Blogs in this series

Life in Culebrón is a disconnected series of pieces about the banal and ordinary of everyday life in an inland Alicante village seen from my very British perspective.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Where do I live?

I'm told that there has never been much of a tradition of written communication in Spain and that's why the postal service here is a lot weaker than that of the UK.

Its great that we no longer get piles and piles of junk mail but it still seems strange that Spaniards don't expect or send birthday or Christmas cards and that post offices don't have the "semi official" status they have in the UK. If you want to sort something about your car here you go to the Traffic Office or the Town Hall, the Police deal with passports and if you want some sort of official form you will probably get it from the tobacconist.

The Spanish post has a pitiful reputation amongst Britons and I think it may have something to do with addresses.

All my life, in the UK, I've known my address. In Cartagena and Ciudad Rodrigo the addresses have been simple and well established and the post has never been the least problem. But, here in Culebrón, it wasn't so easy and we certainly lost a lot of mail when we first moved in.

The deeds to our house say Partida Culebrón, the local Town Hall in giving us our "local citizenship" certificate called it Caserio Culebrón. The post office database says our postcode is 03658 but the local post office told me to use 03650. When I talk to people on the phone (who live in a house with a proper address in Madrid or Barcelona or Valladolid) about some service or other and our address doesn't turn up on their databases they have to invent an address that works. So, for the electric people we live at in the lower floor of a flat in Culebron street in Culebrón. Some of our friends have an address that has the format something like - The pretty house, The spot by the big trees, zone 7, plot 49.

New houses, even in urban areas, have a similar problem. Spanish beauracracy is slow and it takes a long while to get around to adopting new streets, putting up signs etc. So people living in new houses who need to arrange services have to guess at their address from their property deeds. Just like us rural folk they end up with multiple and sometimes contradictory addresses!

It is truly bizarre when you cannot be certain of your own address. When I ring up a bank or a utility provider they, reasonably enough, start by asking my address "Well", I say, "My address is this but you may have this or that and you could have either one of these two postcodes."

We now use a post office box (Apartado de Correos) and because the post office knows where that is they deliver promptly and reliably.

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