Embracing Adventure “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” ~~Hellen Keller

Receiving Mail In Germany With an Army Post Office (APO) Box

I started planning how to get our mail with as little interruption as possible early in the moving process. Before my passport appointment I checked with the post office about holding our mail and was told I could hold it until we had the new address and then have it forwarded. While calling about international insurance for our car, I found out we would get an APO (Army Post Office) box when we moved. I hadn’t realized we would get one until then because I’d previously only thought of APO boxes in connection to people on deployment.

The APO/FPO Flat Rate Box

An APO box is a nice benefit because APO and FPO (Fleet Post Office) mail is handled through the US mail and ships at domestic rather than international rates. For those who use large flat rate boxes, there is even a special one for mail to APO/FPO addresses which ships for $13.45 $14.85 $15.90, two dollars less than the regular price. They’re free to pick up or order online. Most packages will require a customs form. When filling that out, put U.S.A for the country, not where the person is stationed. If you are shipping from an APO/FPO to another APO/FPO, you can write MPS where the stamp would usually go and it will ship for free, although it may take longer to deliver.

I planned to stop our mail the day we moved out of our apartment. Unfortunately, a letter that should have gone to a friend’s went to our apartment and I had to wait. On Nov 7th I went to the post office to put the mail on hold and found out something I wasn’t told the first time–a hold can only be placed for an entire address. Since our roommates were staying, we couldn’t put the hold on.

The form for holding mail asks for the names of those for whom mail should be held, so I thought we should be able to hold it just for our names. The postal worker wouldn’t budge. She told me I would have to leave my address until we had the new one, and the roommates would have to forward it to us. I wasn’t comfortable with that, so I called my husband to figure out an alternative. We decided to have the mail forwarded to his family and forward it again once we had our box.

These aren’t our APO boxes, just some PO boxes, but there’s not much difference.

While we could have gotten the box the day we got to Germany, with everything else we had to do and not having had sleep, we decided to wait. My husband was able to set the box up on November 17th but some things got in the way of going to the post office to forward the mail. I went in the day before Thanksgiving to mail back a publishing contract for my story in The First Line and planned to forward the mail then. I wasn’t sure if US stamps could be used in sending mail back to the States, so I waited in line to confirm they could. I was out the door when I realized I hadn’t done the change of address forms. I didn’t want to get in line again so I waited. I finally got the mail forwarded on November 30th.

Having had an APO box for a few months now, I’ve found a few drawbacks. It can be difficult to get companies to update an address to an APO box. Usually I can walk them through putting APO instead of city, putting the zip as normal, and writing AE or looking for Armed Forces Europe if they have a drop-down. But sometimes AE/Armed Forces Europe isn’t an option in their system. I learned AE can be replaced with NY if necessary, since mail goes through NY before coming here. With one company, the form wouldn’t accept AE or NY. In this case, after talking to a couple different people, one was finally able to leave the state blank and put APO AE in the city field. This worked, and the mail from them arrived without incident.

It took a couple steps, but I got my Kindle in Germany.

Unfortunately, some retailers will not ship to APO boxes or have restrictions on what they will send. I discovered this when I won Evolved Publishing’s Kindle Grand Prize in their first short story contest, and I got to pick one of two Kindles . I chose the touch screen which would be coming out in November. I thought that would be fine since we should have the box by then, but it turned out Amazon didn’t ship electronics to APO boxes. Fortunately, my mom agreed to have it shipped to her address and sent it along to me. [Edit: It has since been brought to my attention that Amazon is back to allowing the shipment of electronics with lithium batteries installed. If you want to see Amazon’s current shipping restrictions in regards to APO/FPO check here.] Another time, I wanted to get tea from ThinkGeek for my husband to go with a mug and strainer I’d ordered from there, but that’s one of the items they won’t ship outside the US. Fortunately, I found The Tea Table. I was able to get more tea for less without restrictions on shipping, so it turned out to be a good thing I had to look elsewhere.

Another drawback is related to the customs form. While people can write somewhat generic things like the type of item they’re sending, I have found that most businesses will write exactly what each item is. That’s not a big deal most of the time, but it does pose a problem when I order gifts for my husband. He usually tries to guess what I got him or get me to tell him. I knew he wouldn’t guess the Dr. Who Tardis USB hub I’d ordered for Christmas. But, ThinkGeek wrote the exact item description on the form. Since he picks up the mail, that foiled my surprise. Now I just settle for trying to keep his gifts a surprise until he picks them up. Those things aside, having an APO box has been great, and I’m very glad we have the option rather than having to deal with the hassle and cost of shipping through international mail.

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6 Thoughts on “Receiving Mail In Germany With an Army Post Office (APO) Box

  1. It was a big discussion today about batteries not being allow to be deliver to Germany. UPS and a few company have a list of things that they won’t deliver. Many station photographer or upset about it because the cost is cheaper in the USA than here.

    • Oh yeah I just saw that USPS updated their policy a few days ago and now they won’t allow them to be shipped to APO or internationally. Glad I got mine sent a few months ago. It looks like they do plan on changing the restriction in a few months to allow them in specific quantities when they’re properly installed in the devices.

  2. Wow, lots of publishing going on last year and this year, how great for you! What better way could there be for you to get your foot in the door as a writer? Seems like you already have done so quite well!!

    I find the APO address works well for me. My parents still have theirs so it’s easy to send them correspondence or for them to send me packages. Yes, that Kindle issue is really a bummer but luckily you got it, so yaaay to that!

    • Yep. I had more work accepted for publication last year than other years combined (but then I also submitted more work to more places than usual). Oh, I also just made my Swedish debut in Two Thirds North which can be downloaded free here if you’re interested (my story is on pg 109). http://www.twothirdsnorth.com/two-thirds-north-2012/ One of these days I will probably add some posts on writing but I have so much to catch up on first.

      Yeah I really like having it. I don’t think I would ever order anything if I had to pay international shipping. I’m glad I was able to get the Kindle also.

  3. I read it! A very short story with interesting content! How do you come up with these topics? Do they give you a theme or are you inspired by what you see in the media/stories/fantasies (although I hope you won’t kill your lover anytime soon – yicks!)…

    • Thanks. It really depends on the story. The First Line does give the topic, or at least a requirement. In the case of the story I had published the story had to start with “It had been a long year”. While Two Thirds North did not have any requirement, I originally wrote it based on a picture from Camera Obscura. They have an exercise called “Bridge the Gap.” (http://www.obscurajournal.com/bridge-the-gap.php) I went through the gallery once and wrote stories based on some of them. I wrote “Portent” (http://www.fivestopstory.com/read/story.php?storyId=1253)based on the first from the left. “Harbor” was inspired by the third from the left. I also have an as-yet-unpublished one from the fourth from the left. For “Harbor” I actually didn’t intend that she killed him (but that’s an interesting interpretation). The editors had suggested removing the couple lines that referred to the people who killed him while she wasn’t there. Sometimes I also pick random words and see what story develops from them. Sometimes I use things from life (although no, not anything dealing with killing anyone lol). “If I Should Die” was written around the time I was diagnosed with melanoma though. Some things in it happened in some way in real life, but most were made up.

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