Don’t Send Me Presents: My House has No Number, My Street No Name

by Nora Dunn on April 2, 2013

 

I live in a house with no number, on a street with no name. Postal codes – sorry, what? In Grenada, there’s no such thing.

I literally have no address here in Grenada; it’s a random yet appropriate transition from having no fixed address at all to developing some roots.

 

Although I was initially surprised to discover that conventional addresses don’t exist here, I’ve learned that Grenada is small enough that a verbal description of where you live is sufficient.

This is a country where an effective political campaign involves driving a car with a loudspeaker around all the island communities, announcing campaign promises and platforms.

Grenada in general is an intimate affair.

 

Here is an FAQ about life with a fixed address (but no address) in Grenada:

 

But…How do you get your mail?

What mail?

 

Like, bills n stuff…

Bills aren’t mailed out (unless you are among the “lucky” few who choose to pay for a PO box – for which there are usually waiting lists).

 

Oh, so your bills are all automated?

Lord, no.

For utilities like electricity, water, and cable, you are expected to remember who you owe, and visit each service provider every month to pay your accounts in person. If you have a local bank account (I don’t), internet banking/bill-paying options are sometimes available.

If a service provider absolutely needs to contact you and is unable to via phone (for example if your services are about to be cut off), then they’ll (sometimes) do a drive-by and hand-deliver your notice to you using the method below.

 

But how do you get services installed/repaired? Or make appointments? Or open a business?

Addresses in Grenada are largely verbal, and descriptive.

Grenada is divided into six parishes, which give you a starting point. Within the parishes are often “towns” that narrow the field further. Then it’s all about landmarks. The police station, the cemetery, the pasture, the fruit stand, and the local shop are all common landmarks.

A typical “address” in Grenada is along the lines of “You know the police station? Okay, go past that, then take the road towards the shop. Pass the cemetery, pass the pasture, and it’s the yellow house on the left”.

And believe it or not, most people will not only know the place you’re describing, but will interject by further describing the area: “Oh, next to the house with the big mango tree in front?”

Yes, that mango tree.

 

 

Incidentally, when meeting somebody new, a similar exercise is performed to determine how many degrees of separation exist between you. Family names and extended family members are explored, often to discover there’s no more than a couple of degrees of separation (among locals). As a foreigner I don’t experience this to the same extent, but there’s still usually only a few degrees of separation to the people I know.

 

But what if you MUST have something delivered?

If you know you’re getting a package or letter, there are creative ways to arrange delivery.

Chances are you know somebody in Grenada with a PO box or who works at a business; they may let you borrow the address for the delivery.

In many cases however, your delivery doesn’t even get that far. Every time I’ve had something delivered (to both PO boxes and businesses), the package has instead been held somewhere else for pickup (such as the airport or Fed Ex centre), and I’ve received a phone call to come pick it up.

Thus, phone numbers are an imperative part of any formal address in Grenada!

Failing any of the above address options, services like FedEx and DHL also allow you to have something shipped to their centre for pick-up without providing a local address.

 

Grenada, Granada, Grenada…huh?

Grenada is in the West Indes (Caribbean).

Granada is in Spain.

And Grenada – yes, another one – is in Nicaragua.

Guess how many packages don’t even make it to the right country, at least without doing a bit of a world tour first!

 

So don’t send me perishables, please. They might take a while to get here.

 

This seemingly antiquated address system works for Grenada, and many other places in the world from what I can gather. I remember reading that Costa Rica uses similar landmark-based addresses, except that these “official” descriptive addresses are logged with the postal system, and sometimes hinge on landmarks (like “the big tree” or “pink rock”) that are no longer even there.

 

Okay, but you still get mail from Canada, right? Like for your driver’s license and taxes?

My Canadian mail is rare, and it goes to my Canadian address – which is managed by my “designated representative” (hi Mum!). If Mum weren’t so awesome, I would subscribe to a virtual mailing service that receives your mail, scans the envelope for you to see it, and awaits your instructions (trash it, forward it, or scan and email the contents).

 

 

I live in a house with no number, on a street with no name. And although I have to stand in line to pay bills, and although receiving packages is a crap shoot, I’m coming to like it this way. Life is so very simple. So thank you, but don’t send me presents – chances are I don’t actually need anything.

