How to Receive Mail at a Chinese Address?

Usually, when you move, you give people your new address. This becomes a bit trickier with a foreign address. When the foreign address uses Chinese characters, it can be a real challenge. Here are ways to make it work.

Chinese address written in English

Mail to ChinaHonestly, this is hit and miss and probably depends on where you live. I had letters with my address written in English arrive at my apartment in a rather Chinese neighborhood. Usually, those envelopes had scribbles in Chinese characters on them and took a couple weeks.

But I also know of mail, including from the IRS (so it was not bad hand writing on the envelope) that never made it. And of course, I only know about the ones I was expecting. If anyone sent me a birthday card, chances are I didn’t get it. You may have more luck if you are living in an expat complex in a typical expat area (see also Where to live as expat in Beijing to find out more about what to consider when deciding where to live).

If you have to write the address in English, my advice is to use the address of your company, especially if it is a bigger company. We have also found that deliveries with FedEx and other couriers work reliably.

Using Chinese characters

One solution is to get your address written down in Chinese characters, ideally on a computer. Save it in pdf format (not everyone has Chinese language settings on their home computer). Now other people can print it out and use as a label when sending you something. Don’t forget to include the English version as well if you want mail from the US, so the US post office also knows what to do with it.

Go electronic

I advise bypassing the Chinese mail delivery system as much as possible. You can change most mail to electronic delivery and have the rest forwarded to a trusted friend or family member. Your friend can review with you anything he received for you. You can then together decide what to open, maybe via Skype, so you can see the envelop. The friend can scan important items or snap a digital picture and send it to you electronically.

If you don’t want to bother someone with this, there are companies specialized on virtual mail services, for example Traveling Mailbox. They receive mail for you, scan and forward what you need.

Getting deliveries to a Chinese address

How about deliveries to your Chinese home from a local store or when buying online? Often times, the delivery driver will call on the way and ask for specific instructions on how to get to your address, of course in Chinese. Bigger, well-known apartment complexes are easier to find for the driver. Basic Mandarin skills come in handy here.


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