Penpals – What I look for in a new one

I have been penpalling for over a decade but during the last couple of years I’ve started to realise and recognize what kind of pals I really want and to whom writing doesn’t feel like a chore but finishing the letter makes you feel a bit empty – just like when you say bye to a friend you don’t meet that often. You start waiting for the reply and feel happy to be able to write to him/her again.

First letter I sent to South Korea

First letter I sent to South Korea

What that means in a nutshell is that I adore letters that are personal, interesting and usually longer than just a couple of pages. The famous “click” is also a big plus. But there are also other things that I prefer having and there’s no way you could explain the “click” to a non penpaller. You just have it or you don’t and it’s usually best to drop those with whom you don’t have the “click” with.

Off to the list (I think) so that I won’t just ramble through the whole night.

1) Some similar interests
But NOT just letter writing, how awful could it be to write with a person who’s totally opposite of you and hates everything you like.. Sure it could work but I’d feel bad not to be able to talk about things I really like. For example I have quite many pals that are Moomin fans and it’s always a nice to talk about those cuddly characters and how the real home town of them is actually Porvoo, not Naantali ;D But like Jenny wrote in the comment section in my last post – No way I start sending Moomin stuff just because there’s a similarity, Moomin stuff is expensive, even in Finland and postage even more expensive.
Similar likes just mean that there is always something to talk about and you know that for example a Moomin/cat/nature/fantasy card every now and then could make your pal’s day🙂

Postcards are amazing :)

Postcards are amazing🙂

2) Patience
This could  have been the first one to be written. Right now my pals need a LOT of patience if they want to write with me. I’ve taken almost a month off from letters due to school work and haven’t really written anything but some Christmas cards and postcrossing cards now and then when word document has stayed empty for over 10 minutes and my inspiration is nowhere to be found.
There is life outside of penpalling and when writing with me it’s good to have loads of patience as now and then I write back immediately, sometimes it can take months…………….

3) English skills
I can’t write with people who can barely write English – I wouldn’t understand that and believe me, I’ve tried. I tend to look for people with at least intermediate skills in English so that they can express themselves without that many problems and would understand my ramblings.🙂

4) TIME
in a way that they have the time to spend on writing as much as comes naturally and not just a one or two sided letter now and then. Even pals who write to each other rather fast can easily write pages and pages.🙂

Packages/Presents I've gotten for Christmas :)

Packages/Presents I’ve gotten for Christmas from a couple of pals🙂

5) Proper Introduction
If I’m contacted via Penpalling site, for example Interpals, I hope to receive a proper introduction message instead of just an empty message asking to be pals. I’ve also received emails with just
“Do you want to write with me?”
No introduction at all. No name, age, where the sender is from or any likes/dislikes/hobbies. How can you just say yes and start writing to the sender? You don’t walk to a stranger and just ask them to become your friend in everyday life, it just doesn’t work like that, so why should it work in penpalling world?

And (“unfortunately”) that’s all I require from my pals. I don’t care about the age – I have pals that are 17 years old and pals who are in their 40s. Why would I care about the age if we actually have something to write about? Also nationality doesn’t matter. When I first started writing with foreigners I tried to avoid Finns the best I could but now I absolutely adore having pals from Finland as well – the mail travels in a day or two and I can get the reply within the same week if I’m lucky and my pal has nothing better to do😉

Some of my pals have kids but I don’t mind as that means I can talk as much about my furry little baby as they talk about their kids.🙂 The good thing about my baby is that he never starts whining or throw a tantrum ;P And he’s sometimes writing with me🙂

Just look at that cutie :3

Just look at that cutie :3

Whenever a pal of mine drinks tea it’s just a big advantage😀 I’ve exchanges teas with pals many times and I usually enclose at least one tea bag with each letter I send to a pal who drinks tea, for example Emma and Estrella🙂 And it’s always amazing to receive teas that I can’t get from Finland or try new teas I haven’t bought yet.. Or just get more of Lipton’s Green Tea Strawberry Cupcake tea x3

Not my favourite mug but I bough it for myself on my 21st birthday and do drink tea from it when my bigger mugs are dirty :P

Not my favourite mug but I bough it for myself on my 21st birthday and do drink tea from it when my bigger mugs are dirty😛

What kind of requirements you have/what are you looking for when you’re open for one or two new pals?

-Kristiina

Things that annoy me in penpalling

I might end up sounding like everything annoys me but I list nearly every (even little) thing that annoys me in this otherwise wonderful hobby. But do bear in mind that most of these I wrote down while having a really bad day and nearly everything annoyed me🙂 And these aren’t just traits of other people that annoy me, this also includes the post offices.

But we could start with a couple of things that DON’T annoy me that much that usually seem to annoy most people (based on some chats I’ve seen)

1) Long time between letters
I’m also guilty of this so waiting doesn’t bother me that much.

2) Typed letters
Some people can’t stand typed letters – EVERYTHING has to be handwritten. I don’t mind typed letters – with some pals I actually ask them to type their letters as I can’t read their handwriting at all!

3) Complaining in letters
We all have our own lives and bad and unfair things are a part of that. I don’t mind reading complaints in letters as long as those aren’t about me🙂

4) Not cancelled stamps
Within Finland this is like a jackpot! Free stamp for reuse! It’s the post office’s fault for not cancelling it!🙂

Christmas package I received from  Emma yesterday and the stamps weren't cancelled! I get to reuse those after Christmas :)

Christmas package I received from Emma yesterday and the stamps weren’t cancelled! I get to reuse those after Christmas🙂

But off to the things that annoy me (in no particular order)

1) Short letters
I mean 1 A4/A5 letters (mostly one sided). I know that first letters can be like this as the writer wants to be sure that she/he won’t spend too much time and effort for a person who might not write back. I don’t usually mind those and “forgive” it in 1st letters but after that…… My letters are normally (short ones) 3-4 A5 pages back and front and my handwriting isn’t gigantic so to get a 1 A5 page back for that isn’t fair or nice. I tend to give 1-2 second chances for my pals but after that I give up trying

2) Impersonal letters
I had this one pal who asked me to write the first letter, I wrote to her in May and received a reply around January. I wrote her 4 pages about myself and asked things from her. What I got was a short and brief story about her trip around the world (first I went there, then I went there and did this, then I went there etc.) and only 2 sentences about herself (name, age and what she’s studying). And she’s native English speaker. I sent her a short 1 page letter back asking her to write something about her and telling that I can’t get to know her with just her telling about her trip around the world. She replied, once again over 6 months later, and wrote one sided A4 pages with her without no questions. I sent her one last reply in June 2013 and I haven’t heard from her since (I was impersonal as well since I couldn’t get nearly anything out of her) so I guess she gave up.

