😈 Naughty Lists: What Not to Mail

I recently sent a package of stickers and small gifts to Canada. Before I did, I very responsibly (:innocent:) checked the Postal Explorer to make sure I wasn’t mailing anything prohibited by my northern neighbors. (My proud Ontarian grandparents would surely come back as ghosts to scold me if I did.)

Among the prohibited/restricted items were the usual suspects: radioactive materials, infectious material, firearms, etc. But there were also items that baffled me:

"An issue of a publication in which more than 5 percent of its total advertising space is primarily directed to a Canadian market and which indicates:
a. Specifically where goods or services may be obtained in Canada, or
b. Specific items or conditions relating to the sale or provision of goods or services in Canada."

Huh. I didn’t quite understand how materials advertising Canadian goods and services would be a prohibited item…in Canada, but I was wholly ignorant about the matter, so I moved on to:

“…all items used as dress ornaments and coming under the term “jewelry” including articles of gold or other precious metal for personal use such as cigarette holders, cases, powder cases, card cases, opera glasses, fountain pens, watches, etc., are permitted in insured parcels provided the articles have value not over $5 U.S.”

(This made a bit more sense, although that particular assortment of items led me to imagine that Canada Post once endured a legal scandal centering on the lost belongings of an Edwardian-era socialite. My imagination ran wild.)

Curiously, I searched for other countries’ postal no-nos that are notable in some way, be they intriguingly specific, a little quirky, or downright puzzling to me without further context or explanation. (Please note: my intent was not, and is not, to judge; I am genuinely curious as to how some of these came to live on the postal naughty list of a particular country.) Below is a sample of my findings. If you see your country and think, “Hey, I know why you can’t mail almanacs to Denmark!”, please enlighten me! Otherwise, gaze in wonderment with me at what you’re NOT supposed to mail:

Australia
Seditious literature
Goods bearing the name “Anzac” (is it relevant that it’s not written as an acronym here?)

Bahamas
Skimmed milk in tins

Bangladesh
Quinine, colored pink

Botswana
Flypaper

Brazil
Primary educational books not written in Portuguese

Bulgaria
“Musical” cards that play a sound recording when opened (also prohibited in Cuba and Qatar; these always startle me, anyway :fearful:)

Costa Rica
Dual-graduation feeding bottles

Denmark
Almanacs (except for single copies) that do not bear the University almanac stamp

Ecuador
All maps showing the territory of Ecuador with incorrect boundaries (I applaud this dedication to accuracy)

Germany
Articles bearing political or religious notations on the address side
Melatonin

Guatemala
Gardenia plants and seeds (very specific)
Police whistles

Iraq
Binoculars

Israel
Cigarettes exceeding 600 (I would hate to be the postal worker tasked with counting a shipment of exactly 600 loose cigarettes from a prankster)

Italy
Albums of any kind (of photographs, postcards, postage stamps, etc.)
Artificial flowers and fruits and accessories for them
Bells and other musical instruments and parts thereof
Clocks and supplies for clocks
Coral mounted in any way
Footwear of any kind
Haberdashery and sewn articles of any kind, including trimmings and lace; handkerchiefs; scarves; shawls, needlework including stockings and gloves; bonnets, caps, and hats of any kind
Leather goods
Nutmeg, vanilla; sea salt, rock salt; saffron
Postage stamps in sealed or unsealed First-Class Mail International or First-Class Package International Service shipments
Ribbons for typewriters
Toys not made wholly of wood

Japan
Hoverboards or gyroboards

Luxembourg
Postcards embellished with fabrics, embroidery, metal, spangles, or similar materials (:broken_heart:) except in sealed envelopes (:heart:)

New Zealand
Artwork including paintings, sculptures, and of other works of art
Magnets and magnetic material, such as refrigerator magnets
First aid kits
Keys

Paraguay
Plastic toys
Stockings and socks except those made of jersey
Wool blankets

Peru
Drinks manufactured abroad under the brand name “Pisco"

Singapore
Advertisements for charms, amulets and talismans (not the charms themselves?)

Sri Lanka
Paper and writing products (envelopes, ink, pencils, pens, erasers, chalk, etc.)

UK
Christmas crackers/poppers (understandable, yet disappointing :disappointed:)

Uganda
Japanese shaving brushes

(USPS Postal Explorer as of 12 November 2020)

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Mexico is very sensitive about mailing archaeological items, although I’m not sure if it’s just mailing them from Mexico, or if they also have an issue with them being mailed to Mexico.

