We're really excited to share today's blog post with you--read on and prepare to catch the Postcrossing bug! Over the past 4 years of hosting the Write_On Campaign we've made so many interesting connections with other passionate letter-writers and letter-writing groups around the world. One of these is Postcrossing, an international postcard exchange program, which at over 41 million postcards sent is hardly a niche community. We had so much fun teaming up with them on a giveaway last year and this year we wanted to share more about this amazing community and resource with Write_On participants. Thank you to Ana Campos, the Postcrossing community manager, who has graciously agreed to share more about Postcrossing with us.
And thank you also to Alexey of @posting2you for sharing the wonderful photos for this post. You can follow Alexey's Postcrossing adventures on Instagram. So far he has posted from 64 countries including North Korea, Cuba, Australia, Sri Lanka, and most recently Turkmenistan (!!). He tries to post a card from every country that he visits and shares with us a fantastic tour of beautiful postal boxes around the world along with interesting trivia about each country's postal systems.
How did Postcrossing get started?
Postcrossing was started by Paulo Magalhães, in the summer of 2005. Back then, Paulo was an IT student doing his internship with a tech company in Portugal, and on his free time, he started to play with the idea of Postcrossing. He loved receiving mail, and especially postcards, but there's only so many postcards you can send to your own friends and expect to get something back... so he wondered whether there were perhaps other people out there who, like him, enjoyed sending and receiving postcards but had no one to connect with. Little by little, he shaped and coded this idea into an online platform where people from everywhere could connect with the goal of exchanging postcards. He invited a few friends to join, and they invited a few friends, who invited a few friends... and 44 million postcards later, here we are! :)
Half of the over 44 million postcards sent have come from Germany, The Netherlands, Finland, Russia, and the USA. Any theories about why Postcrossing is so popular in certain countries?
There are different reasons for why Postcrossing is more popular in some countries than others and it's often a combination of different factors. In some of them, it might be just because they're huge countries (Russia, USA), while in others it probably comes from a deeply ingrained letter-writing culture (Finland) and in others still, the postal service understands the value of Postcrossing and works with us to promote it (Germany, Netherlands).
The popular countries do change over time though, as word spreads in waves — a long time ago, every second card seemed to come from either Portugal or Brazil for instance, and that is not the case now.
Penpals are often considered a childhood activity. Do many kids use Postcrossing?
There are lots of schools and children on Postcrossing — and we think that's amazing! Postcards are small and informal enough that writing one isn't as daunting for a child as writing a whole letter could be, and sometimes there's even space for them to use their creative skills. Receiving a postcard offers a number of learning opportunities as well — from the postcard image to the message or even the stamp themes. Many teachers use the postcards they send and receive to encourage their classes to practice their English skills or to discover more about other places. It's one thing to read about the pyramids in a geography book... but it's much nicer to receive a real postcard from Egypt, from someone who is there and can tell you about them first-hand, right?
The project is just as popular with grandmas though — and everyone in between! :) We make sure Postcrossing is a welcoming community to people of all countries and ages, regardless of their religious, political or cultural backgrounds.
Any tips on what should you write to a complete stranger?
Anything that is on your mind, or that you find interesting because odds are, your recipient will find it interesting as well! Most towns have something that makes them unique or special: a discovery that happened there, an important person who lived nearby, or maybe even a unique confectionery that everyone should try!
I personally enjoy receiving a glimpse of what a day looks like for someone who is on the other side of the world... what did they have for lunch today? What are they studying right now? What was one nice or surprising thing that happened to them today?
Do many first postcards lead to a lasting correspondence?
Yup! People often discover that "strangers" across the world have a lot more in common with them than they expected... and after a first conversation via postcard, they end up exchanging more postcards or even emails and letters. Some eventually meet and become friends in "real life". We've told a few of these stories here: https://www.postcrossing.com/blog/tag/friendship
Any advice for keeping a letter-writing practice going?
Just do it! As they say, "you need to send a letter to get a letter". To me, just the act of settling down with my stationery to send someone a surprise is as rewarding as receiving something in the mail. The fact that I know I'm about to make someone happy brings me immense joy!
What's your most memorable Postcrossing story?
There are just so many to choose from! From marriages to community-organised meetups in unusual places (such as on desert islands or trains!), dozens of friendship stories, stamps issued to honour the project, collaborations with schools, libraries and museums...
One collaboration we are especially proud of happened with a school in Tuvalu, one of the smallest nations in the world. The teachers and students there wanted to mark Earth Day by bringing the world's attention to the plight of their country, which, due to climate change is at risk of soon being "swallowed" by the rising sea levels. We've helped them register on Postcrossing, and over several years they've sent 811 postcards from their tiny island to the whole world! And of course, they also received the same amount of postcards, and the children were ecstatic to see the world through all the cards they've received. Tuvalu is one of the most remote places in the world (halfway between Hawaii and Australia), so giving those children a chance to see what is out there outside of their tiny island was very rewarding. You can read more about it here: https://www.postcrossing.com/blog/tag/tuvalu