Before the dominance of social media and other electronic forms of communication, hand-written letters were the main method to keep in touch with friends and family. If you’re thinking of sending a handwritten letter, you may want to find a post office near you. They can also offer other services like shipping packages and buying stamps, little ways to jump start your penpalling journey!
Although social media has its uses, such as when you want a relatively quick response or for plans to meet up in the future, it has its limits.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, many restrictions were put in place, which meant that we had to find alternate approaches to getting through our daily lives. Many of us were able to adapt to managing primarily online, but for some of us, that kind of communication just doesn’t cut it.
Normally I am someone who travels abroad every year, so it’s been a strange feeling being stuck in the same place. Although I was disappointed that my plans were spoiled, I thought of an alternate way of getting an international experience: penpalling. Curious? Then continue on for 5 Ways Penpalling Can Improve Your Life!
1. It’s a Cultural Experience
Have you ever wondered what life is like on the other side of the world? Sure, you could do a quick online search and find out, but wouldn’t it be more rewarding to receive a personalized message from someone currently living there?
You can ask about their day-to-day life and share things like life experiences, book recommendations, photos, and recipes. Some things may seem very ordinary for you, since you are used to them, but it might not be the case for someone who lives in another region or country from your own. For example, I’ve been lucky to be able to spend my summers surrounded by nature and having a lake to look at when I wake up in the morning, while some of my penpals enjoy telling me about their life in the city.
With our daily lives filled with various commitments, we don’t always have the luxury of taking a chunk of time off or the financial ability to hop on a plane and see other parts of the world on a dime, so having a pen pal could be a good alternative.
2. It’s an Opportunity to Practice Your Language Skills
When you don’t have the extra time or money to go to a language class every week, you could put in a couple of hours every other month to practice your language skills and writing. With some of my penpals, we’ll write half of a letter in one language and the other half in another so we both get practice in.
Another method that I’ve found particularly useful is sending two copies of a letter. That way the receiver gets to keep the original and can correct the second copy and send it back to help the other person with their language skills. It feels like I have one on one time with a native speaker to help me improve and I’ve learned more from this feedback method than I have from a language class.
3. It’s Something to Look Forward to
Personally, receiving notifications on my phone when someone has sent me something is not satisfying. They’re useful for quick and frequent communication, but I’ll likely forget about it soon after I reply. Because mail takes time to travel, and there’s time in between to have something to write about, there is something to look forward to. Now I’ve been conditioned to get excited when I hear the clanging of the mailbox outside! I even look forward to buying new stamps so my penpals can get different stamps with each letter.
All of my penpals are different, so I have something different to look forward to in each letter. With a few, we talk about the latest books, movies, and shows that we’ve been into. With another, we exchange our views on controversial topics and share research papers that we find interesting because we have similar academic interests.
Occasionally my penpals and I also exchange small gifts and packages. For example, I love to send some sweets and snacks that my penpal can’t get in their country.
4. It Can Help You Express Your Creative Side
Writing can also help you to deal with stress and gives you a break from screens. If you are into stationary, decorations, and doing art, penpalling is a great way to share that with others. In penpalling a couple of popular things to send are homemade bookmarks and stickers because they won’t make your envelope too bulky.
If you are into scrapbooking you can create a flip book, which is basically a little book that your penpal can unfold, revealing surprises inside, such as letters, activities, and playlists.
5. It’s a Relatively Cheap Hobby that Allows You to Create Lasting Relationships
When I think about how much money I spend on my hobbies, penpalling is one of the cheapest. For basically the price of a cup of coffee I can buy a stamp and make someone else’s day a little better, plus the letter they receive is something they can hold on to forever.
In terms of time, you don’t have the expectation of maintaining frequent contact like you would with those you message through social media. However, you’re still able to show that you care about the relationship by taking the time to reply to their letters.
My penpals are comprised of family members who live out of town, people I’ve met during my travels and have become friends with, and people I’ve never met but plan to do so someday. It’s okay to reach out to a bunch of people at first to see how many responses you get and go from there. Some might not be very engaging, but the ones who stick with you may become lifelong friends!
Have you tried penpalling? Let us know in the comments below and join the conversation on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram!