A postal code is a series of letters and digits appended to a postal address for the purpose of sorting mail. Every postal service (usually having their service area defined by national borders) has a different format and placement for the postal code. In most English-speaking countries, the postal code goes after the name of the city or town, whereas in most European countries it goes before it and is often prefixed with a country abbreviation.
Though usually postal codes are assigned to geographical areas, sometimes this is not the case: special codes may be assigned to institutions with large volumes of post, such as government agencies and large commercial companies. One example is the French Cedex system.
Before postal codes as described here were used, large cities were often divided into postal zones, usually numbered from 1 up within each city. Postal code systems often incorporate the old zone numbers, as in London, for example.
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; Australia: known as the post code: DDDD. In general, the first digit identifies the state. 1 = Sydney NSW PO Box and large users) (2 = NSW & ACT, 3 = Vic, 4 = Qld, 5 = SA, 6 = WA, 7 = Tas, 8 = (Melbourne Vic PO Box and large users), 9 = Brisbane Qld PO Box and large users), (0 = NT.)
; Austria: DDDD (the first digit denotes almost one of the nine provinces -- called Bundesländer -- , the last the nearest post office in the area)
; Belgium: DDDD (in general, the first digit gives the province) list of Belgian postal codes
; Brazil: DDDDD-DDD
; Canada: LDL DLD. The first letter is for a province or a region, generally in order from east to west: NL = A, NS = B, PE = C, NB = E; QC = G (east), H (Montreal), J (west); ON = K (east), L (south central), M (Toronto), N (southwest), P (north); MB = R, SK = S, AB = T, BC = V; NT & NU = X, YT = Y. The next two characters represent a rural district, a city, or a section of a major metropolitan area, and the remaining characters represent an entire small town, a single large building (or part of a very large one), or one side of a city block. W and Z are unused as the first letters of postal codes; while D, F, I, O, Q, and U are never used anywhere. The Sekaku Islands, though Japanese-governed, are assigned 290; the Pratas Islands are 817 and the Spratly Islands 819.
; China, the People's Republic of (based in Mainland): Known as youbian (邮编): DDDDDD, a subordinate division will have the same first two numbers as its governing one (see Political divisions of China#Levels).
; China, the Republic of (based on Taiwan): Known as youdi chyuhao (郵遞區號): DDD, the first number increases from north to south, and townships of a county all have the same first number, although some counties share the same first numbers. 0 can be found in any position except the first. 1 -9 can exist anywhere.
; France: DDDDD, the first two digits give the département number
- NB: In the case of Paris, you can determine the arrondissement of an address from its postal code. The last two digits of a Paris address give the arrondissement; 75018 is the eighteenth for example. The exception to this rule are addresses with the word "CEDEX" appearing in them. See Right Bank.
- 1001: the main sorting office
- 1002 to 1009: geographical area other than the main fortress areas
- 1010 to 1019: reserved for commercial purposes such as bulk mailing
- others: unallocated