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 ๐Ÿ™‚

Postcards are amazing :)

Postcards are amazing ๐Ÿ™‚

2) Patience
This couldย  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. ๐Ÿ™‚

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. ๐Ÿ™‚

Packages/Presents I've gotten for Christmas :)

Packages/Presents I’ve gotten for Christmas from a couple of pals ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ˜‰

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. ๐Ÿ™‚ The good thing about my baby is that he never starts whining or throw a tantrum ;P And he’s sometimes writing with me ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ˜€ 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 ๐Ÿ™‚ 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 ๐Ÿ˜›

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 ๐Ÿ™‚ 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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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! ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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! ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

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 0,8โ‚ฌ not that bad but still a bit high as less than 6 months before that it was 0,75โ‚ฌ – the lowest it has been since 2009. Then on June 4th it was raised to 0,85โ‚ฌ (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 1โ‚ฌ 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 1โ‚ฌ stamps (one sheet = 10×1โ‚ฌ stamps) but the clerk was trying to sell me the priority stamps (10×0,85โ‚ฌ). 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? ๐Ÿ™‚
-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 didnโ€™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 changedโ€ฆ

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 childrenโ€™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 girlโ€™s comic magazine W.I.T.C.Hโ€™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 Iโ€™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 werenโ€™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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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 weโ€™re still in contact, I actually got her latest letter just last week (70th letter from her)! Iโ€™ve even met both of them! With Katri I met last time back in 2010, with Maria just last weekend! Too bad I donโ€™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 didnโ€™t take a photo when we metโ€ฆ Iโ€™ve also met with Viivi various times but we have more or less lost contact since 2010 even though weโ€™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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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 Iโ€™ve gotten all my dear German pals, and Penpal of the Week, a blog by a Canadian snail mailer filled with penpalling advertisements. Iโ€™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 ๐Ÿ˜‰

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 Iโ€™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 doesnโ€™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 Iโ€™ve never met while others are great buddies with whom I get to talk about my weekend and school.
At the moment Iโ€™m not looking for any new pals but if I could get another pal whoโ€™s not afraid of writing pages and pages talking about everything I think Iโ€™d like to write to him/her.. Only that I have to finish my assignments and THEN I can write back ๐Ÿ˜‰

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

-Kristiina