Friday, January 27, 2012

Mail in Ukraine

Yes, five- count them, five!- months after arrival, a trip to the Ukrainian post office was finally carried out. Ironically, to mail Christmas cards. During the last week of January. Ahem. ANYWAYS. I remember time consuming visits and complicated rules from the Russian post office ("you used the wrong color ink, that's very bad, нельзя, you must start over") but the experience here was a breeze. There was no one in the post office- only three handsome soldiers on their way out the door- at 4:30 PM. D did all the wonder my Russian fails to improve....and it took about 15 minutes and $2 to send two letters to America and a postcard to Russia. That's amazing; in America it cost $1 just to send a single postcard internationally. And then, haha, they would complain about the street address being in Russian: "We can't read that. You should write in English." Me: "You don't need to read it. Just deliver the mail to Russia and they will read it." US Post Office, grudgingly: "Hmmm....well, okay. I guess that sounds logical."

Of course, the Ukrainian process has its peculiarities. For example, you must buy the exact number of stamps needed. If it's a big envelope and it needs 9 stamps, or 15, tough luck, you'd better find a way to fit them on there. There's no prepaid mail label. And after the stamps are affixed, you get the letter back and go back outside to personally drop it in the mail collection box....but doesn't the mail just get collected once a day and returned inside? Mysteries of the system aside, it's another part of Ukraine that surprises in a good way, a positive experience instead of a bureaucratic hassle.

One question for my Ukrainian readers: where can stationery be bought? As in, paper and envelopes in matching designs? It seems like plain letters aren't very popular here, only cards for special occasions. Clue 1- There are billions of themed cards available (Happy Birthday, Congratulations, etc) but I've never seen blank cards or plain paper stationery. Clue 2- Cards are sold without envelopes, so mailing them must not be as common as presenting them in person. I already checked for stationery at empik bookstore at the Караван mall, the big bookstore near Pushkinskaya metro, and the local post office. Any ideas?


  1. Indeed, finding a colourful greeting card without text is very tricky to say the least. In our family we got used to this, and usually just use some empty space inside the ubiqitous greeting cards with pre-printed text for our personal greetings. And luckily our addressees got used to ignore that pre-printed greetings :)

    Usually there are stamps of different price, so one can combine different kinds of them to indicate the money paid.

    There is a kind of one-sided postcards to be sent without an envelope.

    Stationary can be found in many subway and street kiosks, stores like and (you won't believe it!) in post offices, just ask them :)