Hows does my package get delivered in China?
June 20, 2007 3:35 PM   Subscribe

I sent a package to Beijing today. I addressed it in English, and I assume that somewhere along the line the address gets translated into Chinese script so that the delivery person on the ground knows where to take it. Does anyone know how this process works?
posted by Cobbler to Technology (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I don't think it does. Any time I have sent something to China the recipient has informed me that I need to print out the address as an image including the Chinese characters and affix it to the envelope. Several of those people had gif images pre-prepared for Westerners.
posted by fire&wings at 3:46 PM on June 20, 2007

There isn't a formal process for it to be translated, at least as far as I know. But when I lived in Beijing the mail I received often had someone's handwriting on it with the correct address in characters - presumably someone diligent in the post office or the mail carrier him/herself.

The ideal and safe way is to get the person you are sending the mail to to send you their Chinese address in characters like fire said, that way you know it will get there. However, in my experience having the address in English works most of the time, at least for the cities like Beijing and Shanghai.

There were a few things that got lost on the way for me, or that just showed up months later, but by and large an English language address should be fine, at least if it contained all the right information.
posted by gemmy at 3:55 PM on June 20, 2007

Most people in China are going to be able to read something written in the Latin alphabet (e.g., Beijing), and the postal code should be sufficient to get the package to the right address. However, like genmy said, somebody has to sort the mail that is not machine-readable, and, since they work in the post office, they have enough education and knowledge to decipher something "written in English" and send it on its way.

My assumption is based on my experience living in Japan, which also uses Chinese characters.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:09 PM on June 20, 2007

The characters don't have to be on the package. I've sent plenty of package to China, Taiwan with just pinyin.

Pretty much everyone in China can read pinyin. However you have to be careful as Taiwan and Hong Kong have their own versions of pinyin.
posted by mphuie at 4:21 PM on June 20, 2007

When I was living in Beijing I found pinyin worked fine. Anyone sorting your mail should be able to read it.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 6:03 PM on June 20, 2007

Pinyin also worked fine when I lived in a very remote county town in southwest Sichuan, though we would occasionally get wrongly delivered things addressed in English to actual locals, as the postie just assumed they were for us and we shared a postcode.
As gemmy said, you'll see handwritten additions from someone at the sorting office sometimes too.
In big cities like Beijing, even English as opposed to romanised Chinese will almost certainly work fine too. Often when it's a package, you receive a slip informing you that it's arrived but go to the post office to collect it yourself.
posted by Abiezer at 9:09 PM on June 20, 2007

Post codes will do a lot for you. Using locally-preferred romanization will, too. I'm in Taiwan at the moment, and I get mail just fine so long as I use the romanization (I don't even know what system it is!) that's on the map that the township gave to all the residents a few months ago. Mainland China will be easier because they all, in principle, learn hanyu pinyin.

That matches my experience in Ukraine, as well. As long as the romanization is straightforward, they've got a lot of local knowledge and can guess. Handwritten additions are common.
posted by eritain at 1:35 AM on June 21, 2007

When I lived in China/Taiwan I facilitated this process: when I needed a package sent from the US, I would give the address in the standard Romanized script (be it pinyin or Wade-Giles or whatever) complete with tones (as accents over the vowel). Obviously it isn't necessary, but it is an easy addition that may help out.
posted by mateuslee at 3:14 AM on June 21, 2007

Anyway, all street names in major Chinese cities are in pinyin (Chinese romanization system) alongside characters and all literate people now can read pinyin.
posted by mateuslee at 3:16 AM on June 21, 2007

We noticed that the packages addressed in pinyin arrived a few days later than the ones with a Chinese address as well. When talking about a couple of weeks for delivery time, this delay did not seem so major.
posted by Pollomacho at 5:09 AM on June 21, 2007

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