What’s the strangest address you’ve had? 

 

 

{ 39 comments… read them below or add one }

Jayn April 2, 2013 at 1:25 pm

I think the best so far has to be “calle la finca, circa la gasolinera en la casa de clemente”, which anyone in that particular small Guatemalan town could find. After all, there’s only one farm road, with just the one gas station on it, and one house belonging to Clemente (technically belonging to his wife, Jesus) anywhere near it.

I’m told there’s a real number attached to it, but I have no idea what it would be.

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theprofessionalhobo April 3, 2013 at 9:58 am

Jayn – And heck – if you don’t know the number to your house, then nobody else will either! I love small town descriptive addresses.

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Kitty April 3, 2013 at 7:58 am

Love your blog! We have a similar problem – “okay, you know Bathway Beach? go pa-aast the picnic area and we are the ONLY houses on the beach, yes the right hand side, the side with the sea… The road name? Well it’s “the road to Levera” – and if you run off the concrete road onto the dirt road you’ve gone too far!

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theprofessionalhobo April 3, 2013 at 9:59 am

Hey Kitty – That’s a pretty good description! I’ll be over for tea. ;-)

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Tiffany April 3, 2013 at 2:21 pm

I’ve got two thoughts on strangest address:
1.) Driving around Australia in an 89 Mitsubishi Van and trying to get the timing right for catching packages via “Poste Residente” at random post offices along our route.
2.) When working as Park Rangers in Elmore, Vermont having the most awesome, old fashioned PO BOx, with a bear head mounted on the wall, homemade cookies next to the register, at the Elmore General Store. And learning how to turn the old fashion combination dial just right to get the little box to open.

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theprofessionalhobo April 4, 2013 at 9:11 am

Tiffany – I do very much love general stores that are also post offices, and you have to pick up your mail there. I had one such place in Australia. It’s was rural living to be sure!
But I don’t like the stress of picking up packages along the way while traveling. It doesn’t take much for a package to be late, throwing it all off. It’s just as well that I don’t have an address; whenever somebody sends me something I am always nervous it won’t come!

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A Cook Not Mad (Nat) April 3, 2013 at 4:14 pm

There’s something about having a home without an address that’s very attractive to me. Kind of like going back to basics.

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theprofessionalhobo April 4, 2013 at 9:13 am

Nat – You got it! It’s very basic, and somehow makes home feel like a little sanctuary. No address listings in the phone book; you’ve got to know me to find me! :-)

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Sam April 4, 2013 at 12:49 pm

This is lovely. I love the description with the mango tree!

My partner has family from Grenada, and is forever explaining that no, it’s not Granada, it’s in the Caribbean! I can’t imagine how much post must go to the wrong country entirely!

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theprofessionalhobo April 5, 2013 at 9:01 am

Hey Sam – Yes, the confusion of countries and locations is universal…I regularly have to clarify to people I converse with which “Grenada/Granada/Grenada” I’m in. That’s okay, it’s an innocent mistake – unless you’re a postal worker! Ha ha.

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Kim April 5, 2013 at 2:50 pm

I live in Costa Rica now. They are starting to make up addresses and street names in the capital, San Jose. But since I live by the beach my address is 50 mts from Hotel Condor (the hotel changed its name 4 years ago, but everyone still knows it by its old name) in a municipality where the actual town is a 50 minute drive away. When I was still living in Canada, I sent my gounds keeper a letter. It took two months to get here, but it did finally arrive… Delivered by a postman on an ATV.

The craziest addresses I have heard of here are 100 mts north of the school that burnt down 50 years ago or turn at the corner with the white horse. I guess the horse stood in the corner of the field for 25 years and the day my friend had to find it, it was missing.

It is part of the adventure and the fun of living overseas in a new place. I have found many hidden jems while “lost” following directions.

As for bills, we don’t get them either. Since I have a bank account I can look for/pay many of them online or I can just pay them at the grocery store check out while getting groceries. I

Pura vida!

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theprofessionalhobo April 6, 2013 at 9:04 am

Kim – What crazy addresses? I believe I’ve heard of that white horse too…or its distinct lack thereof!
And like you say, sometimes getting lost is half the fun. It helps us interact with our environments more. Enjoy the Pura Vida in Costa Rica!

