Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Happy New Year – with a test of machine translation!

tags: Happy New Year, machine translation

For the most celebrated holiday around the world,
Best Wishes for a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year.

Feliz año nuevo
Bonne année
Glückliches neues Jahr
Selamat Tahun Baru
Godt Nytt År
새해 많이 받으세요
Voorspoedige nuwe jaar
Stastny Novy Rok
سنة جديدة سعيدة
Gelukkig nieuwjaar
Felice Anno Nuovo
Boldog uj evet
Heri za Mwaka Mpya

Also a good test of machine translation.  If this greeting is wrong in
your country or language, please let me know and I will report on the results.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

‘Tis the Season of Holidays and Mail

Tags:  holidays, international destinations, international mail, U.S. Postal Service, Ramadan, Chinese New Year

My email box has been full of holiday greetings and so has my mail box.  In the United States a majority of the residents are Christian.  Most of those celebrate Christmas on December 25th, with some celebrating on January 7th.  January 1st  is New Year’s Day for much of the world’s population and the most celebrated holiday worldwide.

The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) has been working overtime delivering all the holiday letters and packages.  The people who move the mail do a great job, working more hours when many people are taking extra time off to celebrate or shop.  To all those people:

Thank you and may you all have a very Happy New Year.

Since this blog focuses on international issues, remember when you mail that holiday seasons differ around the world.  In 2012, Chinese New Year, under various names, is on January 23 with festivals lasting up to 15 days.  The week of Spring festivals in Japan will be from April 29 – May 5.  Ramadan will begin on July 19 and end with Eid al-Fitr in 2012 is on Sunday, August 19.  Eid al-Adha will be October 26.  There are many more, so check before planning a mailing.

The balance between email and post has changed.  More holiday messages now arrive by email than ever before.  FedEx and UPS trucks are stopping somewhere on my street daily delivering online purchases or gifts from family or friends.  In a microcosm, this highlights the problems faced by the U.S. Postal Service and other postal providers around the world.  There are fewer letters send by post as email use increases and many parcels are sent by express carriers.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Counties, Districts, Estados, Oblasts, Provincias, Qarqe, Rayons, States, Territories, Velayat, Wilayat – Oh, My!

Tags:  states, provinces, address formats, correct address, data quality

Most countries are divided into smaller administrative units.  The next largest unit below a country’s central government is called a “first-level administrative unit”.  In Canada, these are provinces and territories.  In the U.S., they are the 50 states, the District of Columbia (DC), and various other territories, such as Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Guam. 

Some countries have a more complex structure of units than others.  The United Kingdom has 241 first-level units with a variety of names – two-tier counties, unitary authorities, municipal districts, among them.  From here on out, I will call them provinces in this blog.

About 100 countries use provinces, or province abbreviations, in their postal addresses.  In a number of countries, provinces are used except for addresses in major cities or the capital city.  In about half of all those countries specifying their use, the province is in the official address format provided by postal authorities but used only rarely or occasionally.

As with postal codes, requiring provinces when designing response forms or designing a database is going to create similar problems.  Abandoned forms.  Incorrect information.  Poor quality or incorrect addresses.  Where the provinces are placed in the address also varies by country, complicating that field’s placement on forms.  When used, the province is most commonly either below or to the right of the town or city.  (What to call that field on a form is another complication.)

And, as with postal codes, you want to capture the province in countries where they are used.  Here are some suggestions to find out where they are used.

1.  Check the designated postal operator’s web site for addressing guidelines or examples.  Be sure to check for addresses outside the capital or major city.

2.  Check the addresses of businesses in that country, looking beyond those in the capital city.

3.  Buy the completely revised 2012 edition of the Guide to Worldwide Postal Code and Address Formats.  We are now accepting pre-publication orders that will be shipped in February.  The online version is continually updated.