3) Text language
Luckily for me I’ve managed to mostly avoid this. In Finnish I don’t mind the letters being written in spoken Finnish as written and spoken Finnish are two different things. But in English.. I write letters to get to know people and in a way brush up my English skills. Due to this I want properly written sentences instead of “u luk nyc”, “how r u?” etc. (the first one is an actual comment I’ve received in Facebook). I loathe texting language and as I don’t use it I hope my pals don’t use it either.

4) Not knowing the difference between words
I’m not native speaker but I’m forced to learn the difference between two/too, your/you’re, there/their/they’re so it annoys me to no end when actual native speakers mix up those, ESPECIALLY too/two. When the writer isn’t native speaker I do understand the mistakes if they’re still learning but natives? Come on! Those are such easy things to learn!😦

5) LOL
I’ve loathed the word since I first heard it. I just hate it, can’t explain why, it’s just one of the words I loathe. Just the way it sounds and the fact that most people write it when they’re not even smiling or laughing gets me angry. Some people hate stupider words like “moist”, I hate lol.

6) Swearing
I don’t swear (most of the time) and definitely try my best to avoid it while writing so when I get a letter with loads of F-bombs I’m immediately put off.

7) Postage prices (if this was Top 10 what annoys me THIS would be the first one)
FINLAND.
The price for priority/airmail letter in early 2013 was 0,8€ not that bad but still a bit high as less than 6 months before that it was 0,75€ – the lowest it has been since 2009. Then on June 4th it was raised to 0,85€ (10 cents more than in Germany – yes, I know that Germany is a cheaper country than Finland but still, I have to be able to compare it to a country “like” Finland). Then during the late November when there was news about a possible strike with mail delivery we also got news that the prices are rising AGAIN in January 2014, this time with 15 cents to 1€ per airmail stamp. Until this the prices have risen with just 5 cents but now it’s 15 cents – 20 cent (25%) rise in just 6 months!! How is this fair?? And then there’s the fact that if your letter goes over the given weight limit by even 0,1g you have to pay the price that goes to the next limit – for example a 250,1g package and you have to pay the price as if you were sending a 500g package. And they mostly don’t listen to when the customer says “I want to send this the cheapest way possible, THANK YOU.”

8) Post offices that are located in stores/small kiosks
The people working don’t usually have ANY idea on how to handle the mail. I spent over 5 minutes this summer requesting a sheet of 1€ stamps (one sheet = 10×1€ stamps) but the clerk was trying to sell me the priority stamps (10×0,85€). It’s sad when you’re more informed about the mail than the clerk who tries to help you.

9) Mature penpallers giving advice to younger ones/telling people to drop a pal
This annoys me a lot as some people with over 20 years of experience in penpalling seem to be so much better than the younger ones/the ones with less experience and some write rules to their upcoming pals (time limits between letters, how long the letter MUST BE etc.) and most of all I hate it when there’s a talk about penpals and how one pal suddenly wrote a shorter letter than normally and people go and tell the person to drop the pal immediately without even knowing how close they might actually be and if there’s a good reason the letter is shorter than usually.

And some small things that annoy me when I’m in a hurry or having a bad day

1) Missing return address
From the envelope and letter. I have more than 5 pals, I can’t remember people’s addresses like that! I barely remember my own!

2) Please return stamps!
For reuse in most cases -If you can’t afford stamps maybe penpalling isn’t your hobby. But some ask those back for their own collections. Get a penpal from your own country for that or ask that from your pals who don’t collect stamps! I do agree to this “I get my stamps back while you get your stamps back” policy but so far my pal hasn’t kept her promise to return my stamps for my stamp collection.

I collect stamps as well!

I collect stamps as well!

3) Postage paid sticker/using the same stamp EVERY time
Postage paid sticker is usually from Asian countries, especially South Korea from where I’ve received over 30 letters and only one with actual stamps! The same stamp complain is usually for Germans, there are a couple of stamps that are used nearly ALL the time – 75 cent flower stamp or a cathedral stamp (also a bridge and a train stamp that came last/this year) – Finland can also be blamed as a couple of years ago the Northern light stamps were EVERYWHERE. I know that both of these countries publish new stamps MANY times a year but usually it’s just easiest to buy the one and same stamp set of 10 or 100 stamps….

Deutsche Post - PLEASE get rid of this flower stamp and make a new one!

Deutsche Post – PLEASE get rid of this flower stamp and make a new one!

Any pet peeves/annoyances you have that I wrote down or forgot/chose not to add to this?🙂
-Kristiina

How I Store Everything?

After 12 years of penpalling I have SOME received letters and letter supplies to store. Probably even too much. As some blogs that I love to follow (mostly Finnish ones) have posted how they store their supplies so I chose to jump to the bandwagon and show how I store everything in my room. Please note that I have burnt some letters (and postcards) that I have received, mostly from people who wrote a letter or two (or UGLY postcrossing cards) and then decided not to write back anymore – I know some penpallers (or postcrossers) might see this nearly sacrilegious but I don’t have that much space to store letters in and I’m soon moving out and need to take everything with me so it’d be nice if half of my stuff wouldn’t be letters or postcards.

But to storage~
I store my letters in three different boxes.

