Sending and receiving packages in Germany

Hello,

As an expat, there are inevitably certain items you might want or need from back home, and around the holiday period, many people like to send gift packages.

How easy is it to send and receive packages in Germany?

Is the public postal system efficient?

Do people tend to prefer using private shipping services? Which ones?

How do the costs of the private shipping services compare?

How long does it take generally to receive packages from abroad in Germany?

Do you have to pay taxes on items received by mail from abroad?

Are packages delivered right to your doorstep, or do you usually have to go collect them somewhere?

Thank you for sharing your experience,

Priscilla

The domestic parcel market (and partially the market within the EU) is de-regulated and highly competitive. You can choose between various providers that offer similar service.
For parcels from/to elsewhere, the German Post and their subsidiary DHL are still the only option, apart from very expensive international forwarders like FedEx.

My tip is that one always pay a bit extra to send something registered mail (Einschreibung) if it is important or valuable especially packages. Otherwise, there is no hope for it to be traced if it doesn't arrive or to prove something was sent.

I can only second what Tom said above, especially for international shipments:
I once sent a small packet with two books to my friend in Switzerland (which, because not EU, costed €16 by unregistered mail). When it had not arrived after 4 weeks, I asked the Post to investigate. After another two weeks, I received a reply that they traced it up to the border, where it was given to the Swiss Post and therefore out of the German Post's sphere of influence. The Swiss Post declined my request to investigate, because I wasn't their customer - and pointed me back to the German one. At this point (about two months after sending) I gave up on the parcel.
Two weeks later it reached my friend.
I calculated that a snail would have made the journey faster.

It’s easy to send and receive packages in Germany. There’s no guarantee they’ll arrive, though. The postal system is efficient enough usually, though in our town a mail carrier was caught this past summer having thrown hundreds of letters in the Altpapier (recycling) container rather than delivering them because she was overwhelmed. Upon searching her flat the police discovered hundreds more undelivered letters, bills, etc.

Two years in a row our birthday cards to our nephews didn’t arrive in their remote small German town. One excuse was given that the regular carrier was on holiday and the replacement couldn’t find the house numbers.

I mailed Advent calendars (just cards with picture windows, not boxes with chocolates) to my kids in the US one year in early November, and they arrived in March.

Some small packages have arrived right to my door and in good time, the same with some packages I’ve sent to the States. Other times the packages have got stuck in customs and I’ve had to pick them up and pay a tax (the one I remember required me to pay €4,25).

I mailed a box of Christmas deco trinkets to my son today (new apartment, ye ken) and some chocolate, and it cost €17. That’s fine with me if it gets to him. I don’t understand why I don’t have to put a customs sticker on the package saying what’s inside – the woman at the Post said it’s a letter. We’ll see.

I don’t send overseas anything more valuable than what I’m willing to have lost forever. For real gifts I use evil Amazon and order from the US site for my family, and they use Amazon in Germany to send things to us. We order things separately and the person for whom the gifts are not opens the package and wraps the gifts to be opened at Christmas.

Despite occasional problems, I use the German postal system often. I still send hand-written letters to my adult kids in the US. I send birthday cards to my parents and friend. I send Christmas cards & letters. I love sending snail mail!

Another problem is that packages often seem to get left in the stairwell of our apartment building rather than delivered. Sometimes they are just put there by the DHL or Deutsche Post delivery people, sometimes they get a neighbor to sign for them - who then just leaves it where it can get stolen rather than deliver it. Sucks to have unreliable neighbors. I've also seen packages arrive in the house that were supposed to go to another nearby address and delivered them myself. Other times, I've been home the whole day but had a notice that they had tried to deliver something. Only they don't bother to ring - I guess when they are in a hurry. The packages then go back to the nearest post office and you have to pick them up yourself after the next day. The majority of mail does arrive but like I've mentioned packages are kind of hit or miss.

Hi Priscilla,
I am usually one of those who rather passively read on expat.com but don't write. But when I saw your topic, I just could not not react to it.

How easy is it to send and receive packages in Germany?

Painful. Often when you go to Post offices you have to wait in a very long queue... sometimes I waited up to 20 minutes, carrying my parcel....


Is the public postal system efficient?

Inefficient. You can go on the website of DHL and indicate 5 times your Wunschort (where you would like them to leave your packages....). They never respect that. You complain, they take many days to reply to your email. Finally, they tell you sorry. And repeat the same mistake again, and again.