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John April 6, 2013 at 7:10 am

Sometimes not having a fixed address is a nightmare, like when you lose a bank card or need something ordered off the internet. When ever I try and get something mailed to me on the road it never goes to plan. I suppose there is one advantage though, not having to tip the postman at Christmas ;-)

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theprofessionalhobo April 6, 2013 at 9:12 am

John – Now there’s looking on the bright side! :-)
I echo your concerns about getting items mailed to you on the road…I’ve been lucky to usually stay in places (with addresses) long enough to wait out a package arrival, but it’s rarely a predictable process. Having bank/credit card issues abroad are the worst!

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Jen April 6, 2013 at 12:14 pm

Hey Nora!! Just curious if you can recommend any virtual mail services? I’m in the US… I don’t have anyone that I can designate, so looking for other options once I leave the US. Love your site, and the things you share! Thanks

Jen

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theprofessionalhobo April 6, 2013 at 12:21 pm

Hi Jen – I’ve not used a virtual mailing service myself, but fellow traveler Dyanne of Travel’nLass did some comprehensive research before selecting the service she uses:
http://www.travelnlass.com/2011/05/desperately-seeking-mail-forwarding.html

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VIchica April 6, 2013 at 12:59 pm

I grew up on St. Croix in the United States Virgin Islands. I feel it is important to stress the United States part because pre-internet most stores in the states shipped to us, but they didn’t have VI available as a state code for mailing. Most of our packages were labeled VA (Virginia) and we just had to wish that they actually arrived.

We had a numbering system and road names, but I haven’t a clue what most of them are — I can name Queen Mary Hwy and Centerline Road because they were on our driving test. I think there is a King Cross Street in one of the towns. At one point the local government put number signs up on the roads in order to secure a tourist grant from the federal government, but no one ever used them — and I think that they were probably wrong.

I still give directions by landmark — and in Los Angeles it makes people nervous. Some people after using my directions realize that they will see the large green building where they need to turn left long before they can read the street sign.

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theprofessionalhobo April 7, 2013 at 8:40 am

Hi VIchica – In Grenada I also notice that streets sometimes have more than one name. There’s the official name – which barely anybody uses – then a more common name. That’s thrown me off more than once.
And landmark-based directions force us to observe our environment a little more closely….I might not notice the green building at all if you don’t use it as a landmark!

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Tomas April 6, 2013 at 1:16 pm

Hello Nora. Really enjoyed reading this :) Yes, i’ve lived at quite some places with no address, once in a car where the address changed most everyday. Sounds like a wonderful life in Grenada. Would have loved spending some more time there. All the best

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theprofessionalhobo April 7, 2013 at 8:43 am

Hello Tomas – What a lovely comment, and thanks for checking in!
I too have been nomadic in a car (actually, a camper van) myself….which is a bit different, since you know it’s (usually) a temporary thing. When you live in a house, you expect it to carry certain properties of stability, such as an address. That’s what makes it so surreal here!

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livingontheglobe April 6, 2013 at 1:51 pm

Reminds me of my time spent in Costa Rica, followed by Panama. In Costa Rica, the address was “25 meters past the store owned by Senor XXX.” In Panama, we didn’t get mail to the community where I lived, instead it was – and still is outside of the larger cities – “Entrega General.” I remember giving away my M&M’s and home-made cookies to the mail lady so I would not have to pay the customs duties on the other stuff in the box!

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theprofessionalhobo April 7, 2013 at 8:44 am

Haha – that’s awesome! M&Ms instead of duty tax. I love small towns! :-)

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livingontheglobe April 7, 2013 at 9:46 am

I’m actually at the other extreme living in Singapore now. Here, every BUILDING has it’s own unique postal code. Just give the vendor your postal code, and the only other info they need to find you is the apartment number.

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theprofessionalhobo April 8, 2013 at 9:01 am

I would expect nothing less organized from a place such as Singapore… :-)

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Charli l Wanderlusters April 6, 2013 at 3:20 pm

We had some adventures in Costa Rica, As Kim mentioned they use a similar addressing format. We lived at the top of the village, turn left by the anchor walk until you pass the barking dog, turn right and look for the orange house!