Floral box for received letters (and postcards) that I haven’t replied to yet

Bought from Tiger

Bought from Tiger

Peek to the box that reminds me I have to get my assignments done asap so that I have time to write letters!!!

Peek to the box that reminds me I have to get my assignments done asap so that I have time to write letters and postcards!!!

A huge box I took from my last apartment – my ex flatmate used it to carry her laundry to the laundromat and back but left it to us when she moved to Austria. So I chose to use it to store my foreign (replied) letters in it.

Foreign letters 2009-2013

Foreign letters 2009-2013

Just so you'd understand how big it really is :)

Just so you’d understand how big it really is🙂

White box for Finnish letters

Finnish letters from 2001 to 2013

Finnish letters from 2001 to 2013

Then I have two boxes for two different kind of postcards – postcards to be sent to penpals/via Postcrossing and a small tin box with beautiful postcards and unwritten cards from penpals I want to put to my postcard collections as written. Sometimes when I don’t have fitting postcards in my “to be sent” box I go to my favourite cards box and pick a card from there.

To be sent postcards - I've divided those by themes, for example Moomins, Jetoys, Animals, Finland, Other countries, Christmas cards and illustrations

To be sent postcards – I’ve divided those by themes, for example Moomins, Jetoys, Animals, Finland, Other countries, Christmas cards and illustrations

Unwritten cards from swaps and penpals - I usually send these to my pals asking them to write something to those and send back to me :)

Unwritten cards from swaps and penpals – I usually send these to my pals asking them to write something to those and send back to me🙂 All sorts of cards and mixed themes

Another tin box (I received these as Christmas presents from my parents some years ago – for postcards that I’ve received. After nearly 700 received postcards via postcrossing those aren’t big enough ;))

All my stickers BARELY fit the tin box - I buy more before I've used up all the stickers I already have :S

All my stickers BARELY fit the tin box – I buy more before I’ve used up all the stickers I already have :S

For letters and postcard to be sent I have a small tissue holder that I liked and bought instead of those lovely “MAIL” holders that cost quite a lot😦

Hearts for the love of penpalling and Postcrossing :)

Hearts for the love of penpalling and Postcrossing🙂

For my stamps I have a small folder you get from Post Office if you order stamps online (I think I have at least 3 of those). And the stamp sheets I’ve promised for certain pals I keep separately and most of the time remember which sheet is for who🙂

Stamps folder and my current stamps - running out once again! :S

Stamps folder and my current stamps – running out once again! :S

Sheets for my Malaysian postcard pal, German penpal and my BFF

Sheets for my Malaysian postcard pal, German penpal and my BFF

And last but not least my huge collection of different letter sets.. I have way too much of those but can I give those away? Most of the time no. Does it stop me from buying more and new ones? Unfortunately not.

Unopened and barely opened letter sets, unused letter pads, some swapped sets (envelope + 2 papers) - envelopes and papers that don't match are stored separately in 2 other boxes I cann't find right now.

Unopened and barely opened letter sets, unused letter pads, some swapped sets (envelope + 2 papers) – envelopes and papers that don’t match are stored separately in 2 other boxes I cann’t find right now.

My favourite letter sets that I haven’t even opened because I don’t want those to run out?

I love fairytale themes, Amy and Tim, Miki, Angry Birds and everything UK themed

I love fairytale themes, Amy and Tim, Miki, Angry Birds and everything UK themed

And my most favourite sets - 5 different Sentimental Circus letter sets :3

And my most favourite sets – 5 different Sentimental Circus letter sets :3

Have you gotten rid of some of the letters or postcards you’ve received (if yes, how)? Do you have some exact places where you store your supplies and/or received letters and postcards?🙂 Do you have some letter set brands or characters that you really love and store unable to open and start using those?🙂

~Kristiina

What to send with the letters?

I love to include all sorts of small surprises with my letters but it’s easiest with domestic mail in Finland. International mail travels with one stamp (0,85€ / 1.luokka (first class)) as long as the envelope is maximum 3cm thick and weighs less than 20g. In domestic mail the thickness is the same but the weight goes up to 50g (excluding Åland).

After the worldwide price of 0,85€ per one stamp the international postage rates go up depending whether the recipient lives within Europe (1,3€ until 50g and 1,8€ until 100g) and rest of the World (2€ until 50g and 4,2€ until 100g). Due to these rather expensive prices I tend to try and stay with the 20g.

To avoid the expensive prices of 50-100g letters I usually send anything and everything that’s flat and doesn’t weight too much, starting from photographs (that I haven’t made or sent in nearly a year now😦 ) and going on from there🙂

Most of the time I include bits and pieces of things that I like such as

Stickers, my favourite teas, postcards (be it birthday/Christmas or just a card that I really like and think my pal would like as well) and used stamps.

Now and then when I have money and can afford more expensive postages I do send some sweets and packages to my pals that can include anything from mugs to scarves and letter sets and books. My most expensive package in 2nd class mail has been nearly 20€ (1,4kg package to Germany, sent this autumn).

I usually avoid sending teas that aren't packed individually but I do love when I get teas packed like that from my pals. Next to is is a small bag filled with used stamps.

I usually avoid sending teas that aren’t packed individually but I do love when I get teas packed like that from my pals. Next to is is a small bag filled with used stamps.

You can easily send your pal more than one or two tea bags as those usually weight 2-3g. Just tape those to the back of a postcard and you can easily avoid the envelope being thicker than 3cm!🙂 I do that quite often and so far it has worked – no one has torn the postcard or tea bags so far🙂

These are some of current favourites when it comes to tea :) Love sending these to my pals :3

These are some of current favourites when it comes to tea🙂 Love sending these to my pals :3

Stickers are easy to send if you have bigger envelope (in Finland the envelope can be bigger than A5 paper, I think even up to A4 and it doesn’t cost more to send as long as it weighs less than 20g and isn’t 3cm thick – correct me if I’m wrong)  but you can also take those from the packages and just send the sticker sheet! And you can always cut the sticker sheet with scissors and send stickers from various sheets!

