Going to the Post Office - seems simple enough, right? :) And actually, most of the time it is - I know there are countries where the mail system is way more difficult to deal with but we have still had to learn a lot when it comes to mail and the post office.
The Post Office here is actually many things - it has its own bank, it’s the telecommunications department and it is mail. They don’t really do street addresses here and I have never seen a person or car delivering mail to an actual street address. Everyone has post office boxes.
One interesting thing with the post office is when we first arrived they were really strict about who picked up mail. If a package was addressed to David (we pick up our packages at a little window) he HAD to pick it up and show his passport. We found out that we could fill out a form so that either of us could pick up mail for the other but we had to sit and wait and talk to someone inside the post office. We got that all set up and still had problems a few times after that. Now they know us and seem more laid back. They don’t even ask to see my license anymore.
Packages take about 2 weeks to arrive to us when things are running as they should (Lately things have NOT been running as they should!) Letters take anywhere from 2-7 weeks depending how they are mailed. Over the month of December though the mail slows WAY down…like way down. This year was especially bad because of Chikcungunya (a mosquito born illness) which had many people out of work. I received a package from early November and a few others from December at the end of January!
Another interesting thing about mail is that packages valued over 20,000 XPF (about $200 US) are taxed 51% (customs gets some of this money as well as…). The 20,000XPF is the value of the contents PLUS the shipping cost. So it sounds high on one hand but when you consider that most of our boxes cost about $60-80 to even send the box that doesn’t leave a whole lot of money for content. The government really wants to keep people from spending money outside the nation but things are so expensive here that even many of our local friends find a way to get stuff mailed or brought to them because affording simple things is hard for some.
Interesting fact: I have I think on three occasions walked all the way to the post office (before we had a car) and back hoping to pick up a package that I knew was on it’s way and all three times there was nothing in our box. Not the best day when you walk 3 miles round trip for nothing. Haha! One time I definitely treated myself to a magnum bar for the trouble.