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

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ™‚ 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 ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

Hearts for the love of penpalling and Postcrossing :)

Hearts for the love of penpalling and Postcrossing ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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? ๐Ÿ™‚ Do you have some letter set brands or characters that you really love and store unable to open and start using those? ๐Ÿ™‚

~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 (0,85โ‚ฌ / 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 ร…land).

After the worldwide price of 0,85โ‚ฌ per one stamp the international postage rates go up depending whether the recipient lives within Europe (1,3โ‚ฌ until 50g and 1,8โ‚ฌ until 100g) and rest of the World (2โ‚ฌ until 50g and 4,2โ‚ฌ 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 ๐Ÿ˜ฆ ) and going on from there ๐Ÿ™‚

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 20โ‚ฌ (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! ๐Ÿ™‚ I do that quite often and so far it has worked – no one has torn the postcard or tea bags so far ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ™‚ 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)ย  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 7โ‚ฌ! ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

What do you usually send with letters or do you usually just mail the letter? ๐Ÿ™‚

-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! ๐Ÿ™‚ Please remember to update your profile/description about what kind of cards you would like to get or what you’re like! ๐Ÿ™‚ 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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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! ๐Ÿ™‚ 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! ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ˜‰ 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 ๐Ÿ˜‰
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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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? ๐Ÿ˜‰

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? ๐Ÿ™‚

-Kristiina

The Beginning.

Who am I?

Let’s all agree to use my 2nd name Kristiina as I’m sick and tired of people misspelling and/or mispronouncing my first name – been experiencing it for as long as I can remember and besides Kristiina sounds prettier! ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m 22 years old tourism student from the 2nd oldest town of Finland – Porvoo (50km away from our capital Helsinki).
More can be found from About Me.

Why the name? Where does it come from?

Letters, Postcards and a Cup of Tea – the three most important things in my free time. I can’t wake up or even think about eating breakfast without a proper cup of black tea (with a little bit of milk poured in). Letters and postcards come a bit later as our mail lady tends to come around noon and I’m often waiting for her next to our small mailbox. I’ve been into letter writing since I was 10 (way back in 2001) so my letter writing hobby is coming to its teenage years while my Postcrossing “career” is only 4 years old.

How did I start letter writing?

I can’t remember how I wrote my first letter, when I wrote it and to which kind of paper but I do remember that I got my first proper letter after a week at a summer cottage. We came back home and on my desk was a Winnie the Pooh letter waiting for me:

Cancellation stamp states July 20th 2001 - 3 days before my 10th birthday.

Cancellation stamp is dated July 20th 2001 – 3 days before my 10th birthday.

I wrote the first letter to her as I got her address on one of those children’s crossword magazines.
I can still remember how thrilled I was to read the letter and I practically ran to my daddy telling him how my penpal likes S Club 7 just like I did! (it seems so long ago that they had their own tv-show and “made” music)
It was the letter that started this craziness with not enough space to store all the letters I’ve received and way too much space taken up by stickers, postcards and letter papers.
Too bad the pen friendship with K only lasted for about a year before she dropped me without a proper note and I moved on to longer lasting pals with whom I still write. One of my pals has written with me since 2004 so we’ve practically grown together! And yes, I still store some of the letters from people I don’t write with anymore. The letters have sentimental value.

How did I start Postcrossing?

A classmate back in Upper Secondary School (2009) told me how he had penpals from all over the world, most importantly from Japan which was my favourite country EVER back then (things have changed since then, thank god!). And as I got jealous I asked why did he get so much mail from abroad while all my mail came from within Finland. He gave me links to both postcrossing and interpals (more about it later on) and I got hooked after I got the 5 first addresses and sent the cards to Netherlands, Germany, USA, Poland and Malaysia. Now (September 10th 2013) I’ve sent over 610 cards all over the world and as Finland got its official postcrossing stamp just yesterday it seems I won’t be quitting anytime soon!

Thank you for checking the blog and if you’re not too busy I’d like to hear how you’ve started penpalling and/or postcrossing ๐Ÿ™‚ Would appreciate the share as well ๐Ÿ˜‰

-Kristiina

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