Some are easy to bend, others aren't so choose the envelopes carefully!

Some are easy to bend, others aren’t so choose the envelopes carefully!

Then there are used stamps. Some people collect those (like me and a bunch of my penpals) while others like to use those for crafts, decorate letters with those or make handmade postcards! I usually send a bunch of used stamps to my pals who collect those – especially now that I have hundreds of doubles and stamps from DDR and North Korea! A great place to find used stamps are flea markets! This year I bought 0,5kg of stamps with just 7€!🙂

Stamps!

Stamps!

Then there are postcards.
I usually prefer to send and receive postcards written but as some of my pals prefer those unwritten I usually go with the option my pal prefers.
Now that Christmas is coming, I have no time and I’m not crafty at all I’ve bought some Christmas cards from stores and I start sending most of those from the beginning of December – with letters or as those are, depending on has my pal sent me a letter or am I still waiting one from him/her🙂

Jetoy, cute illustrated Christmas cards and Moomin cards with and without Christmas greeting :)

Jetoy, cute illustrated Christmas cards and Moomin cards with and without Christmas greetings🙂

What do you usually send with letters or do you usually just mail the letter?🙂

-Kristiina

Letter Writing Habits

Been a while! Mostly because school has kept me busy so I haven’t had the time to write letters (only a couple of postcrossing cards and cards to my postcard pals now and then) so there wasn’t any time to take pictures for this post either. Luckily now I have a long weekend (4 days) and I’ve written all the needed assignments and essays so I can sit down, relax, make a cup of tea and start writing back to my pals who have been waiting for my reply for way too long!

Usually I start by cleaning up my desk as no matter what I do and how little I write it ALWAYS ends up looking like this while I’m writing:

I can't keep it clean as I need to have papers and stickers nearby!

I can’t keep it clean as I need to have papers and stickers nearby!

So I started today with cleaning it up and started playing Todd (In The Shadows)’s Pop Song Reviews from blip.tv

Clean desk and Todd's "Top10 songs about mediocre romance"

Clean desk and Todd’s “The Top Ten Songs About Mediocre Romance

and as it’s visible in the picture I made some tea (I usually need to go and refill my mug 2-10 times per letter, depending on how long the reply is). At the moment my favourite tea is Lipton’s Vanilla Caramel tea (which I found thanks to Mary Ihmemaassa blog or her Instagram, can’t remember which) and I drink black tea with milk but leave it out when drinking green or herbal teas.

This, Strawberry cupcake and Blueberry Muffin are the best Lipton teas there are :3

This, Strawberry cupcake and Blueberry Muffin are the best Lipton teas there are :3

After everything needed is done I reread a letter I’m replying to, in this case Maria’s letter from a couple of months ago.. I really hope I manage to get a lot of letter writing done this weekend!! X__x

Love it when she uses the letter papers I gave to her for her birthday/Christmas present :3

Love it when she uses the letter papers I gave to her for her birthday/Christmas present :3

and then starts my favourite part of letter writing:
looking up the address whenever my pal hasn’t written it on the envelope

Bigger notebook from Maria back in 2010, smaller from my British penpal from 2012 - bigger one stays at home, smaller one travels with me wherever I go so that I can send postcards to my pals :3

Bigger notebook from Maria back in 2010, smaller from my British penpal from 2012 – bigger one stays at home, smaller one travels with me wherever I go so that I can send postcards to my pals :3

Afterwards I go through the stamps unless I’ve promised to use a certain set for a pal who collects stamps like I do🙂 In Maria’s case I get to choose the stamps myself🙂 And as Christmas is coming soon I’ve even managed to get those new Christmas stamps!

Autumn and Angry Birds stamps as well as 1st class (priority), 2nd class (domestic) and 0,65€ (for Christmas postcards within Finland) stamps and of course a set of 0,2€ stamps so that I can use those Christmas card stamps while sending a letter abroad

Autumn and Angry Birds stamps as well as 1st class – boy (priority), 2nd class – Angel (domestic) and 0,65€ – hug/kiss (for Christmas postcards within Finland) stamps and of course a set of 0,2€ stamps so that I can use those Christmas card stamps while sending a letter abroad

And then I start decorating the envelope if it’s plain and not from one of those kawaii letter sets I have.

This time the envelope is black so I wrote the address on a sticky label I bought from Tiger store and put a 3D wall sticker (also from Tiger)

This time the envelope is black so I wrote the address on a sticky label I bought from Tiger store and put a 3D wall sticker (also from Tiger)

Then I go through what I could send to my pal with the letter. I tend to enclose something small with every letter I send. This time I ended up sending some postcards.

Moomins, Asian related and Jetoy cat cards

Moomins, Asian related and Jetoy cat cards

Most of the time I enclose tea bags, stickers, sweets or small tapes for my pals

Nordqvist teas, some Disney jelly beans and a tape

Nordqvist teas, some Disney jelly beans and a tape for another pal

Then I choose the letter paper I write the letter on, choose stickers and after all that I FINALLY start writing the letter!

Amy and Tim letter set

Amy and Tim letter set

Stickers and glossy scraps(?) to use for decorating the back side of the paper

Stickers and glossy scraps(?) to use for decorating the back side of the paper

and start writing

and start writing

Yes, writing one letter takes a LOT of time from me and I bet you can understand why🙂 Each part of my letter writing habits is important!🙂 And I usually need a little bit of inspiration to start writing as well🙂

Do YOU have some habits without which you just can’t start writing a letter?🙂

-Kristiina

Pages for penpal hunting

Someone asked me in my Postcrossing post whether there are similar sites to penpalling. That got me thinking and I thought to mention and write about the couple of sites I’ve found postcard pals and penpals from.

