…on Shetland, or for that matter in the United Kingdom, is something that I have had to relearn to appreciate. Not that I have to relearn about the Royal Mail here, but to relearn that this service and function is available and a highly appreciated service for U.K. citizens. After living in one of many “outback” communities in Sweden, where the postal service has declined to unimaginable proportions and where politics and down-budgeting has turned postal services over to amateur grocery stores or petrol stations, I must say it is with pleasure to be able to use good-old-fashioned postal services again…than the alternative of closed post offices and unprofessional service!
Since our arrival, I have been to the Lerwick post office many times and have observed that many Shetlanders use this service. Usually with 3-4 postal assistants behind the counter windows ready to meet everyone’s needs or questions, it is commonplace that a line of patiently waiting customers is there. When really busy, as with Christmas and the festive season, the line would often go out onto the sidewalk and down along the front of the building.
Most small villages have a regular post office and normal postal service. Even if these are found in the same locality as the village shop, there still is a proper “post office” area with a proper “postmaster” to serve the public. Unfortunately, this last year has seen two small village post offices losing status and closing. Perhaps they were down-budgeted or the public didn’t use these efficiently?
The mail is flown in from the mainland in the mornings and then taken to Lerwick for sorting. From Lerwick, the post is driven out to all these smaller post offices and from there they are distributed to each house with a type of “rural mailman”. These mailmen, or women, deliver post 6 days a week, in every Shetland-type weather, right up to your front door! In some cases, if the house hasn’t any letter box, the mailman will place letters just inside the door for you. All local post offices are open 6 days a week.
Now, what other services can the Royal Mail provide? I’ve noticed that the Lerwick office has a manned currency exchange; no wonder with all the summer visitors and a shipping industry here. Not only can a person conduct many banking errands at the post office, but they can purchase pay-as-you-go mobile phone cards, buy house, car, retirement, health or personal insurances, hook-up to electricity, broadband or telephone delivery, purchase a small variety of office necessities like staplers or tape or even buy that USB memory stick they had forgotten to bring along to town. The post office is fun.
Shame that…ahem…Swedish postal services aren’t the same! And, in spite of most households on Shetland having broadband connections and email accesses, Shetlanders use their post offices. I for one will continue to enjoy the HM Royal Mail services in Shetland…while contemplating what’s happened in Sweden!