five digit postal code

20 Jahre Fünfstellige Postleitzahl – 20 Years Five Digit Postal Codes in Germany

Heute vor zwanzig Jahren wurde in Deutschland die fünfstellige Postleitzahl eingeführt. Durch die Wiedervereinigung war das alte Postleitzahlensystem zu ineffizient geworden und manche Städte und Gemeinden in der ehemaligen DDR und BRD hatten nun die gleiche Postleitzahl.

five digit postal codeOK, some interesting vocabulary in this short summary. Twenty years ago the German post office introduced the new and effective five digit postal code. Due to the reunification of Germany in 1990, the old system, a combination of the two existing systems in the Bundesrepublik and the Deutsche Demokratische Republik, became inefficient and also led to the problem of cities having the same postal code.

As this change took place in the 90ies it had to be sold as being “hip”. Therefore the Deutsche Post introduced Rolf, a yellow rapping hand (five fingers = five digits) who promoted the new postal codes with short clips during the commercial breaks on TV. His tagline was “Fünf ist Trümpf” five is trump (card) with the u of Trumpf turned into an Umlaut to rhyme better. I embeded some of those clips below.

On top of that some well known German film directors created ads in their own movie style. They start about one minute into the video below.

I remember that the change was not well received by the German public who did not want their postal codes to change. Some said it was pure bureaucracy, a waste of taxpayer money and almost everyone did not understand how the new system would work at all. And how on earth should people remember their new postal code? Some even named the new system “Postleidzahlen” postal suffering codes

Every German household then received a big yellow book “Das Postleitzahlenbuch” with all of the old postal codes transcribed into the new five digit ones. I am pretty sure that my parents still have this book somewhere forgotten on a shelf.

Of course, today everybody got used to the new postal codes, yet I still remember the one I grew up with: 1000 Berlin 51. Probably due to writing a lot of Ansichtskarten aus dem Urlaub – picture postcards from a vacation. In times of email and Instagram the postal code has lost a lot of its importance, I guess.

Our key vocabulary is

die Postleitzahl = postal code
fünfstellig = five digit
die Wiedervereinigung = reunification