Interpals Penpals

Interpals Penpals

The most known site (in my experience) is Interpals. It’s the site from where I got my first foreign penpals and I still write with some of them. The site is really easy to use, just remember to write something in your profile so that fellow penpallers can learn something about you before they contact you🙂 You wouldn’t like to contact someone with a blank profile either, would you?
And it’s best not to be put off by some relationship and similar messages from men around Africa and Middle East. Those are quite common if you’re online daily unless you choose to block men. There is an option to choose people who get to contact you (age range and genders) and if someone offends you, you can always block them. The men who use the site as a dating site are the biggest minus in my mind. And they are one of the reasons I don’t check the site that often anymore..

Send something site after you log in. REALLY plain.

Send something site after you log in

If there’s a penpalling site that’s almost like Postcrossing, in which you request an address and get one random address from anywhere in the world it’s Sendsomething. I heard about the site from various penpal blogs and after approximately a year I gave it a try. Sent a bunch of postcards and a couple of letters (mostly to USA as most of the users are from there) and received a letter from Netherlands and a postcard from USA. Unfortunately not that many people reply to the letters or postcards they get from strangers – I sent 15 items in total and got 2 replies and while I replied to the letter and postcard I got from strangers thanks to the site, I never heard from them again.

Here’s a sample from one profile I got

Random Address + Profile I got by clicking "Random Address". You don't have to send them anything if you don't want. Instead you can browse the site as long as you want and choose someone who sounds interesting.

Random Address + Profile I got by clicking “Random Address”. You don’t have to send them anything if you don’t want. Instead you can browse the site as long as you want and choose someone who sounds interesting. Not too much info but enough to get some sort of an image of the person.

My current favourite penpal pages for the last year are the following:

Deutsche post's Letterner

Deutsche post’s Letterner

Letternet is a penpalling site for Germans, though there are some people all around the world as well. You can register and get the page in English but before that the site is in German and for people who don’t speak any German (I can say hello, thank you, I love yo and some curse words) it can be a bit challenging to start.

You register, create a really weird profile – you describe what friendship means to you, what stress is for you and what your humour is like by choosing from a couple of pictures they offer you. You get a chance to upload a SMALL profile picture, write things such as your name, gender, birth year and choose your occupation, written languages and interests/hobbies from lists. You have NO space to write anything personal and you can’t even start to look for German pals before your address has been verified by sending you a letter with a confirmation code you have to write to the site before your profile is available for others. In my case the letter came within a week back in 2011 when I first started using the site.

The cons of the site are the facts that there are no possibilities to contact other people. You send them a request – requesting to become penpals and the first contact you have after the request is accepted is by sending each other letters. In some case the letters can be a bit of a let down as you have NO idea whether the person writes fluent English or not. And I’ve also gotten a letter written entirely in Finnish using translators and dictionary.. Let’s just say the letter wasn’t that deep or understandable. And for foreigners – you can ONLY send requests to Germans. So far I haven’t been able to visit ANY other profiles no matter how hard I’ve tried and one of my pals I got thanks to the site told me that she has penpals from all over Europe thanks to the site.

Up and running once again! :)

Up and running once again!🙂

Penpal of the Week is a post blog dedicated for the art of penpalling. The Canadian blogger Julie posts penpal ads of her readers (the ads are always handwritten and sent to Julie and she scans those for the blog) and interviews of penpallers from all over the world.

The blog was quiet for the summer but during the last couple of weeks Julie has become more active once again and is posting a penpal ad nearly every day!! Penpallers over the age of 20, go and check if you’d find a new penpal from these lovely ladies that have sent ads to Julie!!😉

I haven’t personally mailed any ads to Julie but I have found 3 really dear penpals of mine thanks to Julie’s blog (both of my American penpals!). Not every ad in there makes me want to contact the person and ask whether she’d like to start penpalling with me but it happens now and then and I usually have to battle in order NOT to send an email or letter to the person. I need to remind myself that I’m a bit behind on my letters and need to write those and keep my “to reply” pile as small as I can for months before I can even think about a new penpal!!

Hopefully the post was to any help for people looking for penpals – or people stuck on one penpalling site🙂

~Kristiina

Postcard Pals

While I’ve been a part of various penpal sites and penpal groups in Facebook I’ve read many MANY times that people don’t really care about postcard pals.

“There’s Postcrossing/tags/swaps if I want to send and receive postcards!”
“That’s just a waste of money!”
“You could never get close by just sending postcards./Letters are more personal.”

I’ve heard many excuses why people say it’s crap and why they won’t even give it a chance. Before I got contacted and asked whether I’d like to be postcard pals I didn’t even know that there could be a way to communicate just by sending postcards that it isn’t just “Hi, how are you? The weather in here is nice. School keeps me busy, bye!” I actually feel quite close to my postcard pals and we talk about everything that comes to mind.

Sent to my Russian postcard pal

Sent to my Russian postcard pal

My first postcard pals were from Netherlands, Thailand and China. From those three I only exchange postcards with the Chinese girl, the two others dropped me or just disappeared… A shame since I did exchange cards with the Dutch girl for 2 or 3 years, even during the time she was working as an au pair in Australia. We usually sent postcards in an envelope as I could easily fill 3 to 6 postcards while writing to her but with the other two I send the cards “naked” (written and stamped).

At the moment I have at least 9 active postcard pals from Great Britain, Malaysia, Japan, Russia, China, Hong Kong and Lithuania. I love all of them and sending and receiving cards from them usually makes my day. For example this Tuesday I received envelopes from Japanese and Russian pals.

Postcard pal with similar interests - everything cute and Asian. AND cats :)

Postcard pal with similar interests – everything cute and Asian. AND cats🙂

We exchange fantasy/illustration/Moomin postcards and usually add something small with those. And use pretty stamps :3

We exchange fantasy/illustration/Moomin postcards and usually add something small with those. And use pretty stamps :3

LOVE the cards and the small extras I receive🙂 And as the postcards are sent in envelopes there’s more space to write and to write in depth without the worry of someone else reading the back of the card🙂 I don’t personally worry about these facts but some do..

