily this postal employee guy was much more patient than the woman who didn't like my drivers license. He repeated the question for me, slowly, and I went with air mail.

Every time I go there I remember the post office on Arlington Ave in St Paul where we had to go back home. There were always a lot of immigrants in line - Hmong, African, and Latino. When these customers had trouble communicating, the postal employees there liked to use the same words over and over again (even though the customer didn't understand those words the first time) and speak louder and more impatiently with each repetition. I am glad they don't work at the Hannover post office, because I am one of those immigrants now.

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About Me

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Thanks for coming to my blog. It started as a way to keep in touch with family and friends, and now has become an ongoing project. I'm an American living in Germany and trying to travel whenever I can. I write about my experiences as an expatriate (the interesting ones and the embarrassing ones), and about my travels. There are some recurring characters in this blog, particularly my husband Brian and several of our friends. The title comes from the idea that living in a foreign country means making a lot of mistakes. So the things you used to do easily you now have to try over and over again. Hopefully, like me, you can laugh at how idiotic it feels. If you have happened upon my blog, then welcome. Knowing that people are reading what I write makes me keep going. Feel free to write comments or suggestions for future posts.