As always, I can be reached by email if you have questions or want more information.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Having a Postal Code Doesn’t Mean It’s Used

 Tags:  postal codes, database address fields, Univeral Postal Union (UPU)

Afghanistan now has a 4-digit postal code, placed below the city or province name.  Countries continue to establish postal codes (ZIP code, PIN code, PLZ, etc.) with the encouragement of the Universal Postal Union (UPU).  Postal codes confer all kinds of benefits:  allowing for better automated mail sorting, helping with sorting mail addressed in different scripts or languages, identifying a geolocation, and more.

Whether those postal codes are used is a completely different issue.  From Afghanistan and Albania alphabetically to Vietnam and Zambia, the postal codes are not frequently used in 55 of the 170 countries with codes.  Indeed, the code use can best be described as occasional to rare in those 55 countries.

When designing response forms or designing a database, a required postal code field for all countries that official have one is going to create problems.  That field will not be completed on forms, leading to abandoned inquiries or orders.  In a database, it will not contain a valid value in some or most cases, resulting in poor data quality.  Nobody wants to encourage either of these problems. 

Yet you do want to have a postal code if possible and certainly want them in countries where they are used.  Here are a couple suggestions to find out if postal codes are used or not.

1.  Buy the completely revised 2012 edition of the Guide to Worldwide Postal Code and Address Formats.  We are now accepting pre-publication orders that will be shipped in February.  The online version is continually updated and we’re adding information on whether the codes are used or not as we update to the 2012 edition.

2.  Check the designated postal operator’s postal address on their web site if they provide one.  If there is no postal code, then it is not used consistently in practice.

3.  Check the addresses of embassies in that country’s capital.  Larger countries list their embassies online and provide local addresses for them in most cases.

As always, I can be reached by email if you have questions or want more information.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Trade Sanctions and International Mail

Tags: international trade, trade sanctions, trade restrictions, international destinations, international mail

Countries have trade sanctions, from prohibitions on exporting or importing particular goods to complete bans on doing business with certain countries, companies, or individuals.  It’s not just high tech goods or weapons that are affected.  Some restrictions affect any business dealings.  Even though WorldVu LLC is a publisher, shipping books – nothing dangerous, no technological matter – worldwide, we must follow the U.S. restrictions and not do business with countries, companies or individuals as required by the U.S. government.

Why spend the time and effort to mail when any order must be rejected?  Check before you mail and before you ship products to avoid problems.  It’s not difficult, since many countries have this information online.  Search trade sanctions or trade restrictions (or their local language equivalent) along with the country name.  Look for a government or other official web site.

Here are the sites for businesses in the U.S., the U.K. and Canada.

The U.S. Department of the Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control (Click on the Resources tab for specific sanctions programs and other information.)

Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada (Be sure to check out the related links at the bottom of the page.)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Measurements in Mailing

Tags:  international mail, international destinations, culture, international mail, mailing services, measurement

I was thinking about what I would write this week while looking at dessert recipes for our Thanksgiving holiday dinner.  As I converted measurements in some recipes from metric or British Imperial to the U.S. system, I realized how important converting measurements is to international mailing.

If you are direct depositing mail from the U.S. in another country, the standard sizes and weights will be different.  Many countries have penalties for non-standard or heavier items, so check before designing for a large mailing to prevent surprises.  Here are a few quick measurements used in mailing in both metric and U.S. systems to help give an idea of the differences.  They are rounded since most do not convert exactly. 

Weight:  16 ounces (oz.) = 1 pound (lb.)   1 ounce = 28.35 grams (g. or gr.) 
1 pound = 453.6 grams or 0.46 kilograms (kg.)  1,000 grams = 1 kilogram  
10 grams = 0.32 ounces   1 kilogram = 2.2 pounds

Length:  12 inches (in.) = 1 foot (ft.)   1 inch = 2.54 centimetres (cm.)  
1 foot = 30.48 centimetres   1 centimetre = 0.394 inches  
10 millimetres (ml.) = 1 centimetre   

Standard stationery sizes vary, too.  The options are too great to list here but these are the most common in business.  ISO is the International Standards Organization and its sizes are used in most countries.  JIS, Japan Industrial Standard, is used in Japan.