I’m personally just as open about my feelings and experiences no matter whether the postcard is in an envelope or naked. Why worry over someone reading the back of the card? Thanks to Postcrossing there are thousands and thousands of postcards travelling all over the world all the time, not to mention soon coming Christmas season. No one has the time to read all the postcards so why worry too much?🙂

Me and my other Japanese penpal send two cards at a time, naked, and talk about current events. For example in her latest postcards we talked about koyo and the 2020 Olympics that are going to be held in Tokyo. Why worry over the fact that someone might read the cards? Don’t write anything too personal to those if you don’t want to, it’s that simple🙂

I personally prefer postcard pals over Postcrossing for many reasons, the tree most important reasons for me are…

1) You get to know the person a lot better and she/he won’t be just a stranger who sends you one card and that’s it.
2) You get cards that you actually like. Your pals get to know you and what you like and send cards accordingly to that. You can also agree what kind of cards you send to each other, for example my Japanese pals both send me illustrations by Japanese artists I love (SHU and Kaori Wakamatsu for example). In exchange I send whatever they want; Garfield, Looney Tunes or Moomin cards or even Linda Peltola‘s illustrations.
3) The stamps are AMAZING.

Japanese and Hong Kongese stamps.

Japanese and Hong Kongese stamps

My pals know that I love stamps and they mostly use the prettiest/newest/rarest stamps they can find – and I do the same for them.

I’ve met most of my postcard pals in Postcrossing or Postcrossing forums but Lithuanian girl found me thanks to one of the swaps in Swap-bot over a year ago, the Malaysian pal I got thanks to the fact that we had been reading each others’ blogs for a while and one of the Japanese pals found me thanks to my swap ad in Lettersets.com.

Writing postcards is usually faster than writing a letter so I tend to reply to postcard pals a lot quicker – I can write the cards between classes, during a bus trip home or even before I go to bed. Letters take me hours and hours (sometimes days) to write depending on the length of the letter I’ve received but 2 postcards are ready to be sent in less than 30 minutes🙂

I even exchange cards with my best friend since we live hundreds of kilometers apart! I send her empty cards that I want her to fill and send back to me and she sends me her empty cards to be filled🙂 Both get exactly the cards we want to. And to be honest my “I NEED these cards written” pile is a lot bigger than my “postcards to send”🙂 This because I LOVE and collect postcards but I want those to be written before I add those to my collections🙂

Illustrations and a Masking tape from Japan

Illustrations and a Masking tape from Japan

2 postcards from Japan (left) and 2 from Hong Kong (right)

2 postcards from Japan (left) and 2 from Hong Kong (right)

Now I need to go and write a couple of postcards to my pals🙂
Does anyone else have postcard pals or do you think it’s just a waste of money/stamps/pretty postcards?🙂

-Kristiina

Where do I buy postcards and letter supplies from?

I was planning to write a post last week but as I’m apparently the only one in my family who has a camera and my mum was going to Paris so I gave her my camera (and she ended up not getting how the camera works – bought it in 2008 and have let it get wet in a pouring rain in 2011- so she didn’t even get that many photos and instead used her phone). I’ve also been a bit lazy and uninspired😦

Luckily mail brought me my letter set, postcard and sticker orders from Postcardgarden and Perromania and those got me inspired.

Letter sets, papers and a couple of envelope sets

Letter sets, papers and a couple of envelope sets from Postcard garden

Postcards and one set of stickers

Postcards and one set of stickers

Moomins and Belle and Boo card from Perromania

Moomins and Belle and Boo card from Perromania

World Heritage Site cards from Perromania

World Heritage Site cards from Perromania

Cards from Porvoo Autumn Market (Oct 3rd-4th) Moomin cards for only 0,5€ :)

Cards from Porvoo Autumn Market (Oct 3rd-4th) Moomin cards for only 0,5€🙂

From where do YOU buy your letter/postcrossing supplies?

At least in Finland letter sets/papers are nearly impossible to find unless you want to use those boring white lined papers or buy expensive 10 papers + 10 envelopes set “meant for little kids”. I do buy those whenever I get the chance to or find those but 3€ for such a small amount of paper is ridiculous – I usually use 3-5 A5 pages per letter.

Postcardgarden

As those are rather expensive and hard to find I’ve started to order letter sets and pads online since 2010 when I found Finnish online store Postcardgarden. Back then it was rather small and everything wasn’t sold out the moment it hit the store like nowadays and unless my memory betrays me I’d argue that back then the prices were lower. The prices in the store are high compared to many other foreign stores but for, at least, Finns the postage is free after you’ve spent over 20€ (which is easily done with just buying 3 different letter sets).  The postcards are the main focus in the store but the sticker and paper selections are good if you manage to click to the site when the new products are put up (I recommend you to follow their Facebook page where the new products are mentioned).

The foreign stores I tend to use the most are Modes4u from Hong Kong and Janetstore from Taiwan.

Modes4U

Modes4u might have a smaller selection of goodies and is more expensive BUT the store offers free postage after you’ve used over 60€ at the store. And they ALWAYS have some Sentimental Circus goodies no matter when you’re looking. (I’m a HUGE SC fan and I LOVE the stickers and letter sets SO much!!).

Janetstore

Janetstore has good selection, I could use hours and hours going through the site, and the prices are quite low, for example one of my favourite letter sets, Amy and Tim (80 papers and 8 envelopes) costs nearly 9€ in Postcardgarden while in Janetstore the price is $2.8. Everything is cheaper than in any other online store. So what’s the catch? The postage prices are usually ridiculously high. If you spend the minimum of $10 in the store, no matter WHAT you buy, be it only stickers and small letter sets you can expect the postage to be at least $10. Last year I and my flatmate chose to order something together from Janetstore as its selection is amazing. We spent 90€ in total, of which 40€ went to postage. 40€. RIDICCULOUS.

The shipping is FAST in all of the stores. I usually wait for a week, max.2 and I have everything in my hands🙂

Postcards on the other hand..

