On Sending Gifts Overseas from America

Mailing Holiday Gift

Stamp © United States Postal Service. All rights reserved.


Around December 11, 2013, it became clear to me that any overseas packages I had to send would be mailed after Christmas.

Now, I had solid reasons for this. Christmas caught many Americans by surprise last year, despite falling on the 25th of December, as it has done for nearly 1,700 years. It caught us by surprise because Thanksgiving fell in the last week in November.

“Thanksgiving always lands in the last week in November,” a U.S. friend in Norway pointed out.

“Yes, but not within three days of the end of November,” I declared triumphantly. “And what’s more, Christmas falls on a Wednesday this year.”

Even as I spoke, this struck me as a little too close to Churchy LaFemme, of the old Walt Kelly Pogo comic strip, declaring that Friday the Thirteenth falls on a Wednesday this year. But I felt my justification held water.


Why the U.S. Postal Service didn’t see me until December 31 is another matter – and in fact, it didn’t see me then either, because my local post office closed at noon and I arrived at 2:00 pm, much astonished that the doors were locked and the interior was dark.

So it was that I set forth, on the first U.S. workday of 2014, to get at least one package off to Norway.  A number of my fellow Philadelphians seemed to share my intention (though not the final destination), at a similar time (4:00 pm, toward the end of work).

Clearly, we were starting 2014 with an unusual show of solidarity toward the U.S. mail.

To say the postal worker was put out by this tsunami of a dozen customers on January 2 is an understatement. And a package to Norway, which would “take five whole minutes,” convinced her that 2014 was off to a rotten start.


Nowhere does U.S. resentment over a world beyond our borders reign more strongly than in an urban post office. The international mailer is suspected of elitism, contempt for everyday Americans, illegal activity – or a combination of all three.

Not to mention being terrifically inconvenient.

“You don’t have to look like that!” snapped the woman at the window. Now, to some degree I do have to look the way I look; I didn’t have much say in the genetics. But I think it was my tongue probing my tooth that prompted the remark.

“I don’t know where this is,” she went on to complain, while memorizing my unfortunate features for the impending Identi-Kit rendering.

This was a poser. Presumably, she also doesn’t know the Poor Farmer’s Market in Meadows of Dan, Virginia – but did that mean they couldn’t receive mail from Philadelphia?

I made a mental note to check the Internet to see if, in its reforming zeal, the U.S. Postal Service has begun demanding that desk workers carry the packages personally. Of course, these days I could have solved the conundrum readily on my cell phone – and held up the line a further 10 minutes, at least.

Happily, the phone was in repose on my desk. Start a year as you mean to go on.


Despite the ominous overtones, the transaction gave me a comforting sense that the package was off in the right direction. It was expensive, which is solidly Norsk. The service was grudging, at best – which, though I haven’t personally encountered it too often, I am assured by Norwegians (particularly those contacting their ISP) is an esteemed national characteristic.

Still, I may have taken too lightly my local postal worker’s partisan American denial of nations beyond our borders. A week later, I see my package has arrived – in Chicago.

I detect signs of the Google hegemony in this. Running Google Translate on an NRK article citing Nord-Trøndelag has previously produced the exultant reading of “Northern California.” I assume my package is headed in that direction.

But perhaps I am underestimating the Postal Service’s awareness of U.S. history and migration patterns. At a loss over a country called Norway still drifting about in the world, they may simply be routing it to the next best American thing: Norwegians.

In which case, it should arrive in Iowa, Minnesota, or North Dakota any day.


I input my email address on the USPS Web site for updates on the journey of my holiday presents (which may end up being those for Christmas 2014). I’ll be reassured if the Nilsens of Duluth get the package. I think they’ll know where Norway is.

I do hope the NSA will let me know when it reaches them.