Getting From A To B – Not Everywhere As Simple As It Sounds

Posted on September 24, 2014

When you travel to different countries either for business or pleasure, getting from A to B can be rather more convoluted than you imagined. A short article I just read in The Economist reminded me of an amusing head-scratching experience I had earlier this year when I went to Panama on vacation.

To my disbelief, a friend who lives in Panama City told me that there is no postal service in the traditional sense, i.e. no postman delivering the mail to your home address. Even stranger, in this city of glitzy skyscrapers there are no street addresses as such either, I was told. Of course, this explains why there is no mail delivery, but how on earth do people find their way around? Well, as in the good old days, you can always give directions using landmarks or reference points. In the case of my friend, this meant “the apartment at the top of the Le Meridien Hotel tower,” but not always is it this straightforward. It could also be “apartment #3 in the building by the sea front, one block east from the church and 50 meters to the west of the bank.” Good luck finding that!

But apparently Panama is not the only country in the 21st Century that is stuck back in the good old days when it comes to specifying a location. Neighboring Costa Rica and Nicaragua also lack a proper street-address system, as does the United Arab Emirates.

Now back to the mail. How can modern international business hubs like Panama City and Dubai survive without a proper postal service? Yes, a lot of business and personal correspondence is carried out via email these days, but not all. So how do you receive mail in these places? Well, where there’s a will there’s a way, a complicated and costly way, however.

You either get a post box at the local post office, which may be close or not so close by, and regularly check whether something has arrived, or you can use pricier courier services like DHL or FedEx. Again, you may want to pick up the mail yourself at their offices. The alternative would be to pray that the courier has a great sense of orientation and understands all those landmark directions that have taken up a rather large part of that envelope.

Simona De Logu

Simona de Logu is an experienced freelance interpreter and translator, specialized in GermanEnglish, but she also works with French, Spanish and Portuguese. You can find her on Google +, Facebook, LinkedIn and Her areas of expertise are economics, finance, business, politics and current affairs due to her previous professional background as a financial journalist.

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