I tend to buy most of my postcards from a small store in Porvoo called Sadunhenki as the postcards from there are CHEAP. The cheapest cards are just 0,3€ and the most expensive ones are 1€. And the most important thing is that all the Moomin cards are only 0,5€!😉 CHEAP compared to the normal store prices that tend to be 1,5-4,8€.

Perromania

But online stores that I use are mostly Postcardgarden, though I don’t usually buy that many cards from there, and I finally tried my luck with Perromania, a store that has had its ads in Postcrossing.com and I’ve read of in some Finnish blogs (and yes, they mail abroad as well ;)). I bought way too many Christmas cards from the store and some “rare” Moomin cards as well as UNESCO World Heritage Postcards for a postcard pal of mine who seems to collect those now🙂 So far all of these stores have worked just fine for me but does anyone know a good online store for letter papers within Europe? I’d rather not pay high postage and pay a lot to the customs as all the orders OVER 23€ outside of Europe are stuck until you pay a lot. Any other recommendations than Postcardgarden

-Kristiina

Postcrossing – how to and why?

“If you send a postcard, you will receive one back”

About Postcrossing

I was introduced to Postcrossing back in August, 2009. I got the link, registered myself, took 5 addresses (which is the limit of how many cards you can send at once in the beginning) and sent the cards out the next day. Since then I’ve been addicted to the project, though I took some “time off” 2011-2012. In the beginning of 2013 I got back to the project and by today (September 25th 2013) I’ve sent all in all 635 postcards that have been registered of which 287 were sent in 2013. From the beginning the project was easy to understand, the page is in English but it’s easy to navigate in even if your English skills ain’t that good and the about page of the project has been translated to over 10 languages; Finnish, Swedish, Russian, French, Spanish, Japanese and Chinese to name a few.

How easy it actually is!

The start page of Postcrossing. Easy, right?

The start page of Postcrossing. Easy, right?

Click yourself to the site and this is what you will see. The basic “how to” is visible and right under it you can click “Create your free account”. You need to write your address, email, name, make up some sort of username and come up with a password you won’t forget. Then click create and you can start sending cards!🙂 Please remember to update your profile/description about what kind of cards you would like to get or what you’re like!🙂 No one likes empty profiles and they would rather come up with a fitting postcard to be sent to you based on what you describe yourself as, or what kind of postcards you like!

After you've created your profile this is what your homepage of Postcrossing will look like

After you’ve created your profile this is what your homepage of Postcrossing will look like

How many cards you’ve sent and received, how many cards of your current limit are travelling and what’s the distance all together. As I said in the start the cards allowed to be sent simultaneously is 5 but it grows quite fast to 10 and after that you get one more to send after every 50 cards that have been registered.

Sending a card

As visible there’s a “Send a postcard” option on the left of the site. By clicking it you open a window like this:

So you want to send a postcard?

So you want to send a postcard?

Rules about the project and confirmation that you’re absolutely sure you want to send a postcard.

I get to send within Finland!

I get to send within Finland! Go down the “and your postcard will go to” page and you get to see the the preferences of the receiver

There are various options, such as do you want to send and receive cards from your home country and do you want to send cards to repeated countries. I have the first options ticked and second not. (available in “Edit -> Profile”) I want to send only one card to one country at a time and I recommend all newbies to do that as well, otherwise you might end up with 5 postcards sent to Russia and having to wait 20-80 days for the cards to be registered and you to get your first card!

And while sending the card the possible demands you come in contact in some of the profiles are all just wishes, like written in the page:
You may state which type of postcards you like the most, but you can not make any demands for specific postcards. Your preferences will be used as reference only and not necessarily always satisfied.

Not all of the cards you send are to the recipients’ liking but you might also receive an ugly card you don’t like!

But when you take an address, go through some postcards you have or go shopping (most postcrossers tend to have a box full of unused postcards waiting to be sent ;)), put a stamp, get a pen and start writing!

All you need is to start writing!

All you need is to start writing!

Writing the postcard. Most people also like to see the date you wrote the card :)

Writing the postcard.Most people prefer to see the date you wrote the card🙂

Registering the card

There is an ID code given to you while sending a card. That MUST be written to the card or else the recipient might not be able to register it at all and you won’t receive a postcard! But when you receive a postcard with an ID code and message (maybe just the ID code and “Happy postcrossing” or a postcard FILLED with text, you never know!) you get to click yourself to this wonderful page:

Register the postcard and write something back to the sender, thank yous or ask for an address for a thank you postcard

Register the postcard and write something back to the sender, thank yous or ask for an address for a thank you postcard

Not all of the postcards you receive are to your liking but EVERY card you receive must be registered. And as you try to fill other postcrossers’ wishes you’re happier when people fulfill your wishes!🙂 I’ve received cards I haven’t liked at all and cards that I’ve liked so much that I’ve wanted to send a thank you postcard back!🙂

WHY do people do this?

I personally got hooked the moment I sent the first cards, I actually even remember what two of those sent cards looked like! The first card I received came approximately one and a half week after I had registered and sent my cards. It was rather ugly multiview card of some small town in Germany and the background of the card was poison green. It was ugly but I LOVED the feeling of getting something in the mail. Nowadays I’m the one picking the mail in hopes of getting to be the first to see whatever I received😉 And now that Finland FINALLY got its own Postcrossing stamps as a second country in the World (only Netherlands beat us to it!) I see no point in stopping. At least until the postcrossing stamps are sold out😉
To be honest I REALLY think the Dutch Postcrossing stamp was a LOT better as it actually depicted postcards. The Finnish stamps on the other hand…

Four stamps (if I remember right the Dutch had 10) and at least the "smiling/laughing" lips has been said to look too seductive/sexy/porn-ish!

Four stamps (if I remember right the Dutch had 10) and at least the “smiling/laughing” lips has been said to look too seductive/sexy/porn-ish! Not a safe stamp to send to Islamic countries I guess..

…yeah..
But I buy and use the stamps as most foreign postcrossers seem to like those, even though in most of the cases the receivers haven’t really commented on the huge (bigger than average) stamp.