To Canada, you can’t send dairy or meat either, and if you travel to Canada by air you can’t bring dairy or meat with you. Horribly disappointing to anyone returning from France or the Netherlands! However, if you drive from the US, you can bring a small amount of cheese, or at least so was told my good friend who came visit from Wisconsin.

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That’s a tricky one - suggests that a postcard with a political message could theoretically be banned.

I suspect there is no difference between Anzac and ANZAC - the government is very protective about any use of either. Also, you can only sell Anzac Biscuits if your recipe has no additions to the traditional one, and you can’t call them Anzac Cookies.

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I also check the prohibited items before mailing gifts abroad. Some things that I have come across: you can’t send

  • used sheets and duvet covers to Australia
  • saccarine or deck of cards to Spain
  • textiles, cloths, cosmetics, coffee products to Sri Lanka (I recall they had also tea there before, but not anymore).
    (That almanac thing can be a copyright issue. Also in Finland the university of Helsinki owns copyrights to name day calendars).
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Wow thats amazing to hear
Every country has their own rules and it is extremely difficult to decide what to send sometimes.
I hope the countries in future agree on a uniform set of rules
Thanks for spending your time and creating this surprising yet humorous article for us

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@truenorth_49, I didn’t see any mention of archaeological artifacts in Mexico’s list of prohibited/restricted incoming items, but maybe they are very concerned with outgoing artifacts? I would be, too, if I were Mexico! They have, you know, just a few culturally significant items lying around… :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

@helent, right? I’m hoping a savvy German Postcrosser will clarify the meaning of that one.

@Kanerva, playing cards came up a lot as a prohibited item. Czech Republic, Vietnam, and Thailand, among several others. Germany prohibits them unless “in complete decks, properly wrapped,” and Turkey distinguishes between playing cards for adults and card games for children. Notably, gambling is not illegal in most of the countries that prohibit mailed decks of cards, so I wonder if it’s to prevent the introduction of…counterfeit decks? Rigged decks that can be used to cheat in gambling? I have no idea; once again, I’m counting on smarter people to help me out! :cowboy_hat_face:

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Australia has a lot of rules about protecting our biosecurity which other countries with land borders don’t need to worry about. Things like that make it hard to unify rules.

Visitors here are often caught out and surprised, and it seems so logical to me that you can’t bring fresh food in. Last time I went to the UK, I had some packaged biscuits that I declared just to be safe - the customs officer just waved me through and said that it was always Australians who checked that it was OK.

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I assumed, going into my [ahem] “research,” that island nations would tend to have stricter rules about what can be mailed there, and boy, was I mostly wrong. You can mail anything to Barbados as long as it’s not radioactive, apparently. (I’m sure that’s not entirely true, but radioactive material is the one item on their prohibitions list! Still more strict [at least on paper] than Montenegro, who has not furnished such a list. :sweat_smile:)

Also, @helent: “The DVA lists penalties for the misuse of the word Anzac under the Crimes Act, including fines of up to $10,200 for a person, $51,000 for a body corporate and even 12 months in prison.”

:cold_sweat: :cold_sweat: :cold_sweat:

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This is good to know!

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Australia also won’t allow tea/tea bags if they contain citrus (orange, lemon etc). I have had Celestial Seasonings Tea sent from USA confiscated because it was a variety that contained orange peel. Sealed packet/box but still confiscated.

I have also had a postcard confiscated by Australian Quarantine because it contained a tiny piece of twig/tree

Read the comments for more about its seizure.

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Here people watch “Border Security - Australian Frontline” almost like an educational program. I hear people planning to travel often commenting about that TV-series and saying how careful one must be when packing.

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$42.50AUD to irradiate the card! :sweat_smile: Oh, nooooo! I feel bad for the sender, but I also don’t blame you for not spending a small fortune to rescue it.

A friend of mine recently received a postcard from Serbia featuring a dried dandelion attached with clear tape. :blossom: A very cute detail, for sure! I was a little surprised that it was allowed through, though. Even if a country allowed dried flowers via mail, I would be too nervous to send them. Who knows what kind of horrible blight my postcard might accidentally unleash upon the local agriculture? :grimacing:

Everyone’s comments here are a good reminder (including for myself) to check mailing restrictions carefully! I often see tea bags on lists of items to send to pen pals (I even had a Postcrosser who asked for tea bags in her profile), and I’m glad that my skepticism about doing this is apparently warranted. :joy:

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Melatonin is treated as a pharmaceutical drug in Germany and there are very strict regulations about the import of drugs.

