[Image credit CC: Ian Britton]
If you choose to live in a town or village in the Axarquía, there will probably be a postal delivery to your house on most week days, just as you would expect in many countries. Depending on where you live in the world, you might think it strange, but most front doors here in Spain don’t have letter boxes set into them, making mail delivery a little more complicated.
Your correspondence will usually be left in a lockable post box fastened to the wall at the front of your house. That’s always assuming, of course, that you have a lockable post box. If you don’t, it’s likely that the postman will push the letters in the gap under your front door. I can recall when we rented a house in the beautiful white village of Frigiliana, before we bought our present house, seeing letters poking out from underneath many of the doors, as I walked through the narrow village streets.
If you choose to live in the countryside (el campo), you will not have your post delivered to your home, but instead you will need to go to your local village post office to collect it.
Before the post office in the village of Cómpeta moved into new premises a few years ago, this service was free to residents in the area where I live. We had all been allotted Post Office box numbers (Apartado de Correos) and we would then queue up, as we Brits are so good at, waiting our turn to be given our goodies!
You knew you had truly been accepted into the local community when the Spanish postmistress didn’t need to ask for your post office box number ….she just went to the pigeon-hole, situated behind the counter, and took out your bundle of post!
The Post Office queue was always a sociable event, with locals and expats chatting and listening in to each other’s conversations. It was always a place to learn what was happening in the village, particularly as you had chance to read the notice board, as you shuffled past it, whilst you were waiting.
Sometimes, of course, the wait would stretch to half an hour, as the queue snaked around the Post Office and out of the door, which would result in people grumbling and moaning about what an old-fashioned system it was. Personally, I always found it rather charming.
Sadly, the social aspect of mail collection all changed when Cómpeta Post Office moved into a new building and the system was dragged, kicking and screaming, into the 21st century.
In order to retain your Apartado de correos address, it would now cost you more than 50 Euros a year. Each household was issued with a key, so you can visit to collect your mail from your own personal lockable mail box, in racks on the public side of the counter, anytime during post office opening hours.
So nowadays, people drop in – open the box, and are off again within a moment or two and without a drop of gossip in sight!
Shame that …. 😉
What is an aspect of modern life that you think has changed for the worse?
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The only thing we get in our mail is publicity haha!
As long as it’s not just bills 🙂
I miss letters. Genuine hand written letters. Email is cool and fast, but I like seeing cursive sprawl across a page.
I have a friend who writes letters to me. I love them. Pity you weren’t in time to join my competition to win 6 handwritten postcards sent to you, by me, from Spain!
Interesting post, Marianne! 50 euro a year is high.
…especially when it’s per person!
We get our post delivered, but unfortunately have had to give up on the greetings cards, as there’s so much dishonesty amongst our postal workers, who slit open the envelopes just to check there’s no money or cheques enclosed. It’s really very sad, and when I complained to the postmaster, he apologised but said nothing can be done about it. 😦 Any parcels or packets have to be be sent insured post, or couriered, which is expensive.
What a shame about the greetings cards, Sylvia. It’s a sad fact of hard times 😦
Quite often, the cards just don’t arrive at all. Maybe they destroy the envelope too much and just throw the whole thing away. It’s very upsetting, and I think there’s absolutely no excuse for such dishonesty.
Great post! I wonder why Spanish postboxes are so small.. The boxes in my apartment are bigger than average Spanish ones but still waaay too small :p I’m used to having a huge post box, one of the things that I miss about Finland 😀
One good thing, Katariina, is that we receive very little “junk” mail. We normally go to the village to collect our post once a week – sometimes it gets to 10 days – and often there are only 2 or 3 letters, rather than 10 a day when we lived in England – most of which were junk!
Great article Marianne! So interesting not only to read of old ways but alternatives ways to our own. I live in Australia and we don’t have letterbox slots in our doors, we have letter boxes standing right at the front of our properties so the postie can just ride by on his bike, drop the mail and ride to the next box. We do have post office boxes available at the post office branches also but you need to pay for them quite expensively too and I never saw the point when I can get my mail delivered home for free. We are a lucky country for sure!
Thanks for letting me know, Penne. I can see it would be a better idea to have a box at the front of your property so that the postie doesn’t need to get off his bike. Very sensible!
What happens if someone lives further out in the countryside – more isolated from others? Do they need to go and collect their mail from the post office like we do?
Hi Marianne, yes our postal system is pretty good. Even in rural areas we have a system for mail to be delivered to a letterbox and cost is recouped in the postage to the box. There are some quite isolated places where post must be delivered and collected at the post office though but mostly Australia Post will get the mail to everyone wherever possible.
This was such an interesting post, Marianne. We still have the old fashioned system of house to house delivery, rural lock-boxes on daily delivery and a central post office here. I love the old ways and I know my fellow islanders will fight tooth and nail to keep it.
…and I don’t blame them. Sometimes the old ways are the best!
Thanks for your lovely comment 🙂
Ah the correos. When we first rented we couldn’t get a private box. They were all taken. So we just queued and mail was filed alphabetically. Then we bought the finca and bought our very own box for the wall, just as you say. After putting our names on it to help the postie, we quickly took them out realising that someone could then denuncio you for whatever if they had your name. Not that it got much use at the time, as our postie tended to stand in the middle of the village collaring people as they went about their daily business, and making them stand in line to receive their mail.
Later his post office (open for two or three hours a day as he chose) offered post boxes. No idea if anyone took them. Since then he has acquired a number of underlings. The more useless ones tend to leave us with Reme and Maria’s post, and ours goes to Maria. Etc etc. Touch wood, the current underling seems OK. He even pretends to speak English by saying ‘Allo. He might as well say Buenos because the rest of the conversation switches into Spanish.
Our postie has a huge campo round though. And most of the places in the campo have mailboxes. Not at their houses, but say at a junction where there are a dozen or so of them. They are probably a bit resistant to change in our village.
Hey at least the postie delivers to the campo. Maybe a bit closer to our village it’s the same, but we live in the heart of the campo, about 7 kms from the village – so we have little choice but to pay.
It seems like quite a few of the villages around, though, still have the old system.
We have a beautiful post office, but the service is the pits. There’s only ever one person serving, while some superfluous security guard stands about doing sod all!
The service is slow at our post office, but it’s still the same lady who has been there for years.
Three cheers to her!
We’ve got a very grumpy afternoon lady and a friendly cheery morning lady 😉
Progress, huh? 🙂
It stopped the whiners moaning about the old system – and cost everyone a load of money!
How sad! I hope they don’t do the same thing here – We have a pigeon-hole with our names written on a post-it note 🙂
Sadly, I think it will come your way eventually, Sue.
They have now amended the system further so that the 50 euros only covers ONE name – so a husband and wife – even with the same surname – need to pay twice!
Everyone has been up in arms about it around here – with alternative post-box systems springing up in local offices and newsagents.