A Beginner's Guide To Getting A Pen Pal

"pen pal - noun; someone who you exchange letters with as a hobby, but usually have not met"

This is how Cambridge dictionary defines the word pen pal and it is one of the rare words for which Urban Dictionary does not have a nasty definition. And even though it should be easy to get to know strangers with the help of the internet, it always comes with nagging worries:

For one, it is incredibly hard to not burst into someone's inbox without sounding like a lonely dudebro on tinder ("Hi, how are you? :) "). Then you do not know why they might be on social media - some just want to quietly stalk pictures of André Lotterer's dog, while the next tries to share their passion of knitted goods. The biggest issue is that these exchanges tend to be rather short. It is impossible to burst into someone's inbox and tell the long story of today's bike ride without sounding strange.

However, the solution to all of these worries is surprisingly simple: a pen pal.

When you sign up for a pen pal project, you automatically know that the other person wants to establish contact as well. You can use more words on your favourite topic and ramble a bit - otherwise it seen like wasting a good stamp. Most of the time you are paired with someone who has similar interests and letters are delivered all over the world! This means you can get to know people from countries you don't usually think about. With some luck an opportunity may arise to brush up on your foreign language skills!

These were the reasons why I said yes when I had stumbled through yet another social media platform and had read "hey, we're hosting a pen pal project. Are you interested?"

The Acquisition Of A Pen Pal

The "getting to know" part is not the hardest part. Instead it is finding someone who is also interested in striking up a pen pal friendship.

I was lucky enough to stumble over a post on Facebook in which Viking was looking for bloggers to take part in their Pen Pal Project. All I needed to do was fill out a form and tick a box. I had been given the choice to write with people from Germany, Italy, the UK, or the Netherlands.

I already have friends in almost any mayor German city and know enough about the UK. What really tickled my fancy was the Netherlands because it is one of many countries that I know very little about. Then I entered my e-mail and waited ...

It is as easy as that even if you aren't a blogger. There are various site which offer to hook you up with a future pen pal. http://www.penpalworld.com/ is the most popular with https://www.interpals.net/ as a runner-up.

The Right Tools

Once you have been matched with your pen pal it is time to get to work! Just like with sport, you are going to need the right tools to work with first. You can't take on a triathlon without a proper bicycle, and you can't write a letter without a stamp.

Luckily, Viking was kind enough to provide me with everything that I needed and more:

After finding paper, stamps and envelopes enclosed, I stumbled over a couple of sharpies:

These are from Staedtler and Berol. They came in various bright colours to liven up your first letter to your future pen pal. The black one is especially useful for contouring your smaller drawings and making sure the address on the envelope is readable!

The next little surprise was a small wooden boxed filled with letter stamps. They covered the Latin alphabet from A to Z - with added symbols of @, ~, : and ). This enables you to not only swear in a GA-rated way but you can create various smiley faces!

Then there was a wax seal with the letter "F" imprinted. The set included three wax pens in the colour gold, platinum blue, and wine red, a spoon with which you melt the amount needed, and two small tealights.

If I am honest, it was one of the most fun things to use. Chopping the wax off the pen was a little harder than expected but I made due with my trusty pocket-knife. Furthermore, I used a bigger candle because there is a draft in my chambers and it produced a pleasant vanilla smell.

Within a few moments that were accompanied by ever persisting thoughts of accidentally burning down my flat I had created a beautiful wax seal!

Last but not least, I stumbled across the fanciest pencil of all pencils. It even puts my Fancy PencilTM to shame. It's a quill and comes along with ink and six different feather tips.

You tip the feather into the ink and start writing while feeling a little like a barocke housewife writing her secret lover - just that you are wearing more comfortable clothes. It was a lot of fun to write in a more traditional way. Furthermore, it looks great as decoration and I am going to keep on my desk from now on.

Then comes the next part ...

Taking the first step

aka "what the f*@# do I write into a letter?!"

Ever since I had received all the right tools and the address of my pen pal, this question had plagued me. I woke up at 3 AM, drenched in sweat and wondering what I could possibly tell this Chelsey person. The question lingered on my mind while I was at work, in the car, and while washing the dishes. I even resorted to googling! This only lead to learning how to paragraph a letter, which, if I am honest, I already learned in school and even back then I thought that it had been dreadfully boring.

I would have to introduce myself and make it obvious that I am interested in learning more about her at the same time. To me, it felt like a balancing act on a tight rope! Would I start with the classical social media biography and write "Hello, I am Susanne (23) from Austria, I like writing, road trips, and have a very soft spot for fluffy cats. Wbu?"? This struck me as woeful and unappealing - mostly because it is.

The issue was that when you usually meet someone online, it is because of a common interest: your favourite TV-show, the colour scheme of a car or the already mentioned dog of André Lotterer. Then you take it from there. I decided to use a similar approach here and snooped around Chelsey's blog! While my Dutch is limited to none, I saw that she had visited Mallorca in the past and decided to go from there.

She shared her trip to the island, so I decided to tell her about my trip to Stuttgart. Since I had a spare card lying around, I attached it because it was a safer bet than the motivational cat postcard.

Afterwards, I felt that writing came to me relatively easy. I told her about what I did in summer, and always added a the type of questions I would ask in person as well. Before I knew it, I held a whole letter composed!

What remained now was to lick a stamp and find a mail box ...

... and now we wait ... 

September, 1st is World Letter Writing Day and is there a better day than this to start a new type of friendship? 


§ This article was written in cooperation with Viking Österreich - who provided the materials I needed. The opinions expressed are my own and are based on my observations while using the products. §


  1. I love it! Now I kinda want to get a penpal! Seems like so much fun. �� Love the feather too.

    1. It's great fun. Can't wait to compose my reply :)

  2. This sounds so exciting! I kinda want one now too. I love the stuff they sent over to get you started! Now I'm off to hunt for a stranger to start writing to... x


  3. "some just want to quietly stalk pictures of André Lotterer's dog" 😂😂😂

  4. This sounds like so much fun. I love your fancy quill too

    1. the fancy quill decorates my desk now :D


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