The virtue of patience: A trip to the post office in France is never quick

Written by Diane on. Posted in on life in France

Post office in France stamps
A trip to the post office in France, affectionately called La Poste, is always a baffling experience that leaves you scratching your head. It tests your patience and makes you contemplate why you moved to France in the first place.

Read on for more on the post office in France!

Just a disclaimer here before you continue: I know not all post offices in France are like this (and many in the US have horrible service as well). In all honestly, my local French post office got a makeover complete with efficient employees. So while the following isn’t always true, let’s just say I’ve experienced it in more than one city. Phew, now that that’s out of the way…

From all outward appearances, you’d assume La Poste functions quite well. There are lights, employees, cash registers, forms and boxes to aid you in all your mailing needs. But things are never what they seem.

I swear that in the training manual for all La Poste employees, there’s a section that goes like this:

  • Work as slowly as you can. Our goal is to irritate customers in line as much as possible and waste their day.
  • Make sure there are never enough employees working at any given time to take care of customers in an efficient manner.
  • Post office in France forms
  • Never know which form to give the customer and make them wait while you ask Employee #2 who is busy himself. Or on break. Or en vacances. So then you have to ask Employee #3 who may or may not know.
  • Along with forms, act like you have no clue what postage or tracking forms to put on a package outside of France.
  • Act like everything is so difficult and that your 10 plus years of experience working at the post office have taught you nothing.
  • Never be open for business when anyone has time to actually mail stuff.
  • Hire interns that have no clue at all yet let them interact with customers alone.

And that was the short list about the post office in France.

About that last point, an intern this summer charged me two euros to mail a small package to the USA. Luckily, I knew this was the wrong postage and knew I needed a customs form since I was mailing something abroad (99% of my visits), but what if it was the first time I was mailing something abroad? Yikes. And then once they give you the form, you have you go to the BACK of the line when done. Well, depending on the mood of the employee that day.

Normally, an extra five minute wait wouldn’t ruin my day but at Christmas when the line is out the door? Yeah, not cool.

Example of how knowledgeable employees are at the post office in France?

One time while mailing something at a mailbox on the street, I ran into the postal worker who was collecting the mail. I was short a stamp or two on a letter to the US, so I asked her how many stamps I needed to ensure the letter would arrive. She looked at me like I just asked her the winning lottery numbers. Blank. Like I’m joking. Like why the heck would she, the postal worker, actually know how much it costs to send a letter. A regular letter. Beats me.

But it’s France. And things are different here. So I laugh at these things now.

Have you had the displeasure of mailing packages at a post office in France?

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Comments (9)

  • janineinfrance

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    This did make me laugh! Its so true… we’ve all been through this. When you first come across it or when you’re busy its maddening but I’ve got used to it now and I take a flask and a chair with me when I go to La Poste. At Christmas I take a camp bed and sleeping bag. Highly recommend this course of action! Just kidding! There are some days when you are the pigeon and some days when you are the statue – and that’s what going to La Poste is like – but I love it just the same!

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Haha, great comment about the flask and the chair. I wonder what they’d think if I actually did that?? In the US, I’ve found some pretty bad post offices but they all seem to know their offerings and how to send a package. Not so in France!

      Reply

  • Annie Andre

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    Wow, your post office sounds much more efficient than the one near our house in Marseille.
    Luckily we’re moving to a new city in France which i hope has a better post office. LOL…

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Oh man, yours is worse than mine??? I have to say that on a recent trip to Paris, the ones there seem to have their act together. Where are you moving to?

      Reply

  • Mohadoha

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    What is it about Post Offices in general that try our patience? I used to go to the one near my in-laws house in VA and say “I can’t believe this isn’t a foreign country!” the service was so slow. Good thing we have these daily trials to help us be more patient :).

    Reply

    • Diane

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      I really think it’s just luck. My post office in NJ was totally efficient but the one in VA you commented on was a nightmare. Maybe half are decent? I don’t know. But in France, La Poste is big joke, at least for expats. Thx for commenting! 😉

      Reply

  • Jacqui

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    HAHAHA.I must say that i had nothing but great experiences while living in Montmarte and dealing with La Poste there.It was the cheapest place i found in Europe to send my MASSIVE hauls of shopping from several countries back home to AUSTRALIA,and whilst not the most,ummmmm,”smiley” lot,they were helpful (if you REALLY want a postal service story to make you weep,one day i’ll tell all about my experience in the second most beautiful place in Europe….VENEZIA and the postal service there ,or perhaps my experience in Athens with the girl i have forever renamed “Effie”…Aussies will know what i mean when i say that ).Having said that,i think most of Europe (except you efficient Germany ) is on what i call “Europe time ” ,and it’s just what us stresshead,demanding Aussies and Americans should be a LITTLE more like (slow down a little,take time to enjoy the Joie De Vie of it all.

    Reply

  • Julie McNamee

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    I’ve only had the pleasure of posting a parcel in a post office in France once, thank goodness – in one near the Gare du Nord. I was there for half the afternoon.

    Reply

    • Diane

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      I definitely feel your pain! I should bring a bottle of wine next time for all my fellow customers waiting w/me!

      Reply

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