Unfrei is a term used in the German postal system.  If something is sent unfrei it means that the recipient pays for the postage.

This is often indicated on the envelope as “Gebühr bezahlt Empfänger”.  Some companies pre-print their envelopes with “Bitte freimachen, falls Briefmarke zur Hand” requesting that you put a stamp on the envelope, but that they will pay the postage anyway if you do not.

To hear a simple explanation and a short discussion in German, listen to the podcast:

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Postcards and stamps

Whilst travelling back from England at the weekend we stopped at one of our favourite service stations: Aachener Land.

Situated just over the border between Belgium and Germany it offers a family meal for around 10EUR plus drinks which we find very good value for money.

Whilst I was paying for our meal this time, a lady with a British accent came up to the cashier and wanted a postage stamp from her for her postcard. The cashier politely pointed out in her broken English that there was a queue and asked the lady to join it. She did not – she just repeated her demand and said that she had paid for the postcard and now wanted her stamp for it.

I decided to help the cashier at this point and also told the lady politely, that the cashier was serving us and had a queue of people waiting. But no, she wanted her stamp. She had, after all, paid for her postcard.

By chance I caught a glimpse of her receipt (as she turned to her friends to complain about her loss, then deciding to give up and buy a stamp elsewhere). She had indeed bought a postcard – and just a postcard. Without a stamp.

The trouble is, I believe, that in many countries you automatically get sold stamps with postcards and maybe come to expect it. This is not the case in Germany!

If you want a stamp, then you have to buy it from the post office, or one of their agencies, or from a machine.

In some tourist hotspots (Rüdesheim springs to mind) you may also find that shops selling postcards also sell stamps for them. Judging by the response from the cashier at the service stations they may well do too.

But remember, they sell the stamps as an extra service. The price of the stamp is not included in the price of the postcard.

Oh, and please join the queue!

Die Zuschlagmarke

Die Zuschlagmarke is a type of stamp that has two face values: one for the postage and another for a special cause, eg. 55+25

These sorts of stamps often appear before Christmas and include a small donation to a charity. In the above example 55 cents would be the postage for a letter and 25 cents would be the donation.

The donation is not allowed to be higher than half the value of the postage itself, although this has not always been the case and stamps used to be produced with values such as 12+38.

To hear a simple explanation and a short discussion in German, listen to the podcast:

(Press the “play” button to listen to the podcast)

Download a transcript

Download the MP3 file | Subscribe to the podcast

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