How long does it take generally to receive packages from abroad in Germany?

Quick... but often things get broken or lost ....
When I moved in from the UK, 13 of my 16 double-walled boxes arrived broken with lost items...

Do you have to pay taxes on items received by mail from abroad?

Not only taxes.... Not only VAT .... but also a silly fee of something like €20ish on every single box....

Are packages delivered right to your doorstep, or do you usually have to go collect them somewhere?

The distributors often ring the bell, put the "you were not home" slip in your box and drive away before you reach the door.

expat_since_1995 :

Hi Priscilla,
I am usually one of those who rather passively read on expat.com but don't write. But when I saw your topic, I just could not not react to it.

How easy is it to send and receive packages in Germany?

Painful. Often when you go to Post offices you have to wait in a very long queue... sometimes I waited up to 20 minutes, carrying my parcel....

I've had the same experience, regularly long lines at the post office

Is the public postal system efficient?

Inefficient. You can go on the website of DHL and indicate 5 times your Wunschort (where you would like them to leave your packages....). They never respect that. You complain, they take many days to reply to your email. Finally, they tell you sorry. And repeat the same mistake again, and again.

I've never registered a wish online but have told delivery people not to leave packages in the strairwell and they do it anyway.


Do you have to pay taxes on items received by mail from abroad?

Not only taxes.... Not only VAT .... but also a silly fee of something like €20ish on every single box....

I've never paid anything! There are no fees for the receiver for delivery. There can be import duties and taxes on merchandise coming from outside the EU. The post does offer a system of payment on arrival for mechandise which is actually very practical since one then has the security of not paying until something arrives. There is something like a 5 Euro extra fee for that, which will be included in the total cost.


Are packages delivered right to your doorstep, or do you usually have to go collect them somewhere?

The distributors often ring the bell, put the "you were not home" slip in your box and drive away before you reach the door.


I've often experienced that they don't even ring. I live on the 4th floor and I think that when in a hurry that just leave the pickup notice and drive away without even trying to deliver a package.

I went recently to the post office to complain (yet again) about their guys forcing me to go to the post office to collect every dam parcel. Luckily, one of the distribution guys was there ... He bluntly answered me: we don't have time to deliver to your neighbour (my desired location). :O

The silly post office is 6.5 kms away.... I lose 20 minutes to drive to it and come back, and then often 10-20 minutes waiting there.....

Parcel delivery drivers are among the worst paid professions in Germany.
If you want to make this guy's life even more miserable, you can lodge a complain with DHL.
But this will not change the system, unfortunately.

beppi :

Parcel delivery drivers are among the worst paid professions in Germany.
If you want to make this guy's life even more miserable, you can lodge a complain with DHL.
But this will not change the system, unfortunately.

True. The dhl employee would not wait for me 1 minute to open the door and would not leave the package with a neighbour... The easiest solution for them is to return the parcel and let everyone of us drive to the post office (only open during work hours where I live.... :( ) leaving work too early to be at the post office before they close... German efficiency is a myth.

I have tens of stories to share .... I wish I had the time to write all of those. Maybe one day. Anyone interested in co-writing that book with me ? :) Let us make something good out of this....

Nobody would want to read a book full of complaints.
Spend your time doing something more pleasant!

expat_since_1995 :

German efficiency is a myth.

If you expect Germany to be efficient in all aspects, you will be disappointed.
There are areas where Germany is tops (like planning - but not in executing such plans, and also in complex industries like automobile and high-tech machinery), and others where it is not (e.g. many services you don't want to pay German prices for, like parcel delivery) and then others where efficiency is simply not considered (e.g. the infamous public service).
I have seen many countries and still believe that overall, and despite the obvious drawbacks, Germany is still more efficient than most.

beppi :

Nobody would want to read a book full of complaints.
Spend your time doing something more pleasant!

expat_since_1995 :

German efficiency is a myth.

If you expect Germany to be efficient in all aspects, you will be disappointed.
There are areas where Germany is tops (like planning - but not in executing such plans, and also in complex industries like automobile and high-tech machinery), and others where it is not (e.g. many services you don't want to pay German prices for) and then others where efficiency is simply not considered (e.g. the infamous public service).
I have seen many countries and still believe that overall, and despite the obvious drawbacks, Germany is still more efficient than most.

