Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Postage Stamps

A subtle lesson that Korea (and Asia) will teach you is that it is not wise to make assumptions about the local post office. Show Time Judy makes an excellent comparison between North American Post Offices and their Korean counterparts and the one thing that struck me was use of self-adhesive technology in Korean stamps.

The U.S. currently uses self-adhesive stamps, the sticker kind that don't rely on licking the back. Sometime in my life this stamped replaced the water-activated stamp (the stamp stereotype) but here in Korea they have rejected all self-adhesive technology and instead rely on a glue stick within the post office (or home) for the postage gum. Funny enough, greeting card envelopes and other items that are self-adhesive in the U.S. are gum-free in Korea.

Now, let's side track into India. While the good folk in Korea may not have discovered self-adhesive technology, the even better folks in India have yet to discovered glue dispensing technology. Seriously. I went into one post office to get rid of my collection of postcards and I had the damnedest problem trying to get my stamps to stick. Thanks to my experience in Korea I suspected that I was dealing with gum-free paper.

I tried to ask where the glue was and was told 'glue is outside.' By outside the nice old aunty-ji meant the nice old courtyard in the back, with some benches, a fountain, and one sad looking wooden desk under a glue stick tied to a tree. And by glue stick I mean I mean a stick in a pot of glue. You literally had to dip the stick and spread the glue, mastering the art of just getting enough for a quick dry. Of course it wasn't until I gave the stick to the person next in line that I saw that the proper way to use the glue stick is to wipe the glue with your finger and then spread the glue on the stamps; fingers are rinsed in the courtesy fountain and you can sit on the benches while you wait for the glue to dry.

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