Thursday, January 15, 2009

Pen Pals in the 21st Century

Back in my high school days, I had several pen pals, people who lived in different countries and exchanged letters with me. People I had never met.

To tell the truth, that was quite a few years ago, and I really don't remember all the details about how I got all the pen pals. It seems that there were some sort of services that we sent our name and address to and they matched us up with pen pals. I'm sure it was free. I had pen pals in England, Japan, Denmark, Malaysia, a couple of African countries and maybe Korea.

One time, my pen pal in Denmark sent me information about getting a pen pal in Yugoslavia. We both sent our names in. As it turns out, it wasn't a pen pal service, it was, apparently, the most popular teen magazine in Yugoslavia. Hundreds, if not thousands, of Yugoslavian teens read our request for pen pals and had our addresses. I received dozens, maybe hundreds of letters. I don't remember how many I responded to, but in the end, I had several Yugoslavian pen pals.

One of the funniest stories involved a cute Yugoslavian boy who wrote to both me and my pen pal from Denmark. One time, he inadvertently mixed up the two letters and sent mine to her and hers to me. Problem was, they were identical...and he was declaring his undying love and desire to meet both of us. I think we both dumped him.

Of course, this was in the 1980s, before e-mail was invented, so it took several weeks for that scenario to play out across the miles.

I tried recently to find out if there are still such things as pen-and-paper pen pals. It seems in this day and age, there aren't many. First of all, the Internet, along with e-mail, blogs, MySpace, Facebook, YouTube, etc., makes possible instantaneous communication with just about anyone in the world. Secondly, with fears of stalkers and child abductors, I think very few people are willing to participate in a program that sends kids' names and addresses out to unknown people.

Still, I did find a few of sites that might be of help to anyone looking to write "real" letters to someone else. Of course, I had to weed through a bunch of dating sites and prisoner pen pal sites, but these seem more legitimate. But, if you're looking for a pen pal, please investigate any service thoroughly before you send them anything. I'm not recommending these sites, just sharing what I found. And, I have never used any of these sites myself. It looks like most of these services have fees.

The publisher of this site,, has a newsletter that you can subscribe to.
International Pen Friends says it's been around since 1967, connecting pen pals around the world.
Student Letter Exchange says it's been around for 70 years, and it has an "Adult Pen Pal Directory" section.

There may be more pen pal services out there, but I haven't found them yet.


Angie said...

I have had a pen pal correspondence from a girl in England going on 7 years now, as well as shorter lived correspondence from Germany and Zimbabwe.

Joy Ribisi said...

When I was in middle and high school I also had a slew of pen pals. I miss those days! My first pen pal was from China. My 5th grade teacher had visited a school in China and set up a pen pal exchange between our class and a Chinese class our age. My pen pal would send me the most beautifully decorated cards and gifts from a far away land that my little 10 year old couldn't quite fathom.

Somehow I amassed a large amount of pen pals at some point and I seem to remember that some of these pals would swap "Friendship books" or "slam books" where you would add your address and decorate a page in this book. You could pick whoever you wanted to be pen pals with from this book and just send them a letter. Usually you discovered that you liked the same bands so you would assume you'd be BFFs and just send a letter out of the blue.

I did end up meeting some of my pen pals. A woman from Germany named Angie came to visit me in New York and I did have some pen pals from closer to home, so we ended up being friends and seeing each other often.

Margaret said...

I've come across some nice sites and have yet to get a response .... and I just want someone to help me with my French and Spanish!!

Beth said...

I used to do this many years ago. Plus, once my High School friends and I parted ways we kept up with each other via letters.

It's a great idea. I do miss getting real letters in the mail.

Midway Records said...

Thanks for following my blog! I love the idea of writing letters & isn't it great to find something in writing by your ancestors.

Karrie said...

Neat story. I almost forgot that you could use a pen and paper to write a message to someone..LOL

tstreasures said...

Ahh the "good old days" when we had pens and paper and people actually had to write things down. Oh I joke, but I remember when it was cool to have a pen pal in some far off country. The anticipation, waiting for the mailman to drop off that letter.

Anonymous said... is a newer website that I've had much success with!

Anonymous said...

Hi im 18 and recently started writting to penpals because im a pen-to-paper kind of girl... On facebook there is a page called " Snail Mail" and its dedicated to writting letters to pen pals there are people from all over the globe and of all ages :)

Anonymous said...

I used to have a couple of pen pals when I was younger, but they eventually fizzled out :(

However, I'm on the search for more pen pals! It's hard, trying to find pen pals without posting your address for the world to see. That's why I've been looking for memberships and associations with a nominal fee (I feel that if you have to pay for something, you are less likely to get someone who's not serious/someone who just wants your address for creepy purposes). I also feel better if the owners of the site are actual people who are active with their members and accessible.

My criteria certainly narrows my search, but I've found a few good ones!

Anonymous said...

I have quite a number of penpals. I got them from and facebook (snail mail society). there are a lot of people who still love writing letters if you know where to look :)

pals24 said...

thanks for giving good information

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