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Thread: Do you have zip codes in your country? If so, how do they work?

  1. #1

    Default Do you have zip codes in your country? If so, how do they work?

    I work for the USPS reading and keying in addresses from digital pictures of mail pieces that the computerized imaging and sorting system couldn't figure out what to do with for whatever reason. This means I see tons of pictures of mail every day. One thing I haven't figured out yet is foreign zip codes, and Canada's in particular. If any of you Canadians could help me out, I'd really appreciate it. It won't really effect my job much, but it's been bugging the heck out of me. I've been trying to figure it out for the whole time I've had my job (Coming up on 2yrs now). I know that they are 6 characters long and alternate letters and numbers, and always start with a letter. i.e. A1A 1A1. My question though, is what do they mean? If anyone from other countries want to explain yours too, it would be interesting at least to me, and probably some others too.

    For those that are curious, I'll explain a little about US Zips. I figure it's only fair, right?

    US Zips are 9 digits. Five and a dash and 4 more. I.E. 55555-5555. The last four are a relatively new thing since computers started doing most of the sorting. As you know, mail will get to it's destination fine with just the first five, but it may be a little faster if you happen to know the last four also.

    As for what the actual numbers mean... The first two digits in the 9 digit code indicate state and region. The next three narrow it down to city and neighborhood or post office (in the case of PO Boxes). The four after the dash indicate where your address is in relation to the way your carrier's route works. They are used to help the computer sort the mail for each carrier the way he runs his route so his truck can be loaded with the first items he needs at the front, and the last items in the back.

    The largest regional numbers (the first two digits) run pretty much east to west across the U.S geographically starting from 00 and going up to 99. Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands are 00XXX. The east coast starts with 0XXXX in New England. For instance Maine is mostly 03XXX, Connecticut is 06XXX, New Jersey 07XXX and 08XXX, etc. They go all the way to 99XXX in Alaska and Hawaii, and 999XX in Guam and the other US Pacific territories. Middle states like mine (Kansas) are in the middle zip wise. Kansas for instance is all 66XXX or 67XXX. To Narrow it down even further the city of Wichita, KS, for example, has zips from 67202 up to 67236 depending on neighborhood, and which post office services the address you live in or are sending to.

    Anyway, I hope this was useful for someone and if not, and least interesting.

    ...but someone from Canada please tell me what's up with your zips?

  2. #2

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    Well, in Europe they're usually called "post codes" in English.
    Here in Switzerland, they're four digit numbers which specify the general district (these seem to be loosely related to the Canton), local area, and which post office and route you're served by. Here's a good break down from Wikipedia;

    3436 Zollbrück
    3 = district (Berne)
    34 = area (Burgdorf)
    343 = route (Burgdorf - Langnau)
    3436 = post office number (Zollbrück)

    In the UK, where I lived before, they're much more precise. They're in the form of two short groups of letters and numbers (usually three or four characters each), with the first group specifying the region (often the town or city for smaller ones, or an district for larger metropolitan areas) and local area (e.g. the exact suburb) and the second group a more precise location within that local area.

    The UK system is actually quite complex in some ways, Wikipedia comes to the rescue here again; Postcodes in the United Kingdom - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    One interesting thing about the UK system is how precise it is. Typically, you can expect a building's post code to pinpoint it's location to within a couple of hundred meters, and so be shared by maybe 10-15 buildings at most. And for larger buildings the post code can even be unique to it!

    Hope you find this interesting

  3. #3

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    ..and in Canada, we use "postal codes" and it's kind of similar in UK. It contains 3 letters and 3 numbers and goes like this A1A 1A1. First letter of the code incdiates what province or territory (S for Saskatchewan, T for Alberta, V for British Columbia, B for Nova Scotia, X covers both Northwest Territories and Nunavut). Rest of the code will indicate what region, city, etc. A postal code can cover just couple of streets, or even the whole region, depending how dense populated for that area. Once again, here's wikipedia on Canadian Postal Code system.

    Fun Fact: There is even a postal code for Santa Claus: H0H 0H0. Kids can write letters to Santa and using this postal code and actually can put in the mail box. Those letters will be delivered to "work shop" where the volunteers will write back the replies during Christmas season.

    I do find those interesting too and I enjoy numbering systems and see how they work etc. No wonder I hold an accounting assistant certificate and I am a cashier (deal with lot of numbering too). hehe

  4. #4

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    In Ireland, there are a few (20-something if I recall correctly) in Dublin. They are of the form Dublin <X> where x is a single or double digit number (or shortened to Dx). In the rest of the country, there are none. Which makes it rather annoying when websites insist on a postal code. I usually enter na in for that. But then some websites even reject that for being too short (despite D4, a valid Dublin postcode, being the same length).

