In a world where transactional, cold online chats are the norm, taking it back offline or slowing it down makes communication feel more… human. And one truly unique way to start connecting offline is by becoming a pen pal. So your question is probably: How do I find a pen pal in 2021?

Actually there are tons of ways to find yourself a pen pal in the modern day world – often it simply depends on what you’re looking for out of the relationship. Read on to discover the best sites for connecting you, as well as traditional means- whether you’re hoping to connect online or offline.

Why do people become pen pals

People become pen pals for all sorts of reasons. Among them are to:

  • Learn a language
  • Improve literacy (e.g. for school kids)
  • Make friends worldwide
  • Learn about other cultures
  • Slow it down and relieve stress
  • Get creative

What kind of pen pals are there?

Slippers and a sweater lie on the carpet next to lots of US Post stamps

All pen pals lead their relationships predominantly or exclusively via the written word. Broadly speaking, there are two different types of pen pal:

  • Snail mail: Pen pals who exchange *real* postcards or letters via the postal service.
  • Digital: Pen pals who keep up with each other via email or some other form of digital communication, like WhatsApp, text or Messenger.

You can find out more about what a pen pal is and where it all started here.

Top 3 sites for finding pen pals

So what are the best sites to find a pen pal? Below are the top 5 depending on what kind of pen pal you’d like to be, and what you’re looking for out of it.

1. PenPal.me

Disclaimer: Yes, that’s us! 👋 .

PenPal is the top platform for matching members safely and easily. On PenPal, you connect or are matched with members worldwide and you send postcards online, which are then printed and sent physically in the post by the service. We’ll go further in to how to find a pen pal on the site later, but for now, here are the main advantages of using PenPal to connect.

  • PenPal keeps your address and name private by encrypting it in the backend. That means other pen pals will send you a *real* postcard online, but you will receive it in the post, all securely and privately.
  • It’s just super easy. You personalize a postcard and write your message online. But once you click send, the postcard is printed sent via snail mail to your pen pal. That saves you a trip to the post office and the wild search for your stationary and stamps.
  • Our mission is to be accessible to all, so the service and your account is completely free – you just pay for the postcard itself which includes worldwide delivery all for just $2.

Who’s it for? This platform is great for anyone concerned about their security, or wanting to find a pen pal the snail mail way – but less time-consuming!

2. Conversation Exchange

Conversation Exchange is great for people looking to practice their language skills. The site allows you to connect online or choose snail mail and helps you to narrow down a selection of members by filtering for your preferred language.

Who’s it for? This site is ideal for language learners who want to practice their written skills with someone also learning the language – or by taking it in turns to help with your native language skills.

3. Instagram

You probably didn’t know that on Instagram, you can ‘place an ad’ for a PenPal on lots of accounts (or your own) For example give #penpalswantedandneeded a search and you’re sure to find posts specifically designed for people to comment their name, age, interests and where they live. Next, you can reach out to pen pals who could be a good match by DM and get their address to start your offline relationship. Another way of doing this, is posting a picture on your own account and using the right hashtags to make sure the people see it who you’re wanting to connect with: #penpalswanted #penpalsneeded #findpenpals – these are all great places to start! Just make sure you’ve written clearly that, ‘I want a pen pal.’

Who’s it for?: This method of finding a pen pal is best for people looking to get creative and willing to put the time in. Penpalling on Instagram is often very aesthetically-focused and pen pals here take pride in creating works of art to send in the post.

How to find a penpal the traditional way

Of course, there are ways to find pen pals in a more traditional way, although it may take more searching! Give these a go:

  • Go local: Search for local clubs, or take a look on your local governmental council to see what kind of initiatives there are.
  • Try asking your school or collage what kind of programs exist. They might well have a scheme with a partner school or university abroad. And if they don’t already, why not help them set one up!
  • Do you have a friend or family member who lives far away? Ask for their address and send a letter! Maybe it’s the beginning of a beautiful pen friendship!

How to find a pen pal on PenPal

It’s so easy it hardly needs explaining, but here goes!

  1. Use PenPal Match to connect with a mystery member. You get three choices per day, and have 24 hours to send them a card before the match runs out. Alternatively, use the PenPal Search function to directly find a username if you know someone on the platform.
  2. Next click ‘Send a card’. You can take a look at their PenPal profile to give you some ideas on what to talk about if you like. If you share a language in common, feel free to use it – otherwise if in doubt, use English.
  3. Use one of the designs or upload a personal photo. Then write your message and click send. There’s no need to add the address because this will automatically be added in the backend for security purposes.
  4. Once you click send, your postcard will be printed and sent off in the post within 24 hours on working days. Depending on where your Pal lives, they’ll receive the card soon and register it to let you know! Check out the FAQs for expected snail mail delivery times.
A graphic showing how to find a pen pal on the PenPal site, describing the process from sending, receiving, acting as pen pals and privacy.

You’ve managed to find a pen pal… But what should you write?

Your main concern now is probably *just* finding the right words. Especially for people new to the world of penpalling, introductions or finding themes can prove difficult. Here are some ideas:

Ways to start your pen pal relationship

Make sure to check out this in depth article on how to write a pen pal letter here. But if you just a need a couple of ideas to get started, keep reading for examples and tips.

Close up of hands writing a letter to a pen pal the person managed to find
  1. With an introduction! Simply tell your new pen pal something about yourself. Here’s how that could look…

Nice to meet you! I’m (your name) and I’m brand new to this pen pal stuff. So I’ll start off by telling you a bit about myself. I’m from (your home town), but I live in (your current town). I adore doing (your interests e.g. travelling, drawing, reading).

  1. Next you can draw a link from your introduction to them. If your on PenPal, you can simply take a look at their profile to get an idea of common interests. If not, try something like this following your introduction…

How about you? Here’s what I imagine our common interests to be, correct me if I’m wrong! Food – because who doesn’t love fooood. Chocolate – okay, that’s also a food, but we can’t be (pen) friends if it isn’t ;). And (an interest or like you have, plus the reason it’s listed).

  1. Close of your letter or postcard and make sure to ask a question to get the conversation started. If you’re using PenPal, you could talk about your personal photo you used to design your postcard, for example by asking them if they have visited the city depicted. Alternatively how about something like this…

Tell me a word that describes how people think of you and the word that you think describes you best! Sending thoughts from (your country),

(Your name)

Staying safe as a pen pal

If you worried about how to stay safe as a pen pal, your best option is going through a service like PenPal, since your address and name will be kept private. This will keep you anonymous.

Some other things you should be wary of are:

  • Sending money: Never send a person money that you only know online – it’s almost certainly a scam.
  • Make sure you trust your pen pal before you share personal details like your name or address.
  • If you’re on a pen pal site, double check your privacy settings are set to what makes you comfortable.
  • Always supervise kids who are writing to pen pals.

Still struggling to find a pen pal?

Why not write a little note about yourself in the comments and try to get matched right here! Or…

Author

British girl turned German-wannabe- that's me! 👋 If living in Berlin has taught me anything, it's that learning about other cultures is always fun... And short of actually traveling to a country and meeting locals in person, being a pen pal has proved a great way to virtually discover people and places!

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