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Three countries, three ways of addressing

I’ve lived in three countries so far, and for me it’s really interesting to see how differently they do some things that I’ve never even thought could be done differently. Today: addresses.

Almost everyone knows that in Japan you use blocks instead of street names and that buildings within a block are numbered chronologically, not geographically. But that’s Asia, right? How much can one European country be different from another?

🇵🇱 Poland

In Poland, if you live in a building with multiple appartments, your address consists of two parts: the number of the building and the number of the appartment within a building, for instance “Szymborskiej 32/24”. If you know there are four appartments per floor, you can easily calculate that number 24 is on the 5th floor (24 / 4 - 1 for ground floor).

That is the way I grew up with, assuming that’s the way pretty much everyone does it.

🇩🇪 Germany

Then I moved to Germany, where they don’t really have a concept of appartment numbers. They just use last names...

When you move in, you really need to get your name on the intercom, mailbox and the door as soon as possible, otherwise post, couriers and guest won’t be able to find you.

The mailman has to scan all the labels on mailboxes to find the correct one for each letter, instead of just sorting them by appartment number to be faster. The courier apparently needs to visit all the floors looking for the right door. If you miss him and you don’t know the neighbours he left your package by, you need to do the same. If you invite someone over, you need to tell them the floor... And if there are more than one “Müller” families in one building, I honestly have no idea how it works.

The only good thing about this system is that after you move out and remove your labels, the new tenants won’t be accidentally getting your mail.

🇳🇱 The Netherlands

And then there’s Netherlands. I just assumed it’s gonna be like in Poland. After all, they’re Dutch, not German, they can appreciate and execute a good idea, be it mobile payments, self-checkout or numbered appartments. Well, they do, but it doesn’t mean it’s the same as in Poland.

In the Netherlands every appartments gets a number on the street, regardless of the building it’s in. So “Nordstraat 123” might be on top of one building, while “Nordstraat 124” is on the groud floor of a different one.

It seemed to me that it’s not better or worse than in Poland, just unexpected. I would almost call the rental agent to complain “how am I supposed to sign the contract and get all the other stuff organised, if you still didn’t give me the full address” 😄

On the other hand this solution forces the management to put a note “123-129 – 1st floor, 131-137 – 2nd floor, etc.” in the elevator, which is way more convenient than having to calculate it, as I always did back in Poland.

Also, what’s really really cool, it allows your appartment number to be unique within a postcode, which wasn’t the case in Germany or Poland. This way, for example, the forms online get a bit quicker to fill out – just put in the postcode and the number (like “1234AB” and “987”), and an API can figure out the rest.


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