About the articles bearing political or religious notations on the address side… I haven’t heard of this before. However, if I get mail from a political or religious organisation, it is usually within a neutral envelope if it is not a newspaper. So maybe there is a law that I am unable to find atm. I don’t think this is true for postcards though and is more about preventing people from being spammed by advertising that they don’t want to see :wink: You can put it straight into the bin without looking at the contents of the letter and are spared from religious or political preachings that you might find offensive.
There seem to be problems because of neutral envelopes containing undesirable and sometimes even illegal anti-constitutional advertising though and the postal service claiming that it’s not their fault that they delivered it, they didn’t know the contents of the envelope because of the secrecy of the letter. I guess, both ways have their downsides.
This is just guessword, I don’t know :woman_shrugging:

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A fascinating thread. Thank you for sharing.

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When I traveled to Norway, I noticed that you can’t bring potatoes there - I guess that’s true for mail as well?

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:scream: I had never even thought of it, besides the obvious e.g. sharp objects. Especially regarding teas, everybody wants teas all the time!

And oh wow that Italy list, I had no idea!

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That was said to me to when I wanted to send a potato chips bag to Ireland. The post officer thought it was a potato :sweat_smile: and said I couldn’t mail it. It was the first time I came across this lists. Later I was asked if a book I was sending to Germany had military content - it didn’t, it was a filmmaker biography - because we couldn’t send any military related things to Germany.

I know I checked at the time, but it was a couple of years ago so I don’t quite remember well. But I will look into it as this topic fascinates me -thank you for opening, PinkNoodle, I’m having fun satisfying my curiosity. :rofl:

Hahah, yes! The only thing I can totally understand in finnish television because it’s in english. I grew quite fond of it because it is informative, although sometimes I’m tempted to say “okei, this cannot enter the country, but you can have lots of interesting SCARY bugs in there, that doesn’t make sense people:joy: Although I understand why it’s better to be cautious.
I wonder what one can send to Australia, though! Once I’ve sent a envelope with tea bags but it never reached the destiny. I thought it just got lost, but maybe it got quarantined? Who knows.

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We have something similar in Germany, though it’s not as general as in Canada - it only applies to senders from Germany and therefore is located in the terms of usage, not the customs part. Reason: Protection of income of the German Post. After the Iron Curtain fell, postage from many Eastern countries to Germany was cheaper than postage inside Germany, so German Post prohibited mailing of advertisements and goods from aroad that was actually from inside the country. In the meantime, most potal authorities around Germany are more expensive than German Post, but the regulation is still in place - no one cared to get rid of it.

Most likely a political move to protect their Portuguese language - all countries around them speak Spanish, and they have lots of migrant families from these countries, so those may want school books in Spanish to teach their language to their kids…

My guess is that, to sell an almanac in Denmark, you need to have its content checked by a university authority for correctness, and then you get that “University almanac stamp”

Most likely political - there are territories Ecuador lays claims on.

Political and religious notations: This is meant against offensive comments, like anti-foreigners, anti-religious. Such notions are prohibited in Germany (no surprise there, thinking of our history). There is no issue with Christmas, Easter, Hanukka or other religious postcards as long as they are positive. Same for political cards like showing a president, royalty, national symbols etc.

Melatonin: In the USA it is an over-the-counter product, but in Germany it must be prescribed (in most other EU countries it’s over-the-counter). Import of prescription-only medications into Germany in normal mail is prohibited (like in most countries - you need a special import permission from the authority regulating prescription medications).

Invasive species in their climate. Also it’s toxic.

Probably because binoculars can be used by fighters to spit their victims.

Germany allows more cigarettes, but you have to pay taxes for any exceeding the tax-free limit.

[quote=“PinkNoodle, post:1, topic:13519”]
Luxembourg
Postcards embellished with fabrics, embroidery, metal, spangles, or similar materials (:broken_heart:) except in sealed envelopes (:heart:)
[/quotes]
They can get stuck in mail sorting machines and get damaged and/or damage the machines. In Germany, we cannot mail such postcards (including shaped postcards, meaning any card that is not a rectangle), meaning it is refused when you mail it at a post office. When put into a mailbox, it might slip though, but if caught it is either returned to the sender (if noted on the card) or destroyed.

Like Italy’s “Toays not completely made of wood”, plastic toys can contain high amounts of toxic or hormone-like substances that can damage children’s bodies. In many countries you need an import permit after proving that your merchandise is safe.

Brand protection.

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That’s new to me, do you have an official source? I already sent cards embellished with fabrics without any problems.

edit: I can only find that cards purely made from fabric, wood etc are not allowed to be sent without envelope.

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Three things are prohibited in the guinean post:

  • red palm oil
  • dried fish
  • and peanut butter
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