Paper sheets:
U.S. Letter:  8 ½ x 11 in. or approximately 216 x 279 mm.

U.S. Statement or Halfletter:  5 ½ x 8 ½ in. or approximately 140 x 216 mm.

ISO A4:  210 x 297 mm. or approximately 8 ¼ x 11 11/16 in.

JIS B5:  182 x 257 mm. or approximately 7 3/16 x 10 in.

ISO B5:  176 x 250 mm. or approximately 6 13/16 x 9 13/16 in.

U.S.A.:  #10 - 4⅛ X 9½ inches (105 X 241 mm.) with the opening on the long side used with 8½ X 11 paper

Europe:  DL – 110 X 220 mm. (4 5/16 X 8 11/16  in.) with the opening on the long side, not part of ISO C series but the most common envelope, used with ISO A4 paper (210 X 297 mm.)

Japan:  Chou 3 - 120 X 235 mm. (4⅜ X 9¼ inches) with opening on the short side used with A4 or Kokusai-ban (8½ X 11 in.) paper
There is more on measurements in international mailing in Best Practices in International Mailings: A Business Mailer's Guide.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Databases, Languages and Addresses

Tags:  database, international addresses; foreign addresses; foreign languages

There are a couple of reasons why some mixing of languages is unavoidable in your database.  Some words or terms cannot be translated exactly or the meaning is changed by an exact translation.  This is most common in honorifics, corporate names, and corporate titles.  Sociedad Anónima (abbreviated S.A.) translates as anonymous society, as do its close counterparts in French, Italian and Portuguese, but it means Company or Corporation.  In Burmese, Daw used for women approximately 35 years old or older and those with “status”, such as teachers or lawyers.  Something is lost if this is translated to Ms. 

We should not assume that a translated delivery address will make sense to those who deliver our international mail.  One of my favorite examples of a lengthy street name is Escherheimerlandstrasse in Frankfort, Germany.  (Escherheimerlandstr. is the abbreviation.)  I am sure the translation to Escher-home-land-street would confuse the local delivery staff and at the least delay delivery.  A street name written as Nordre Fasanvej would certainly delay delivery of items to North Pheasant Way in Elkhorn, WI in the U.S. 

So, what should be translated or needs to be translated?  What should not be translated? 

1.  The country name should always be in an internationally understood language.  This means in English if mailing in the U.S. or another English-speaking country, Spanish in Spanish-speaking countries, and so on.  If mailing in a country with a less internationally known language, the country name should be written in both the local language and an internationally well-known language. 

2.  The address must be deliverable.  The company name and street or post office address must be understandable at the delivery point.  Leave it in the local language. 

3.  The city name may be very different in the local language.  For example, Livorno, Italy, is Leghorn in English.  In this case, the USPS would prefer English; Poste Italiane would prefer Italian.  What to do depends on what is being sent and the specifics of the logistics. 

4.  The addressee should not be insulted by the mode of address.  This may mean using a local honorific or one that is more complicated than the standard American English choices of Mr., Ms., Mrs., Miss or Dr.  Using local-language options increases the complexity.  Honorifics vary greatly in length, may be in all lower case, and can be placed before or after a person's name.  If you decide on local-language honorifics, take a minute to look at your web forms.  Do they support honorifics other than Mr., Ms., Mrs., Miss or Dr.?  Does a form in another language offer only English honorifics? 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Liberalized. Corporatized. Privatized. Confusing.

Tags: postal liberalization, postal liberalisation, postal operators, postal service, Extraterritorial Offices of Exchange (ETOE), Univeral Postal Union (UPU)

What is postal liberalization?  Where did it come from?  And, most importantly, is it good or bad? 