Trying to remember that in Spanish was always quite a challenge!

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theprofessionalhobo April 7, 2013 at 8:45 am

Charli – Gee…I hope the barking dog was a reliable landmark! Then again, a consistently barking dog isn’t exactly good for sleep….I’ve got 6 barking dogs across the street….too bad they’re not even useful enough to be landmarks!

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Maria April 6, 2013 at 9:54 pm

I’m sure that would get annoying but on the surface it sounds quaint – no address.
How nice to be able to say, “You know the police station? Okay, go past that, then… yellow house on the…”

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theprofessionalhobo April 7, 2013 at 8:46 am

Maria – I love it! It constantly rings home how small and intimate Grenada as a country – and country community – is.

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Jessica Hill April 6, 2013 at 10:53 pm

I love this! Who needs an address anyway, what with the ease of technology these days, it seems we’re likely to skip over that whole numerical address thing anyway….I wish a few more of my bills would get lost in the system.

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theprofessionalhobo April 7, 2013 at 8:47 am

Jessica – Ha ha! Don’t wish for your bills to get lost (because you’ll still owe them)…..eliminate them at the source! Who needs bills anyway?! :-)

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John Lewis April 7, 2013 at 5:55 pm

“What’s the strangest address you’ve had? ”

Quarters 20
Turkey Hill Radar Station
Belleveille IL

‘Turkey Hill’ was pretty appropriate, as far as my younger self was concerned.

Three geodesic domes housing radar antennae set smack in the middle of a huge cornfield. I can attest that at certain times of the year it IS possible to hear corn grow.

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theprofessionalhobo April 8, 2013 at 9:03 am

Ha ha! I’ll bet the corn can be quite talkative! :-)

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Bell April 9, 2013 at 9:27 am

Love it and glad I stumbled upon your blog :) I like the sense of community you describe and wish there was more of that in the city… but I suppose you have to try and develop your community for yourself when it’s not already in place for you.

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theprofessionalhobo April 9, 2013 at 9:52 am

Hi Bell,
Communities in cities are different from living in rural areas.
In the city, I find you seek out your “community” based on special interests and less-so by the geography of where you live.
In rural areas, community is inherent (an in many cases necessary) in the proximity of small groups of people living in the same area; how you are viewed by and interact with the community differs by who you are and how long you’ve lived there.

And as lovely as it is, anybody who has lived rurally anywhere in the world can tell you that tight-knit small communities can be a double-edged sword! In Grenada, there’s a saying: “Fart in Grenville and somebody in St George’s will tell you how it smelled”. (Grenville and St George’s are on opposite sides of the island). So don’t expect to have many secrets! :-)

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Bell April 9, 2013 at 11:28 am

So true… the grass is always greener ;) I guess it is something I miss a bit as it takes time in cities to build and we seem to move just as we start to get a community established!

Great saying though, thank you for sharing, certainly made me laugh!

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Suzanne Fluhr (Just One Boomer) April 28, 2013 at 10:14 pm

Growing up, my parents worked at a camp in Pennsylvania farm country. The nearest town was about a 20 minute drive, Pine Grove, PA. The camp’s address was, “Lighthouse Camp, R.D. #2, Pine Grove, PA. R.D. stood for Rural Delivery and we were on route two. Presumably, the mailman knew the names of the families on his route. I also remember that he drove sitting in the middle of the front car seat (no bucket car seats then in regular sedans), so he could easily slide over to reach the mail boxes on the right side of the road. He drove his own car, so if you didn’t know it was the mailman, it looked like a car was approaching with no one in the driver’s seat.

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theprofessionalhobo April 29, 2013 at 9:19 am

Hi Suzanne,
I love it! What happened, I wonder, when the mailman was sick? I guess in a rural area, everybody pretty much knows where everybody lives anyway!

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Global Village Travels August 7, 2013 at 12:43 pm

Know where the Catholic Church is in St. Paul’s, well I was born in the house across the street on the hill, you know, the one destroyed by hurricane Ivan.

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theprofessionalhobo August 7, 2013 at 2:07 pm

Hi Global – ….and the beautiful thing, is I know exactly where you’re talking about! (Beautiful spot). ;-) Did you leave after the hurricane?

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