Advantages of Postal Mail and Email Pals
Whilst you are searching for your international penpal or correspondants, it is important for you to decide what form of communication you will use to contact these new friend you are about to make. When I first started penpalling 25 years ago - the choice was made for me.. All penpalling was done via the post. We didn't have the benefit of the internet back then. But now, the internet is offering a quick, easy and affordable solution to penpalling. Below I have first listed the advantages of Penpalling by post and then I have listed the advantages of communicating by email. The choice is yours!
Postal Penpalling (Snail Mail, postal penfriends)
The "feeling of distance" is realised by corresponding through postal mail
Even with our technological advances, overseas postal mail still takes 1-2 weeks to arrive in your mail box after it is sent. This delay in receiving letters can be useful if you have a busy lifestyle or if you have many penpals because it gives you some free time whilst you wait for your reply. Postal mail literally travels like a snail, so generally you don't write letters more than once every two weeks at the fastest (one week before your letter reaches at your pal, and another week before you receive your pen pal's reply). This means that you not only have to write so often, but also have more time to gather your thoughts and come up with the topics to write about in your next letter. This would usually make for more interesting correspondance because you are writing about the best things that happened in the last week, rather than 1 day.
The manner in which the communication arrives is different
A postal letter is very individual, written on physical paper, with different ink and style of writing. The envelop will have a stamp available only in the country it was sent from. Whenever I encourage people to take up penpalling , I always ask people.. what makes you more excited - opening an email from a friend, or opening a postal letter from a friend? Which makes you feel more like "I've got mail from overseas!"? If you want to receive real "overseas" mails, pen and paper is the right choice for you. I have a penpal from a small village in china.. the paper my penpal writes on is of a loosely pressed texture, with an aged off-white color. The smell of the paper is very musty. As soon as I opened my first letter from this penpal, I immediately got a "sense of this real person" and their cirumstances, in a way that email could never convey.
The possibility of Long-term friendship is greater
Probably this has to do with the "feeling of distance" and the "sense of the real person" that I was talking about. In general, correspondance by letters tend to last longer than correspondance by e-mails. Many of my email penpals have fallen by the wayside.. sometimes even without a goodbye - just like the person you walk past everyday at school or work... you start out by greeting eachother and exchanging pleasantries, then a few months pass and you are just saying the occasional hi, hello. A few more months pass and the greetings turn into a slight nod or smile. Now 1 year later, you walk past them like they are a complete stranger. I am not saying that you are guarantied a longer friendship by writing by post.. I believe there is a direct link between the effort put into a friendship and what you get out of it. Postal penpalling generally takes more effort than emailing, so It would make sense that the friendships would last longer.. after all friendships that are easily gained are also easily lost.
Easier to send physical gifts and items
If you are sending postal letters every other week, chances are that you will also be more likely to send your penpal small gifts and tokens of your friendship along with the letters. This is great for those people that love to give and brilliant for those that love to receive. I find it keeps the interest going as well, cause you never know what will come with each letter.
E-mail pals ("E-mates", "e-pals", "key pals", "E buddies")
Fast and more frequent communication
How many e-mails can you send and receive while a single snail mail reaches your pen pal? The answer is close to as many as you can handle! If you want to get in touch with your pen pals as frequently as possible and/or if you want to hear back from your pen pal ASAP, e-mails are for you!
Ease of mailing
What do you need when you write a postal letter? In addition to pen and paper, you need a stamp and a place to send the letter from. With email on the other hand.. You can send mails as long as you have access to a computer with an internet connection and now you can also mail from your handheld organisers or cell phones! You can also send mails faster, not only because many people can type faster than they hand-write, but also because one e-mail tend to be shorter than letters due to its nature. In short, if you have a easy access to the Internet, e-mails may be more convenient for you.
Depending on which website you use, email friendships can be extremely safe. You don't even need to give people your email address if you register your profile on a site like this one (Sorry, had to give us a plug). The website will act as an intermediary between both penpals until they feel comfortable enough to give each other further contact details. This is extremely useful for young children and elderly people that may seek more security. Of course, the answer to this security problem for penpallers is that they can get a P.O. Box, but this will be at a price.
It depends on the country, but snail mails tend to be more costly than emails. Usually most countries charge around $1 USD for each international postal stamp. You will also need to buy pen and paper, especially if you are particular about the choice of stationery. Also, if you want to send presents to your pen pal, the postage is quite large. In contrast to this, email is usually free. People that access email are usually doing so from work, school a library etc. And if you are using email from home, its normally a free service attached to having an internet connection.