I’ve been penpalling and swapping for a few months now and although I wouldn’t say I’m a pro, I think I have a good few tips to help other newbies get started!
Sites to use:
Geek Girls involves filling out a simple typeform with your name and your interests and at the end of the month they match you with a pen pal. I love it because you always get penpals who have lots in common with you so you have loads to talk about! I also really trust it as you don’t need to give them any personal details (address, payment etc) and you don’t need to share your address with your penpal until you feel completely comfortable!
Penpal World is more about you finding the penpals yourself, which gives you the opportunity to find people you wouldn’t usually talk to. On this site you fill out your profile and add a couple of photos so that other people know you’re legit, and then just get searching! You search by category so things like age, gender and how well filled out their profile is. You do have a limit of 3 messages per day, and if you’re on the free site you can only have 3 messages in your inbox, so I find it’s easier to move to email as quick as possible if you’re having good conversations with someone. I have found users prefer email over letter writing which is fine, but my real preference is sending and receiving things in the post!
My favourite site which is more about posting is quite a popular one called Swap-Bot and I love it!
I’ve taken part in 11 swaps and had 28 partners across those but I haven’t become proper continuous penpals with any of them, and it’s not really what it’s about. On this site the person you send to most likely won’t even be the person you receive from, it’s all completely random, but it’s so cool hearing little snippets from random peoples’ lives and sending and receiving small packages to people all over the world. In my last swap I had a partner in Scotland and one in Hong Kong, and the people sending to me are from the Netherlands and USA!
Filling out a good profile:
To fill out a good profile on any site, just think about what you would want to read on someone else’s. If someone had just written their age and gender it would be very difficult to know if you had things in common or what to talk to them about. On Swap-bot, people write mini wishlists as some swaps may involve sending stationery or tea, and it makes it easier to know what to send to people! My current profile is about 4 paragraphs long and this is considered quite small, especially compared to some I’ve read, so get comfortable and spill your guts!
What to send:
I found a lot of my inspiration on what to send in letters from YouTubers such as Jordan Clark and Brittany McCowan. I love their styles of snail mail and they made me realise you don’t just have to send a letter!
This is a picture of what I sent in my first ever snail mail and I was so proud of it! I included a sticker sheet by Gemma Correll, some washi tape samples, a magnet, a teabag and a playlist. I think it’s great to send things like this because it helps adds to their stationery collection, or gives them something new to try.
This was my second letter to the same girl and I sent her a souvenir from a trip I’d been on, a Harry Potter chocolate frog card as I had two of the same and she wasn’t English so may not have been able to get them herself. I also sent more stationery and a questions sheet. It adds a fun way to get to know people, and again I loved mailing off a big package for her!
I think it’s also nice to jazz up your mail a bit with washi, stickers and other embellishments. It adds a lot more character is a lot more exciting to receive in the post! If the envelope is decorated, it really stands out on the door step from all the bills and spam mail.