March 31st, 2005


Wacky postal restrictions of the world

Orkay, I've been meaning to write about this stuff for a while, so here goes.

I prepare the shipments for the home-based business I work for -- probably about 500 shipments per month, all over the world. And so, in the preparation of shipments to other countries, I come across their list of prohibitions or observations concerning what can and cannot be mailed to them or rules about how to do so.

Sure, there are a lot of common ones, like no human remains, no used bedding, no used clothing, no used footwear, no radioactive substances... But there also are some wacky ones! The wackiest (and longest) list is from Italy. But we'll build up to that, shall we?

Canada prohibits margarine or any other butter substitute. OK, not that wacky...
Recipients in Mexico are fined if your commercial invoice is not in Spanish. Brutal!

Many European countries prohibit the importation of playing cards. That makes some sense, I suppose, to try to cut down on gambling. Germany, however, DOES permit playing cards when they are wrapped whole decks. Darn! You mean I can't just send an Ace of Spades?

I was not surprised to see the following prohibition for France: "Measuring devices marked in units not in compliance with French law." That's just so French of them, isn't it?

Ireland has a doozy of a prohibition: "Felt hats and caps for girls and women." Blinkblink. Is it against the law for Irish women to wear felt hats?

The list of wacky prohibitions and observations for Italy is so long that I had to save it as a text file. There's no way I could remember all these. So here we go! First, the stuff that kinda makes sense -- even this list is two or three times as long as the prohibitions list for any other country:

  • Articles of platinum or gold; jewelry; and other valuable articles unless sent as insured packages.
  • Cartridge caps; cartridges.
  • Compound medicaments and medicines.
  • Coral mounted in any way.
  • Ether and chloroform.
  • Hair and articles made of hair.
  • Leather goods.
  • Lighters and their parts, including lighter flints.
  • Live bees, leeches, and silkworms.
  • Nutmeg, vanilla; sea salt, rock salt; saffron.
  • Perfumery goods of all kinds (except soap).
  • Playing cards of any kind.
  • Postage stamps in sealed or unsealed letters.
  • Radioactive materials.
  • Parasites and predators of harmful insects.
  • Roasted or ground coffee and its substitutes; roasted chicory.
  • Saccharine and all products containing saccharine.
  • Salted, smoked or otherwise prepared meats; fats; and lard.
  • Tobacco.
  • Treated skins and furs.
  • Weapons of any kind and spare parts for them.
  • Live plants and animals.
  • Arms and weapons.
  • Human remains.

    But check out these wacky prohibitions. Italian customs will not allow any of the following:

  • Albums of any kind (of photographs, postcards, postage stamps, etc.).
  • Artificial flowers and fruits and accessories for them.
  • Bells and other musical instruments and parts thereof.
  • Clocks and supplies for clocks.
  • Exposed photographic and cinematographic films.
  • Footwear of any kind. No new shoes for you!
  • Haberdashery and sewn articles of any kind, including trimmings and lace; handkerchiefs; scarves; shawls, needlework including stockings and gloves; bonnets, caps, and hats of any kind. I guess the material could be infected...?
  • Ribbons for typewriters.
  • Toys not made wholly of wood. Gepetto's pissed off about that one -- foreign competition, man!

    Speaking of Gepetto, did you know that when Pinocchio is told in Italy, he's called something else? I was surprised to learn this, because "Gepetto" sounds Italian enough. Apparently, though, his name is Mangiafuoco.

    While I'm on the language thing: I learned a German expression from my landlord this week. The equivalent of lemon, for a car that gives you all kinds of grief for no good reason, is (translated) Monday Car -- 'cause it must have been built by a bunch of Bavarians hung over from a weekend of drinking! I surmise then that a car built on a Monday in October must REALLY be bad...