Penpalling & Letters

Saturday, 6 March 2010

How I started penpalling... What about you?

When I first got interested into letter-writing and penpalling Internet hadn’t arrived to our lives. I started writing letters many years before that happened, in the beginning of the 90s.

How did I first started?

One summer I met a girl who lived in a city far away. Those days we spent together during our summer holidays were great but… how to be in touch once we would be back to our places of origin? We quickly came to a solution: we could write letters to each other! It worked and I immediately got hooked to the letter world. Problem was where to find more people interested in letter writing...

In the mean time I was also exchanging letters with some of my schoolmates, mainly during the summers. This way we were keeping track of our exciting adventures happening all year round.

I only met my next and first foreign pal two summers later, again during summer holidays. The experience of getting letters from abroad was so exciting that I got more and more interested in penpalling! I could never wait to receive letters from my penpals. I remember every time I was back from school and I couldn’t wait to check the mailbox to know if I had received mail or not. Those days a letter reached my letterbox were so special!

I was still struggling how to meet more foreign pals when I had the chance to meet my longest-lasting penfriend until now through an ad magazine. Sometimes, when you less expect it you are nicely surprised! Letters already were really addictive to me by then! Shortly after, I discovered IYS – Internacional Youth Service, and then I really had the chance to meet some wonderful penpals from more foreign countries. Time passed, some people stopped writing, others have remained for many years now, but I always keep wonderful memories of every penfriendship as every person and the letters they wrote to me were unique and a wonderful life-experience.

When Internet arrived to our lives, meeting new people to write letters to and being in touch with seemed easier than before. At least this is what I felt. When being a child and a teenager contacting someone living far away seemed nearly impossible. Suddenly, Internet made everything easier and distances seemed closer.

I have met all of my recent pals online in the last five years. Where? Penpalling sites, social networks, blogs, forums… In fact, anywhere in the net related to penpalling you can find a penpal these days...

What about you?
How did you discover letter-writing?
What was the reason which made you start penpalling? Why?
Where and how did you meet your first pals?

It would be great if you would be willing to share your experiences here or in your personal site (leave a link so we can go there)!
I am sure that many people are looking forward to read them, myself included of course!

If you are looking for advice on penpalling check: "Tips on letter writing"


  1. Many years ago, early 1980s, I got a catalog called Whole Earth and it had lots of environmental, art and other sundry items. One of the things that caught my eye was a section for rubber stamps ... artistic rubber stamps. I immediately sent away for lots, and so started an epic collection (of which I have little left). The stamps led to a need to find people to send all my wonderfully decorated envelopes to, and that led me to picking up a hobby I had as a teen when I was matched up with a Russian girl in a penpal exchange arranged by a teacher. I joined The Letter Exchange and so began my letter writing passion.

    I write about 100 pieces of mail a week, mostly postcards and notecards. I belong to a number of mail enthusiast sites like and PostCrossing. My own postcard project also results in lots of mail.

  2. well, my story goes like this :)

    Back in the beginning of the 90's, there was Super Channel which is the former name of the nowadays NBC Europe. Well, each weekday on Super Channel there was this show called On The Air with a guy called Clive Pearse. It was sometime in the afternoon around 4 or 5pm, cant recall it exactly, and each day had its own theme, where Monday was reserved for penpals and was of course penpal day.
    The aim of it was people from around Europe who wanted to make penpals, to send a letter with a short bio along with a picture and they will be presented in the show (each Monday there were about 5 or 6 people presented).
    Well, I got really interested in watching all those different faces every Monday and never really missed an episode, until one day, in the beginning of 1993 I decided to send my own letter and participate :)
    So, there we go, another Monday comes, I watch the show and then Clive says, and our penpal number 4 for today is Ana from Macedonia!
    And there my picture smiling appears on the screen! You can guess how shocking and exciting it felt for a 12 year old to be shown on the TV screens Europe wide :P My 5 minutes of fame :D

    Well, the policy of the show went like this...whoever is interested in writing to you, will write you a personal letter, but will address it to Super Channel, stating on the front that it is for penpal day and for which penpal it is intended (number, name, country), then Super Channel collects those and after a decent amount of time, they put them all together in a huge envelope and mail them to one sunny day Ana received this huge envelope from Super Channel with about 15 different letters from people in Germany, Netherlands, Sweden, was a feeling one of a kind, to read all those letters with people who found you interesting one way or another and wanted to write to you.
    So of course, I replied to them all and thats how it all started and how I got hooked on snail mail. I am actually still in touch with a few of those ladies...of course, not even as close as frequently back then, but it is nice to see them still a part of my life...
    Afterwards, I got to know people through FB's and slams...and also, several years later, I was subscribed to this magazine through my English School...the magazine was called Sure and one day I came across an advert about Belgian I sent my letter with my address, and after a while I started receiving lots of mail from Belgium where again I met lots of wonderful people :)

    You know, while making this post, I got so nostalgic, I actually had to look up for Clive Pearse on google..and found him, and got so sappy, I had to mail him and tell him thank you...coz if it wasnt for him and his show, I think I never would have gotten into penpalling...and that thing just changed my life forever

  3. oh, I forgot to say, you could have also called live on On The Air for penpal day and leave your info and chat with Clive :)

  4. Heres mine

  5. I loved to read all these stories telling how you got interested and started penpalling. Each of us has an unique, appealing and very interesting story to tell. Just a total whole world of experiences. There are as many stories as penpallers in the world, so if someone else would like to share their story here we would love to hear/read about it!
    I very much appreciate your efforts to share these experiences here and tell us your start!

  6. I have quite a similar story to Ana from Macedonia! I was a few years older than her, but I also had my face on On the Air and received one of those BIG envelopes and starting writing to people all over the world after that.

    A few have remained friends and am now in contact with them through Twitter and e-mail. With a fulltime job I simply cannot find the time to sit down and write a proper letter .. and when I do try, my fingers get cramped! So I basically gave up ... sorry!

    Nathalie from Holland

    PS I also looked Clive up :-)