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

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

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