I had recently learned that one can never have too many friends. Maybe ‘friend’ is a big word, but the point is that we are always in search of new, engaging relationships. Because the COVID-19 pandemic hinders much of the social activity we enjoy, we have to try different strategies, such as finding a pen pal.
What is that, you ask? A pen pal is a person often located in another geographic region with whom you can correspond regularly via letters.
The subject might seem obsolete or time-consuming, but hear me out! A complete stranger can become a trusted friend or at least a beautiful experience to reminiscence about. If this caught your attention, let me brief you on the details!
Types of correspondence
✒️ Snail Mail: this is the classic type. The exchange happens via handwritten letters sent via the postal office. The bad news is you have to pay for the envelopes, stamps, and transport. Fortunately, you can also include photographs or little gifts for your pen pal in the package. I had corresponded that way with people who I already knew for some time and whom I trusted. I advise you to exchange addresses only if you feel comfortable doing so.
✒️ E-mail: it’s facile, free of charge, and quick. Technology enables the users to write whenever they have a spare minute, edit without having to start again for aesthetic reasons, and send the letter whenever they can. I suggest using a separate mail address for this purpose only so you don’t lose any messages among your other mails.
✒️ Digital: this includes all the apps that allow instant messaging. While it’s perfect for rehearsing your language skills and getting to know new people, I feel like this method is a bit further from my view on the subject.
How can you find a pen pal?
Back in the old days, there used to be newspaper ads where people would specify a few things about themselves and their mailing address. Now, it’s done mostly via online means – which is safer because you don’t need to provide your location.
Certain websites can help you to find your pen pal. One of them is the Pen Friend Club, where you can register for free. You can choose your pen pal based on their origin country, age, and description. Introduce yourself, express your availability to chat, and hope for the best!
I also recommend slowly, which is a lovely, user-friendly mobile app. The process is similar: you register, provide a few details about yourself, and search for people who share the same interests as you. After creating your profile, you receive a virtual ID so that your friends who also use the app can find you. Conversely, you can enable the feature that allows other users to write to you. This way, you can receive messages from around the world.
Why is it called slowly? Because you don’t get the letters right away. Depending on the distance between you and the sender, it can take hours or sometimes days to receive it. Don’t worry! The app alerts you that a message is on its way.
Why should you try to find a pen pal?
It goes without saying that the goal of this activity is to make new acquaintances and hopefully visit them sometime. Apart from that, there are many other benefits of starting corresponding with people from around the world, such as:
✔️ You can develop your communication skills.
Like I already stated, you can choose to write in your native language or in a foreign one and, likewise, to create handwritten letters or electronic ones. All these types of mail will help you practice the art of sharing and motivating your point of view, asking questions, and debating certain topics.
We are used to living in a world of instant replies, but switching back to long letters may benefit us in terms of self-expression and increased patience.
✔️ Cultural exchange
A pen pal can teach you about their culture, and of course, you can return the favor. There’s no better info resource than a native! Your curiosity about one subject or another will make a great conversation starter, something both of you can build on in the next letter.
✔️ It might enrich an already existing friendship and make it stronger.
This might seem strange, but allow me to explain. Some people express themselves better in writing for a multitude of reasons. Composing a letter allows one to debate ideas that simply don’t come up in verbal conversations or in hurried day-to-day instant messaging. Moreover, letters might be a creative outlet for aspiring writers who want to share their work with their friends.
Having a pen pal has many unforeseen benefits, so I encourage you to give it a try! Show interest in what they have to say, talk about your hobbies, find a middle ground, and have fun!