"Postal liberalization" is the generic term used to refer to the more open markets created by law in some countries.  It became required in the European Union with the publication of the Third Postal Directive in the EU's Official Journal on February 27, 2008.  Other liberalized markets include Singapore, New Zealand and Argentina.  Broadly speaking, liberalizing governments have been reducing their ownership stakes and management control of postal operators while allowing competition among postal operators.
Depending on the country, it can mean different things.  Since the European Union has mandated this, let's use the EU countries as an example.  Earlier this year, the options there include Government Department (Cyprus), State Enterprise (Czech Republic, France, Greece, Luxembourg, Poland, Spain), Corporatized (Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, the United Kingdom), and Privatized (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Malta, The Netherlands). 

 It can get confusing – and complicated.  For example, Denmark sold 22% of its operator to CVC Capital Partners, a British investment group, while Post Denmark and CVC purchased 50% (less one share) of the Belgian public postal operator. 

All of this is in addition to the ETOEs – Extraterritorial Offices of Exchange – that are now a phenomenon in most countries where they are allowed by law.  In effect, an ETOE is an office operated by a postal operator outside its national territory in another country to attract business in the country or countries where the ETOEs are located.  An office of the Royal Mail or Swiss Post in the United States or in Japan, for example, would be and ETOE.  ETOEs have been around for some time but in this increasingly competitive – and sometimes protectionist – environment, they are under increasing scrutiny.

Designated postal operators are those postal operators that the government authorizes to provide postal services in their territory.  This comes with some obligations imposed both by the local government and by international treaties, particularly those of the Universal Postal Union (UPU) regarding the handling of international mail.  And there are usually advantages, too, such as the exclusive rights to deliver first-class letters and to deliver to post office boxes. 

Is it good or bad?  That is not clear – yet.  I suspect that that will be complicated, too.  Good for some customers but not others and good for some postal operators but not others.


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Seven Billion People

Tags:  population; unaddressed; universal address system; Univeral Postal Union (UPU),  An Address for Everyone

This week the population of the world topped 7 billion people according to U.N. estimates.  Last week Charles Prescott gave a presentation titled Toward a Universal Address System.  The two, taken together, struck my fancy.  So,

Envision a system in which every one of those 7 billion has an address.  No one knows how many people do not have an address.  As Charles points out, the UN Development Program estimates that the number of “unaddressed people” might be as high as 4 billion people.  And that number is growing with the population growth.
No one knows how addresses would change the world but there might be…
…more participation in economic and civil society.
…more literacy.
…more economic growth.
…less dire poverty.
…less starvation, hunger, and food insecurity.

Why might this happen?  Because an address validates who you are to governments and businesses.  An address allows you to participate in the fundamental activities of society:  go to school, drive a car, start a business, vote in elections, open a bank account, establish financial credit, buy a mobile phone...
The population of the world is increasingly urban.  A higher proportion of the world population now lives in Africa and Latin America and a smaller proportion from Europe and North American.  The population is getting older because people are living longer but the median age is 28 years.  There are slightly more men than women, very slightly.  Literacy is increasing.

 Find out more about An Address for Everyone.


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

What's On Your Country List?

Tags: country list; countries and territories; international destinations

Many companies turn to international organizations or governmental departments for their country list:  the International Standards Organization (ISO), the United Nations (U.N.), the World Bank, a Department of State or Foreign Office.  Or they may be dependent on a list provided by an outside vendor, such as a list management service or database software provider.  Each company's "country list" will have both countries and some territories.  Looking more closely at the country lists and modifying the one you use to your requirements is important.  

What's on your country list should depend on your type of business, the purpose of that list, and your country of residence.  A list on your web site or on your printed material adds to or detracts from your company's image as knowledgeable and current on international business matters.  If you maintain other information on destinations, such as local currency and languages, entries that should not be on your list add to the maintenance costs while producing no benefit.  You may also need to add destinations.  For example, Taiwan and Kosovo are not on some lists.

