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 πŸ™‚

Postcards are amazing :)

Postcards are amazing πŸ™‚

2) Patience
This couldΒ  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. πŸ™‚

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. πŸ™‚

Packages/Presents I've gotten for Christmas :)

Packages/Presents I’ve gotten for Christmas from a couple of pals πŸ™‚

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 πŸ˜‰

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. πŸ™‚ The good thing about my baby is that he never starts whining or throw a tantrum ;P And he’s sometimes writing with me πŸ™‚

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 πŸ˜€ 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 πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ˜›

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 πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚

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! πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚

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? πŸ™‚
-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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚

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? πŸ™‚ Do you have some letter set brands or characters that you really love and store unable to open and start using those? πŸ™‚

~Kristiina