I beg to differ. That's where international experience kicks in. I lived in Berlin for a few months. Every time we had 0.5 cm of snow, trains would simply be cancelled because of the "cold weather". Wait then for the next train, an hour later, which might also be cancelled.... Hello German punctuality...

In Switzerland, where i spent most of my life, even by freezing temperatures, 99% of trains must be on time.... And we know on which platform the train is going to be a full year ahead, as opposed to London train stations where people gather like lambs in stations by the boards to find out which track their train is on. The track is often announced A FEW minutes before its departure. Running for seats was a horrendous manifestation of Darwin's survival of the fittest, and old ladies in their 80s often had to stand in the train ....  Hello civilization.... I miss my Switzerland.... please bear with me.

Hahaha, Switzerland:
My one and only experience so far (despite extensive travel in the third world) of a cancelled onwards flight was at Zurich airport in a January 15 years ago, when an overnight 10cm of snow led to complete chaos and shutdown of all services. I was on a day trip to Geneva (from Germany) and eventually had to return home without ever reaching my destinations, while glad to get out of the many hours of mayhem at all!
To top it all, the airline refused to refund, claiming "force majeure". My argument that snow in a Swiss winter is normal was not accepted and I never got the money back.
I laughed when, a few years later, Swiss Air became insolvent and got bought by Lufthansa ...

expat_since_1995 :
beppi :

Nobody would want to read a book full of complaints.
Spend your time doing something more pleasant!

expat_since_1995 :

German efficiency is a myth.

If you expect Germany to be efficient in all aspects, you will be disappointed.
There are areas where Germany is tops (like planning - but not in executing such plans, and also in complex industries like automobile and high-tech machinery), and others where it is not (e.g. many services you don't want to pay German prices for) and then others where efficiency is simply not considered (e.g. the infamous public service).
I have seen many countries and still believe that overall, and despite the obvious drawbacks, Germany is still more efficient than most.

I beg to differ. That's where international experience kicks in. I lived in Berlin for a few months. Every time we had 0.5 cm of snow, trains would simply be cancelled because of the "cold weather". Wait then for the next train, an hour later, which might also be cancelled.... Hello German punctuality...

In Switzerland, where i spent most of my life, even by freezing temperatures, 99% of trains must be on time.... And we know on which platform the train is going to be a full year ahead, as opposed to London train stations where people gather like lambs in stations by the boards to find out which track their train is on. The track is often announced A FEW minutes before its departure. Running for seats was a horrendous manifestation of Darwin's survival of the fittest, and old ladies in their 80s often had to stand in the train ....  Hello civilization.... I miss my Switzerland.... please bear with me.

You brought up the UK, any country is better than the UK when it comes down to traveling by train ;)

beppi :

Hahaha, Switzerland:
My one and only experience so far (despite extensive travel in the third world) of a cancelled onwards flight was at Zurich airport in a January 15 years ago, when an overnight 10cm of snow led to complete chaos and shutdown of all services. I was on a day trip to Geneva (from Germany) and eventually had to return home without ever reaching my destinations, while glad to get out of the many hours of mayhem at all!
To top it all, the airline refused to refund, claiming "force majeure". My argument that snow in a Swiss winter is normal was not accepted and I never got the money back.
I laughed when, a few years later, Swiss Air became insolvent and got bought by Lufthansa ...

I was in Geneva then .... I remember that year. Indeed it was force majeure then. LOL. To this day, as you surely know, airline companies only refund you when they are at fault.... As long as they don't control thunder and storm, you won't get your money back... :)

SimCityAT :

You brought up the UK, any country is better than the UK when it comes down to traveling by train ;)

The statement does sound harsh and an over-reaction, but I have to admit you could argue it is.... I genuinely loathed the tooo overcrowded 70 year old underground trains in London... I remember with agony the Central line going to Upton and the horrendous noise and smell of the brakes.... Gosh... there, I believe, billions of pounds are not genuinely re-invested in modernizing the trains as tfl claims. That again, reminds me of the old and dirty trains in Berlin... The vandalism is just off-putting and the smells inside some trains make you prefer to walk...

This thread changed from parcel delivery in Germany to bashing various modes of transport in European countries. Interesting!
(I know, I took part in derailing it ...)

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