Look out for some common problem entries on your own list or any others you consider using:

·     Antarctica is a continent with no countries.  It has research stations and bases with staff from over 25 countries.  Both mail and telephone communication arrangements vary by base administration and locale.

·    Regional groupings, such as Channel Islands, Spratly Islands, United States Outlying Islands, or West Indies, are made up of countries or territories that need to be considered individually.

·    Regions or provinces of other countries are sometimes included on these lists.  Hawaii seems to appear on many non-U.S. lists.

·    Uninhabited areas, such as Jan Mayen, Heard Island, or McDonald Islands, can add length to the list making it more unwieldy to use.

·    If your list contains names that are no longer in use, such as Dahomey, Moldovia, Western Sahara, or Western Samoa, it can create the impression that your company is not knowledgeable about international business.

·    Ambiguous designations, such as Antilles, China, Congo, Korea, or Timor, will create confusion.  Antilles is both an area in the Caribbean and part of the name of the Dutch Antilles.  The People's Republic of China is recognized by the U.N. and is usually referred to as China although the government on Taiwan considers itself the legitimate Republic of China.  The Democratic Republic of Congo and the Republic of the Congo can both be called Congo.  The same is true of North and South Korea.  Timor is an island, divided into the country of Timor Leste or East Timor and West Timor which is part of the Indonesian province East Nusa Tenggara.

Call me at +1 410-522-4223 or email me if you would like to discuss your country list in more detail.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

More Knowledge = More Effective Mailings

Tags:  international mail, holidays, culture

Mailing effectively isn't just about the address or the list.  Knowing what's going on in the country is necessary, too, particularly for marketing mailings.  Natural disasters, elections, and holidays all distract our potential customers.  Some of these are known well in advance and can be built into a marketing calendar.  And while a disaster can't be predicted, more knowledge will let you decide whether to hold a mailing for a short while. 

There are advantages available with more information, too.  For example, some holidays associated with gift giving might provide a new opportunity for catalogers who plan sufficient lead time.  Holiday greetings can be another way to communicate with your clients – and let them know you are aware of their culture.  As with New Year's greetings for January 1, some expressions of good wishes are neutral in some cultures. 

Basic news has become easy to access online.  For a more local perspective, try with over 10,000 newspapers from around the world.  With this many links, some are broken but there are plenty of choices in most countries.  (Since many of these papers are not in English, I recommend "translate" on Google's tool bar for a quick look at the basics.) 

Holidays make a difference, too.  Mailing to Japanese consumers during the week of holidays in the Spring will mean lower and delayed response, as will mailing to Moslem consumers during Ramadan.  There are many others:  Chinese New Year is widely celebrated in East Asia and in Chinese communities worldwide and the Indian Festival of Lights (variously called Deepavali, Depawali, Dipavali, Dewali, Diwali, Divali, Dipotsavi, or Dipapratipad) is celebrated in India and in Hindu communities in other countries. 

Many sites provide holiday information.  Here are a few that I use.  OANDA, in addition to its currency conversion calculator, has holidays around the world searchable by country.  Infoplease has a list of major holidays, holidays in some world religions, and national days.  Many of the web sites for U.S. Embassies list the major holidays in the country where the embassy is located, most often under "About Us". 

And don't forget that it is now Spring in the Southern Hemisphere.  While I am thinking about new Winter boots, it's time to buy Summer clothes and bathing suits and picnic supplies and camping goods there.  Almost everyone who lives near the equator buys clothes and gear for hot weather year 'round, with some exceptions for higher altitudes. 