  5. #5

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    What surprised me recently was that Puerto Rico has zip codes just like any state in the US. An ebay buyer won an item from me and it didn't occur to me where he was from until I was making out the shipping label, and saw "PR" instead of a recognized state abbreviation. Of course, I know PR is a US territory, but thought they would still have their own system of postal zones or codes. It was nice not to have to fill out extra customs forms, and being able to use regular Priority Mail just as if the package was going to another state.

    ~Pramrider

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by Emmy View Post
    Fun Fact: There is even a postal code for Santa Claus: H0H 0H0. Kids can write letters to Santa and using this postal code and actually can put in the mail box. Those letters will be delivered to "work shop" where the volunteers will write back the replies during Christmas season.
    Thanks for you responses.

    In the US there is also a code just for Santa. Actually, all a child has to do is address his or her letter to Santa, North Pole. Then I or someone like me will put in the special code that sends it to the post office in a town in Alaska actually called North Pole! The town there actually has a ton of volunteers each year that answer these letters. So your child can send a letter with his/her wish list to Santa and if Mommy or Daddy makes sure they have the correct return address, in a few days he/she will get a reply letter from Santa actually post marked from the 'North Pole'.



    Quote Originally Posted by Pramrider View Post
    What surprised me recently was that Puerto Rico has zip codes just like any state in the US. An ebay buyer won an item from me and it didn't occur to me where he was from until I was making out the shipping label, and saw "PR" instead of a recognized state abbreviation. Of course, I know PR is a US territory, but thought they would still have their own system of postal zones or codes. It was nice not to have to fill out extra customs forms, and being able to use regular Priority Mail just as if the package was going to another state.

    ~Pramrider
    Actually yes, all US territories have zips. Even Guam, the North Mariana Islands, and Vanuatu.
    Last edited by Near; 12-Jul-2011 at 01:48.

  7. #7
    Peachy

    Default

    In Germany, we use the same 5 number codes you use. We call them "Postleitzahl" (or "PLZ" for short; stands for "postal direction number"). The first number indicates the region, starting in the very southeast and then going counter clockwise towards the south. The other four numbers indicate the postal district, which can cross state of city lines as the post office doesn't necessariily draw their districts the same way the government does (a problem I've faced at work last week when trying to match growth rates to zip codes).

    It took me a while to figure out British zip codes. The first 1-2 letters stand for the abbreviation of the main city, like SO = Southampton, M=Manchester and so on. London has a different scheme though (never understood that one). The other numbers and letters narrow it down to the street, so you could technically send off a letter with just the house number and postal code and be fine.

    Peachy

  8. #8

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    Peachy,

    The London system is the oldest part of our postcodes. London was divided up into zones by the post office over a century ago: North, East, Southeast, Southwest, West, Northwest, and in the middle of the loop West Central and East Central. These zones were abbreviated to N, E, SE etc, and were adopted in to the full UK postcode system in the 1960s.

    The numerical system behind each of these is that SE1, E1 etc are the "head" district - usually the one closest to the centre. The rest of the original codes were allocated alphabetically, so the sequence N2-N7 is East Finchley, Finchley, Finsbury Park, Highbury, Highgate, Holloway. SW works a little differently because SW1-10 starts from central London and SW11-20 starts again at Battersea and points southwest to Wimbledon.

    There are also a raft of postal districts covering areas which people now think of as part of Greater London, but which were separate places when the original London zoning took place - Bromley (BR); Croydon (CR); Sutton (SM), Kingston on Thames (KT) to name but four.

    Tell me, how does the German system work in relation to the 4-figure codes you used to have pre-unification?

    Hugs,

    Artie the Anorak

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Peachy View Post
    The other numbers and letters narrow it down to the street, so you could technically send off a letter with just the house number and postal code and be fine.

    Peachy
    That's is a another interesting fact that is also true in the US. You actually don't need any other address information at all if you know the full 9 digit zip for your destination! Don't believe it? Try it! It works!

  10. #10
    Peachy

    Default



    Quote Originally Posted by BabyArtie View Post
    Tell me, how does the German system work in relation to the 4-figure codes you used to have pre-unification?
    Back then, every major village or city had exactly one zip code. I.e. a town of 2,000 people would have one, and a city as big as Berlin would have exactly 1 (in Berlin's case, it was 1000, I think). For added clarity, people could add the number of the post office after the name, so you could address letters to "1000 Berlin 2", meaning it goes to the post office / sorting place #2.

    After reunification, quite a few zip codes existed twice, in the east and the west. So they made you write a "W" or an "O" (for "west" or "ost" = east) in front of the zip code to clarify which place you want it to go. Took them 3 years to sort that out by coming up with the 5 digit number.

    Peachy

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