What is a Pen Pal / Pen Friend?

You have probably heard the phrase “pen pal” but are now wondering what is a pen pal? should I get one?

Where would I find one, and what are the benefits if I do?

In simple terms, pen-pals, sometimes called pen friends, are two people who write letters to each other, but there is much more to having a pen pal than sending the occasional letter.

In this guide, we will show you everything you need to know so that you can go and find your first pen pal.

1. Pen Pal Meaning

The Cambridge English Dictionary describes the pen pal Meaning as “someone who you exchange letters with as a hobby, but usually have not met:

And the Collins English Dictionary states that the definition of a pen pal is as follows: “A pen pal is someone you write friendly letters to and receive letters from, although the two of you may never have met.”

While it is true that most pen pals/pen friends have never met when they first start writing to each other, after a while, they may arrange to meet up as their friendship grows.

Many pen pals met on holiday or business trips and decided to keep in contact by writing letters to each other.

For these two widely respected organizations to state in answer to the question, what is a pen pal? that it is merely someone you are exchanging letters with as a hobby or writing friendly letters to is entirely inaccurate.

People have many reasons for becoming pen pals, and it isn’t usually anything as simple as a hobby, or they like sending friendly letters.

It is about building a relationship with someone through exchanging letters, which can have many benefits.

2. Pen Pal Benefits

The Benefits of Pen Pals

2.1. Eases Loneliness and Isolation

In today’s society, many older people live independently and feel lonely and isolated. They may not have any social interaction apart from the weekly shopping or a walk in the park.

Pen pals are a great way for people to expand their network of friends, and they don’t even need to be in your neighborhood, town, state, or even the same country.

It is not just older people who may feel alone; depression is a cruel illness that can affect people of all ages, making them feel isolated and alone.

Getting support is essential to overcoming it, and people suffering from depression tend to withdraw even from their families and friends.

Some people find it easier to express their feelings to a stranger than to a close family member.

They find that it can help to write down how they are feeling and share it with someone who has perhaps been through depression and understands what they are going through.

2.2. Learn a New Language

It’s been proven that writing down foreign words and phrases is one of the best ways to learn a foreign language. Journaling is one of the most popular ways to learn a new language.

If you can also find a pen pal who lives in a country that speaks the language you want to learn, this will rapidly accelerate your learning.

Having a pen pal does this in two ways. They can help your understanding of the language by correcting and explaining any errors in your letters.

It is just like having your tutor without the expense.

Writing regularly and building friendships motivate you to keep improving and learning their language so that you can communicate more easily in their language.

2.3. Learn About a Different Culture

Having a pen pal/ pen-friend is one of the best ways to learn about different cultures. Your pen pal will naturally write about what daily life is like for them.

When you reply, you will also want to know more about your pen pal’s lifestyle and ask questions.

This gives you a great insight into what it is like in that country which is far better than seeing a news bulletin on CNN or a documentary on the Discovery Channel.

2.4. Making Friends with Shared Interests

Pen pals are an excellent way to expand your network of friends with the same interests as you.

There have been many famous author pen pals such as J.R.R Tolkien and C.S Lewis.

Still, your shared interest could be anything from stamp collecting to cake decorating or even a sporting activity such as fishing or golf.

You may not be able to find a friend in your neighborhood who is a like-minded soul, but with pen pals, you have the whole world to find new friends; all you need is a pen and paper.

Check out our guide, How to Find a Pen Pal Who Shares Your Interests.

3. How to Find a Pen Pal

How do you find pen pals

Now that you know what a Pen pal is and the benefits that can be had by regular writing to each other, you are thinking, that’s great, but where do I start? How do I find my first pen pal?

Several websites are online specifically for finding pen pals, some more suitable for younger people, such as Pen Pal Schools, or with a specific interest, such as prisoner pen pals.

We covered how to find a pen pal in great depth in our guide Find a Pen Pal and Make Lifelong Friends: 8 Proven Strategies!

However, the following three websites are a great place to start.

3.1. Pen Pal World

Pen Pal World is one of the largest pen pal websites, it is free to join, and you can message three potential Pen pals per day once you have signed up, create a profile, and then can browse through other profiles for potential Pen pals.

3.2. Global Pen Friends

Global Pen Friends is an established Pen pal website similar to Pen pal World. you sign up and create a profile.

Once signed up, you can message other members but have to purchase credits to access potential pen pals’ email addresses.

3.3. Reddit r/penpals/

Reddit r/penpals/ is a new way to meet new pen pals, post a message, and wait for a response.

It looks like it is mainly younger people who use it, but Reddit is free to sign up and use.

4. Pen Pal Safety Tips

The consensus is that having a pen pal is relatively safe as the people engaged in most of these relationships live in different countries.

Unfortunately, there are however fraudsters about as with most things in life. So, the number one rule is Don’t send any money or give out your bank account details to someone you have met online.

We have written an in-depth post with our Top 5 Pen Pal Safety Tips that is well worth reading if you are concerned.

We also have a Pen Pal Safety Guide that is specifically for parents and children.

If you are uncomfortable giving out your home address, you could use a PO box, although these are expensive. A better option is to start exchanging emails and building relationships before giving out your home address.

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