Plan ahead and enjoy finding out more about our world while you improve your mailing's effectiveness.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Correct Address: the Post versus the Addressee

Tags: address formats, international addresses, postal service, correct address

Sometimes an address is given one way by an addressee and differently by the postal authority (Post) in the same country.  Obviously the Post delivers the mail and knows the correct address and its preferred format.  Still, there are times when I use the addressee's version of the address.  Here's when and why.
  • The addressee is a customer and insists that the Post's version of the address is wrong – and the addressee's version is deliverable.  The customer's good will and continued business are worth more than a technically correct address.
  • The addressee does not provide some address element, most frequently a postal code but sometimes a province abbreviation, in a country where they are technically used in addresses but are rarely seen in practice.  If that element code can be looked up easily and inexpensively, we add it to the address.  However, spending a great deal of time or money is normally not worth it.
  • The addressee's version of the address is standard practice and deliverable, although the Post has introduced a new system of addressing.  The Posts in some countries have introduced new addressing systems that have never become widely adopted and are not easily available.
And here's when and why I would use the Post's address rather than the addressee's version.
  • The Post provides a discount for mail with their version of a correct address.  Any customer who objects that his address is incorrect may need an explanation.
  • The mail may not be delivered or may be misdelivered without the missing element.  Many countries have more than one town with the same name and many streets with the identical names and numbering.  Without a province or a postal code, the mail might be delivered to the wrong one.
  • The Post has recently implemented a new address system and is phasing out delivery to "old-style" addresses, rendering them potentially undeliverable.
Ultimately, the deliverability of the addresses, potential postal discounts, the importance of a particular customer and particular piece of mail, and the cost of correcting the addresses must all be taken into account.  The importance of each of these elements in relation to the others will determine what address is the correct one to use in each case.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

International Address Hygiene

Tags:  data hygiene, data quality, international addresses, NCOA, merge/purge, address verification

Last week I wrote about the importance of sufficient database storage for international addresses as the first step in good data quality practices that will decrease undeliverable mail.  But good structures are not enough.  Addresses change over time as people or companies move, countries change their address formats, and postal codes are updated.  As part of their data quality practices, companies must take steps to update the addresses in their databases to keep up with the changes. 

Regular address data hygiene can be an important tool to do this.  There are numerous service providers for this service.  Some specialize in international address files and can update addresses from around the world, others specialize in selected countries or in domestic addresses.

Basically, address hygiene is a series of related services that improve the quality, usefulness, and deliverability of the addresses.  These may include
  contact name parsing, standardization, and gender identification
  duplicate identification and merge/purge
  address verification and correction
  postal presorting
  geolocational identification (latitude/longitude)
  national change of address (NCOA)
  suppression of deceased, gone away (moved) and "Do Not Mail" addresses

Discussing the details of what you want to accomplish and your plans will help you and a service provider determine the best combination of services for your needs.  Additional charges can sometimes be avoided if the various steps are all known at the beginning of the project.  In particular, ask about what to expect back after the processing, so you can be prepared to accommodate the changes.

Each of these operations takes place country by country with some services available in some countries but not in others.  Services such as address verification and correction, postal presorting, change of address and suppression of deceased and moved or gone away addresses are dependent on files from postal operators or governmental address authorities.  Not all countries provide the information needed for all the hygiene services.  Additionally, some countries may require that the addressee agree to provide the information to others (i.e., opt-in).

Some countries provide files of individuals or businesses that have moved or "gone away" or are deceased.  These are provided in addition to NCOA files by some countries; others provide "gone away" files but do not provide NCOA files.  The "gone away" files effectively remove addresses where delivery is not possible to a particular addressee.  In addition to "gone away" files, "do not mail" files, sometimes called "Robinson lists", with the addresses of individual who do not want to receive marketing mail are available in a number of countries, either from the postal operator or from a private organization.

The postal operators or governmental authorities typically charge fees for the use of their files, with considerable variation in the amounts charged from country to country.  The way in which the charges are structured varies among the countries with processing fees, a fee per record, and licensing fees among the types of charges.  Because of this variation, it is not possible to generalize about the costs of processing.  Generally, however, it may not be cost effective to use postal operator files for a country if the number of addresses to be mailed is small.

