Sunday, 22 June 2014

What's the point in writing and sending letters?

Last year I wrote a post to answer the question "Why Postcrossing?", so I thought it might be the high time to answer this question, too: Why am I writing letters and what do I get out of it?

I got my first pen pal at the age of 5 or 6 - my mother encouraged me to start to write with a relative girl who was a couple years older than I was. I can not remember where the idea actually came from, but I do remember how the first letter I received looked like. I still have it. And I do remember the feeling I had when I got mail that had my name on it - wow! So that's where this all started.

During the next 10 years I wrote mainly with Finnish girls; I got new pen pals from magazines (do you still remember that there were "pen pals wanted!" sections in different kids/teenager magazines?!) and from Teletext (finn. teksti-tv). Oh, those memories... Sadly I do not write with any of these girls anymore, but on the other hand, we were quite young at that time, too.

My first two foreign pen pals were from Germany and Austria. I think we got the addresses with the help of another family friend who had contacts outside the Finland, and I chose these two girls, because I wanted to practice my German which I had been learning for 3 or 4 years at that time (to comparison; I had learnt English just for 1 or 2 years). Both replied, and we exchanged letters for maybe three years, and then I heard nothing more about them. Years later I found one of them at Facebook and were are friends there now, but I still at times wonder what happened to that other girl and what is she doing today...

Internet changed this all, naturally. Today there are so many sites and places to look for pen pals even with very specific requests, if I may use such definition. I have gotten most of my pen pals via, but also from such places as and, the newest to me,

During the years I've held some presentations about pen palling and postcrossing - these have been just ordinary presentations where the theme has been a student's choice, so I've chosen a hobby that I am so passionate about, of course. And every time I have received comments (from both the teachers/lecturers and the fellow students), that they were surprised to hear about such thing; that they had thought that no one writes traditional letters/postcards anymore. Delightfully some have asked for more information as they have considered this a fun hobby, too.

So why I am doing this for pretty much 20 years already (and counting...)?

I have always thought that I express myself better in a written way than by talking, and letters offer a great opportunity to do that. They are also "friendly-slow"; I have tried e-mail pen palling, but those have been doomed efforts as e-mails are way too fast; the whole process of getting to know about the other person proceeds too rapidly. I also have felt so much guilt of not having replied that kind of e-mails right away, as I think they somehow insist to be replied immediately, but I haven't had either the time or the mood to do so. So no e-mail friends here!

Letters are results of the time another person has taken from his/her daily routine to sit down, to choose the right words and to mail the sheets to you and to you only. They are not copy-pasted stuff nor have they usually been written in a extreme hurry. They are a sign of great effort in cases we are speaking a language neither of us is actually familiar with. They can be a piece of art, a reason to smile on a shitty day; they can offer consolation when it is needed and happiness to share.

Letters and the people behind them can also teach you about the world around us; I have learnt dozens of things about geography, traditions, languages, cultures, everyday life in other countries... But the most important thing of all is that pen palling has introduced me to many very great people all around the globe. I do not think I had ever met any of them if I did not like writing letters so much.

What inspires you to take a pen ans write a letter?
And what is your excuse to not to do so?

(The photos show the letters I have received before 2011.)


  1. I love the pictures of your letters.
    I have been writing letters since I was 10 years old (I'm 38), and one of my first penpals is still one of my best friends... Though we have changed our addresses so many time since those early days!

    What's the point? Well that would be a loooong comment (so I'll post better on my blog one day). But briefly: I can't do otherwise! Writing letters is a way of life :D

    1. Thank you!
      And, oh, wow, that's one good penfriend, then! Congrats! :)

      I'd be very curious to read your thoughts about this, but yes, that what you wrote here pretty much sums it up. :)