I’ve also met some of my penpals and postcard pals (more about that later on) thanks to the hobby and received a bunch of amazing postcards from people around the world! How on earth would I have otherwise received a postcard from Iran or Bosnia-Herzegovina?

Some of my favourites I've received in 2013 (left-right, up-down): Japan, Norway, Russia, Netherlands, Taiwan and UK

Some of my favourites I’ve received in 2013 (left-right, up-down): Japan, Norway, Russia, Netherlands, Taiwan and UK. Not a big fan of city views🙂

Thanks to postcrossing we can make someone’s day better by sending them a card they might find after a long and tiring day at work and the same will happen to us. Why not try to make someone’s day with a pretty postcard and a short message?😉

Some of the top countries in Postcrossing: (most users/most cards sent)
USA, Germany, Netherlands, Russia and Finland

Any fellow postcrossers want to share their opinions about the hobby? Or someone who might want to start sending postcards but has a question or two?🙂

-Kristiina

How I Started Penpalling?

As I wrote in my first blog post, I received my first letter in July 2001, over 12 years ago. Back then snail mailing was still quite a big thing, many penpalling advertisements in various magazines and only two of my friends had PCs and I didn’t even know what e-mail was! And letter papers, letter sets and cute stickers were sold in almost every store. Oh how things have changed…

Two out of Three letters that came this week - 4th letter from Emma, first letter from Vanessa. Both from Finland

Two out of Three letters that came this week – 4th letter from Emma, first letter from Vanessa. Both from Finland

I got my first penpal thanks to a children’s crossword magazine and I wrote with her approximately a year. After that it took me a while to find my next penpal whom I got in touch with in 2004 thanks to a girl’s comic magazine W.I.T.C.H’s summer extra. With the magazine came a huge poster of one of the main characters Will and behind the poster (I swear it was at least the size of A3! Too bad I’ve lost it ages ago) were tens of different pen palling ads from girls between the age of 7 and 14. I was almost 13 at that time and got in touch with Viivi, a 11 year old girl living only 50 kilometres away from me. While writing with Viivi I also tried to contact a couple of girls via Pollux horse book club from Finland, Germany and Sweden. Too bad, only one of those girls, Katri from Finland, replied to my letter back in 2004-2005. There was also a try to write with a couple of old classmates in 2002-2004 but it never lasted longer than 4 or 5 letters as they weren’t as interested in letter writing as I was.

The first letter I got from Viivi. Horses and Harry Potter were SO in at that time :)

The first letter I got from Viivi. Horses and Harry Potter were SO in at that time🙂

I wrote with Viivi and Katri throughout my teenage years and shared nearly everything with them. There were one or two penpals that exchanged a couple of letters with me between 2004 and 2008 but all of them disappeared for some reason. In 2007 I spent a lot of time in YouTube, chatting with people who had similar taste in music and liked the same TV-series. Little by little I got to know Maria and after about one year of emails and text messages back and forth and chatting online I asked whether she would be interested in exchanging letters with me. The answer was yes and we’re still in contact, I actually got her latest letter just last week (70th letter from her)! I’ve even met both of them! With Katri I met last time back in 2010, with Maria just last weekend! Too bad I don’t have any pictures of those meetings as all of the pictures have disappeared thanks to my external hard drive or laptop crashing and I and Maria didn’t take a photo when we met… I’ve also met with Viivi various times but we have more or less lost contact since 2010 even though we’re still Facebook friends with each other.

The 70th letter I received from Maria with a couple of postcards and a bookmark of David Tennant, my favourite actor :)

The 70th letter I received from Maria with a couple of postcards and a bookmark of David Tennant, my favourite actor🙂

Until April 2009 all of my pen pals were from Finland and my letters were approximately two A4 papers written on both sides. Then a male classmate of mine started bragging how he received letters and postcards from all over the world and I demanded him to tell me why and how. He gave me the link to Interpals and I got my first foreign pen pals. The 4 first girls I exchanged letters with were from Zimbabwe, New Zealand, Germany and South Korea. Out of those 4 girls only Erica from South Korea still writes to me a couple of times a year to update how her busy life is treating her.

After I had got enough of men treating Interpals as one of the many dating sites I moved to other sites looking for penpals. My personal favourites are Letternet, from where I’ve gotten all my dear German pals, and Penpal of the Week, a blog by a Canadian snail mailer filled with penpalling advertisements. I’ve also met some of my current penpals via Postcrossing and even Instagram.

I need a LOT of space while I'm writing and usually like to have noise around me - music or internet reviews mostly ;)

I need a LOT of space while I’m writing and usually like to have noise around me – music or internet reviews mostly😉

When I started snail mailing my letters were quite shallow and about normal, everyday things such as how school was, what my plans for summer were and how I like this and that. Nowadays I have started to notice that my letters are deeper and deeper, thanks to my pals notifying me of it. With some pals I still talk about everyday things but with others I really share my thoughts and secrets. I started with a couple of pages per letter, nowadays I tend to write 3-5 A5 papers, both sides, and my longest letter I’ve written this year filled a small A5 notebook.

My next outgoing letter will be sent in this. My first try with masking tape!

My next outgoing letter will be sent in this. My first try with masking tape!

In the beginning I just wanted people to write with, nowadays I get put off the moment I have a feeling that the pal doesn’t like me for who I am and only writes with me in hopes of getting something from me as I tend to put something small with the letters. For example, last week I sent 2 postcards to Japan and included 2 Angry Birds liquorices and chocolate tea just because I felt like it!
Some of my closest pals are like best friends whom I’ve never met while others are great buddies with whom I get to talk about my weekend and school.
At the moment I’m not looking for any new pals but if I could get another pal who’s not afraid of writing pages and pages talking about everything I think I’d like to write to him/her.. Only that I have to finish my assignments and THEN I can write back😉

How has your penpalling “habits” changed during the years? What are you mostly looking from a potential pal?

-Kristiina