Ireland is just now getting around to introducing postal codes

The Cafe, Side of Road, Ireland.
The Cafe, Side of Road, Ireland.
Image: Reuters/Cathal McNaughton
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Ireland is rare in the industrialized world in that it doesn’t have postal codes—at all. In the countryside, some places don’t have street names or house numbers even. But the country is moving from one of the world’s most opaque postal systems to one of the most detailed. Ireland’s upcoming postal code system will assign numbers to every home and business in the country at a cost of $32 million.

From spring 2015, 2.2 million households will have a unique seven-character number for their address in a system to be called Eircode. (Residents will have their new numbers sent to them by post, of course.) The government acknowledges that the system will make it easier to collect tax revenues, which has led to some grumbling about the real intentions.

And some are not happy with the modernization of the Irish postal system in any case. “They’re a necessary evil, maybe, but I think Ireland is losing its charm,” a 76-year-old lady told the Wall Street Journal. The system will be far more detailed than other countries—in the US, zip codes can encompass whole towns. The Irish government says that 35% of houses in Ireland don’t have a unique name or number, mainly in rural areas.

For now, the system remains delightfully 19th century. One former Irish government minister told the Journal that envelopes bearing just his name would make it to his home. Patrick Murphy said that when he moved to a small town in County Limerick, there were already two other Patrick Murphys there so his mail was delivered using the postal worker’s tried-and-tested system—send it to the Patrick Murphy that lived there the longest. “My neighbors would get it first,” he told the Journal. ”They’d have a good read, and they’d go, ‘No it’s probably not us.’ “

Ireland is not the only country to be coping with a postal transition. Quartz earlier this month reported on Costa Rica’s attempts to get street signs on every corner, which is still ongoing despite being in the works since 2005. Districts in that country received post codes in 2007.