It has taken some time for me to adjust my view of the role of the post office. In the US, it was a place to send and receive mail, buy stamps, apply for a passport, and buy postal orders and postal goods. Also in the US, mail carriers delivered and picked up mail directly from your home. In the UK, mail carriers only deliver mail. If you want to mail something, you either have to stamp it and drop it into the post box, or you take it into the post office. Since I am still getting used to the different postage rates, it is always best for me to go directly into the post office. They have so many rules about the thickness, size and weight of the mail, that unless I have the right equipment, I would not be able to determine the postage on my own. Of course, the US recently made changes in this area, so things are getting bad in that regard as well. But, since the US uses a larger margin of weight for its mail, it’s easier to determine the amount of postage required.
Although the UK mail offers practically everything the US ones do, there are other differences. First of all, the UK mail system is so complex and part of it is deregulated. Don’t ask what that means, because I’m not sure anyone has a clear understanding of it. Although postal workers are still civil servants, post offices are individually owned, but they are government licensed. Therefore, the rates they charge are determined by Royal Mail.
One of the major differences is the role of the post office in daily life. Not only do they provide postal services, they also function as a bank. You can set up savings accounts and pay bills (council tax, TV licensing, etc.). Also important is paying your vehicle tax. You can either pay car tax at the post office or at the DVLA; however, the post office is much more convenient. Also, the post office can draw your state pension and hand out your cash or deposit it into your bank account. They have expanded their services to include offering insurance for everything. And, last but not least, they have gotten into telecommunications. They offer plans for phone, broadband, cell phones, and TV. They have certainly expanded in recent years.
So, whereas, in the US the postal service is simply a post office, the UK post office is so much more.