Services, such as gender identification and geolocational identification, can increase the information available for business planning and allow for better targeting of marketing campaigns.  These may depend on proprietary information gathered over time by the service vendor and can vary from one provider to another.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Length of International Addresses and Your Database

Tags: international addresses, address formats, international mail, data quality, database, database address fields

The address is the single most important item in getting your mail delivered.  No matter how good your mailing services company may be, what's inside the envelope or the package just will not get to its destination without a deliverable address.  Yet incorrect addresses and undeliverable mail remain a persistent problem.  

What can a company do to limit this problem?  The solution begins with implementing and following good data quality practices.  And that starts with database design.  Many international addresses are too lengthy for a database designed for U.S. addresses, with too many lines or lines that are too long or both.  (No matter what country you reside in addresses from some other countries will be too lengthy to fit in a domestic format.)  Obviously, the requirements will depend on the countries in your database and decisions on whether you translate some fields, such as the honorific, to their equivalents in English (or your language).  Be aware if you translate that some terms may have no exact equivalent.

While many databases store address information in the fields (family name, building number, town and so forth) that make up the lines of the address, the information may come in as lines on a web form or application and must be returned to that format if something is mailed.  It is therefore useful to discuss the number of lines needed for a quality address, as well as the length of the lines and the length of individual fields within them.

The table below, with statistics derived from a number of international databases maintained in the U.S., gives an indication of the space requirements.  It is likely that the databases referenced below have concatenated multiple shorter lines into fewer longer lines for the U.K., as addresses in the U.K. generally have more lines than shown in the table. 

Average number of address lines Maximum lines Average number of characters/line Maximum characters/line
World 5.9 10 14.8 54
Germany 5.4 8 15.9 30
Mexico 6.1 9 18.6 30
U.K. 6.8 10 11.3 40
U.S. 4.1 6 18.9 30

Some countries use more lines – sometimes many more – in addresses.  Many East Asian countries, the U.K., some of its former colonies, and any countries using descriptive addresses (e.g. the house with the red door across from the church) fall into this group, with a possible 5 or 6 lines in addition to the addressee's name, organizational title, the organization's name and department, and the country name.  Altogether this can come to a total of 11 lines.  In most cases, the individual lines in addresses with many more lines tend to be shorter.  In many databases, these shorter lines are combined into a single line with a comma separating what would be different lines if the address were written by a resident of the destination country.

Lengthy words create both longer address lines and longer individual fields.  Compound nouns are particularly well known for creating lengthy street names.  The Germanic languages of northern Europe all use compound nouns and lengthy street names are common in Austria, Germany, the Netherlands and the Scandinavian countries.  These lengthier words mean that fields in the database and the resulting address lines are longer.  Unfortunately, there is sometimes no solution to this.  For example, Escherheimerlandstrasse in Frankfurt, Germany is abbreviated Escherheimerlandstr.  (Strasse is street in German.)
Lengthy words also occur in some languages with compound words.  Some regions of India are known for lengthy individual, street and city names and some Indians will shorten their names for everyday purposes.  However, the city of Thiruvananthapuram has no shortened form.  Thailand is also known for very long names and words.  Suffice it to say that the full transliterated name of Bangkok is Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahintharayutthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Phiman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit – a colossal 188 characters.

These comments also apply to individuals' honorifics and names.  Lengthy or compound family and personal names are common internationally, as are names with more than two segments.  The common American usage of first, middle and last name can be misleading since internationally a "middle" name may be part of the family name or the "last" name in the string may be the personal name.  Single names are also used (e.g., Suharto or Thant).  Common honorifics in many languages require more than 4 characters and some have no common abbreviation.  WorldVu's database allows for 12 characters and we use them all for the German who gave his honorific as "Dr. Dr. Ing."

The cost of maintaining correct addresses is often offset by the cost savings from printing, processing, and postage on undeliverable addresses – and incalculable benefit of an improved corporate image.