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29 February 2008

No, Northern Ireland is not somewhere in England

One of my websites is a little eCommerce shop where I sell products and then post them off. This means I have parcels to send by registered delivery on an almost daily basis to (usually) the UK and Ireland.

90% of these orders are to England so I didn't mind too much when the woman at the counter at the local post office would add "ANGLIA" to the end of the address (apparently "United Kingdom" isn't enough). I started to do the same to save time at the post office, putting "SZKOCJA" or "WALIA" where appropriate. One day I had a parcel for Northern Ireland and so had written "United Kingdom, PÓŁNOCNA IRLANDIA") on the address. I was quite suprised when she told me I had to put "Anglia" on it. What followed was an extremely strange 5 minutes of argument because I refused to do so, telling her that Northern Ireland is not in England. She insisted that only "Anglia" was a recognised country and it had to be "Anglia". I asked her if she thought that Scotland or Wales were in Anglia too, at which point some of the increasingly frustrated people queuing up behind me started to join in the argument too.

The situation was resolved by her calling her manager, who reluctantly agreed that we could leave the envelope as it was, but they weren't convinced that it would get to it's destination OK. I said I would take the chance.

When I got back home I was so annoyed I wrote a sarcastic email to the Polish postal service (Poczta Polska) asking them if they knew the difference between England, the UK and Great Britain or if they only had problems with European geography in my local branch.

I was suprised to get a letter out of the blue 2 months later stating that they had held an investigation, given the employees some training, and that according to their code of practice the country must be either Northern Ireland (PÓŁNOCNA IRLANDIA) or Great Britain (WIELKA BRYTANIA). As a nice little twist that made me smile, the letter also said that the woman serving me had tried to tell me that it must be "Wielka Brytania" but that I was rude to her. Err, no love. So she seems to have not only a problem with geography but memory problems too....


Shaunj said...

Internally , the polish postal system seems decent, but there has been alot of stuff incoming and outgoing that has gone to the "fairies" for me and I remain a little cynical. Plus they refuse to understand we DO NOT have postal codes in Ireland.:)

Anonymous said...

this might sound bad, but most polish people don't care, and would use Britain, England or British Isles interchangeably...

in such case Ireland, Scotland, or Guernsey can well be England:)

That's still better than not knowing whether Poland is in Europe or Asia, which I happened to witness in a Jersey post office:)

BritInPoland said...

That is indeed shocking - which Jersey - channel islands G.B. or the one in the US?

Richard said...

Surely the problem is that most Englisj people also confuse England, Great Britian and the UK.

Also, if you look at your passport, you will see thet Great Britian and Northern Ireland are differnt.

Strictly, Northern Ireland is not in Great Britain, it is in the UK. (See Act of Union 1800, various Government of Ireland Acts, 1921)

However, British is the shorthand adjective meaning ¨from the UK.¨ Therefore, Northern Irelamd is British, but not part of Great Britain.

I think I may have lost you now, so spare a though for the poor Polish post office.

BritInPoland said...

Hi Richard, yes that's right - you'll see in my post I refer to NI as part of the UK, not GB.

I totally agree though that it's confusing that "British" often refers to the UK and not GB.

And you're totally right that most of us don't know the difference either.

I was sympathetic with the woman to start with, but not when she decided to argue with me that NI (and Scotland and Wales) were part of "England".

Hiro said...

For most polish people England, UK, Great Britain is the same. They don't see difference... but if most English people confuse.. that's not bad ;)

btw. Polish post is the worst post in the world

Mags said...

I just came across your blog today and the information you provide is brilliant, so thanks. As yet I haven't bothered to concern myself with most of the Polish beurocracy but will do at some stage and since most Polish people I turn to for help are very unhelpful it's fantastic that you provide all the information that I could possibly want as a foreign national living in Poland. SO I thought I'd share one of my funny stories...

Last week was the first time in the nine months I've been living in Warsaw that I went to my "local" post office to collect a parcel - for some reason they couldn't be bothered to deliver it to my flat this time. I took my little slip of paper with me and stabbed at some buttons on the machine which is supposed to make queuing a little more efficient. I have to provide some kind of ID to prove I am the addressee (no bad thing actually) so show the cashier my UK driving license, y'know because in England that counts as official ID, right?I have a fully Polish name but was born and raised in England which confuses Polish people somewhat especially as I don't have a dowod osobisty. You'd think that Warsaw doesn't see many foreign nationals so the poor lad had to seek advice from another cashier as to how to deal with this since he had to declare on an official form that I had collected my parcel. Fine, he was new and his colleague tells him what to do. I then see him copying some numbers from the back of the driving license. This confuses me slightly since I know that what would count as my ID number is on the front. The numbers he ends up copying to authorise my identity are the collection of dates on the back to indicate until when I can drive certain categories of vehicle. Brilliant. I didn't see the point in correcting him :-)

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