Unlike the USA, where only postal workers are legally allowed access to the mailbox at the end of the driveway or next to the front door of a private residence, anybody in Taiwan can put anything into somebody’s mailbox. Across our 39 years in Taiwan we resided in several different sorts of buildings, each of which had its own particular version of a “mail slot” or “mailbox.”
Letter carriers in Taiwan are skilled professionals. If something is clearly addressed, it gets to the mailbox there. If there’s no mailbox, it’s dropped onto the ground in front of the door. People who don’t like their mail getting wet or trod upon get the idea pretty quickly, and mount a box somewhere near.
In the USA, who may put something into a mailbox is not, apparently, the only thing over which postal authorities exert the power of approval. I can’t speak for mailboxes affixed to house fronts, because I’m not in the habit of walking up them. (too many Americans have guns, and some are legally self-empowered to defend their front porches against home invasions). But when walking in parts of town where mailboxes stand on posts near the roadside, I’ve noticed that many bear the words: “Approved by the Postmaster General.”
The power to approve these began in the 1890s when delivery to rural addresses began. Designs have been modified and updated over the years, but approval remains in the hands of the postmaster general and her local officers. People are free to build and install their own boxes without the “approval” statement embossed thereon, and many do.
So long as I get mail, I care little whether it comes by hand of an agent of the US government or whether it comes into an approved box. I just like to hear from folks.
Photo by Matt Green on Flickr
David Alexander notices stuff in Holland, MI after 39 years in Taiwan.