In the age of technology, a handwritten letter can speak more than words sent through the ether. A well-crafted business or personal letter can touch the letter receiver thousands of miles away more than an email missive sent at the press of a button. When sending a handwritten or dutifully typed letter off to Germany, there are a few rules to know before sliding it into the mail slot. Whether for business or pleasure, it’s important to understand just how a letter should be addressed when it's on its way to far-off Germany.
The Beginning Basics
It all begins with the recipient. When addressing a letter for business, it’s important to use formal language. The word Dear that starts off so many letters isn't the same for both sexes in the German language. For men, it would be “Lieber Herr” for “Dear Mr.” and “Liebe Frau” for “Dear Mrs.” For the more versatile greeting, such as Dear Sir or Madam, the letter would begin with “Sehr geehrte Damen und Herren.” If addressing a professor of either gender it would be “Sehr geehrter Herr Professor" or "Frau Professor.”
Addressing a Letter
Depending on where the letter shall be sent, there are a few labels to know. If the letter is being sent to a company, it will be addressed to a “firma.” If it's on its way to a P.O. Box, which is usual for military personnel, it will be labeled “Postfach” plus the number of the post office, or postfach, box. If you're sending off a missive to an institution, make sure you use the German spelling over an American spelling. Double check this if you're not sure because this can cause confusion once the letter arrives on distant shores. Street addresses in German letters come after the name of the actual avenue, boulevard or road. The five-digit postal code also comes before the name of the city. The country should be the last line of the address. Don’t be too formal here. Germany is quite suitable over the more formal Deutschland.
Break it Down
Start the address off with the name of the recipient or the institution that the letter is going to. Follow that with the street name with the number of the abode behind that. The name of the city goes underneath the street address line and the postal code in front of that. Finally, and possibly most important, put the country that the letter should arrive in at the bottom of the complete address. It's often put in capital letters. An example would be:
C/O DIS Schiedsgerichtsordnung/German Arbitration Institute
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