La poste – Post offices in France
The French village post office is a bit of a national institution. The fact that you can still find one in most small villages is really rather nice, particularly given that they offer banking with very low charges and a widening range of services.
However, if you don’t wish to hear about the state of Mme Dupont’s chilblains or the results of M. Leblanc’s latest miracle haemorrhoid cream, you may prefer to choose, buy and print out your stamps on line. (English-language site).
There are 200 different stamp designs to choose from, and you can even create your own stamps choosing from among the 200 images available from La Poste. You will also find a calculator on the site to help you to work out how much postage your letter or parcel requires, dependant on weight and destination.
Alternatively, many post offices have automatic stamp machines (coins only) with instructions available in English. These allow you to weigh letters and packages and issue postage in the form of the appropriate vignettes d’affranchissement.
Officially called ‘timbres Marianne’, (the national symbol of France, symbolising ‘liberty, french values and republican ideals’) the red stamp, equivalent to the old first class, should arrive in one to two days and the green stamp, equivalent to the old second class, up to three. The blue stamp is used to send letters of up to 20g within the EU and Switzerland.
If you wish the recipient of your letter or parcel to sign at the other end, send it recommandé. If you would also like to receive confirmation that the recipient has signed and accepted the mail, it should be sent as recommandé avec accusé de réception. This is particularly recommended if you are sending valuable items, legal documents or anything that might later lead to dispute.
The post office will either redirect your post to a temporary or permanent address (réexpédition du courrier) or hold on to it at the post office until you are ready to collect it. (garde du courrier). You may also arrange for your post to be sent directly to the post office if you do not yet have an official address (poste restante).
The first two numbers of the post code represent the département (66) and the last three show the commune.
For sending parcels and all other useful info about the poste, visit the English-language web site
If you’re not sure of a postcode, If you’re not sure of a postcost, this website will help you find postcodes for addresses in several countries.
Some useful vocab
accusé de réception – acknowledgement of receipt