Pen Pal Letters: How to Write Your First Letter

 

Sometimes in life you happen to acquire a pen pal. It might be someone you know, at least a little bit; maybe a new friend moves away and asks you if you’d write them, or you meet someone on a plane that you like so much you just have to keep in touch with the old fashioned way.

But it could be that you acquire a pen pal you know nothing about. Maybe you found something on the internet (like perhaps my pen pal match survey), or you acquired one through a friend who knows about your love for writing. 

Either way, you have their address, you get out a clean sheet of paper and you sit there with a pen in your hand. You find yourself thinking, “What should I write to my new pen pal? How do I start? What do I say?”

Pen pal letters can be tricky, because you don’t know a whole lot about the other person and vice versa. It’s difficult to know what they might find interesting.

That’s why I’ve made this post with some pointers, to help you write your first pen pal letter. And hey - maybe you don’t get to all of it in the first go ‘round and you can use it as a springboard for future pen pal letters!


Start by introducing yourself, explaining where you are writing from and what it’s like there. 

Put yourself on a map so the receiver has an idea of where you are in the world.

  1. Start the letter by introducing yourself and explaining where you are from
  2. Describe what life is like there
  3. If you live in a small town or a place that isn't known worldwide, reference the closest big city and tell them:
    1. how far it is from you and
    2. how you would get there from your house (train, plane, ferry, car)

 

Example letter on a desk with pens and a cup of coffee.

Paper shown: Scarecrow Plaid Stationery with reference lines - A4

Tell them a little bit more about your daily life

Pen Pals are mostly from other countries, or at least from different parts of the same country. Typically, your lifestyles will be quite different. To someone who has a whole different experience in life, their day to day habits are going to be much different than yours, so take some time to think about your “normal”, and try to explain it in your pen pal letter. Try answering these questions.

  • What do you do for work and how do you get to work (your mode of transportation)?
  • What do you do to relax?
  • Who do you live with and who do you have in your life that you are close to? Family? Coworkers? Friends?
  • What do you do with your friends?
  • What do you splurge on?
  • Where do you vacation?
  • Where do you spend a lot of time?

 

After this introduction, you can go into topics that

describe what you're interested in or currently busy with. 

Here are some ideas:

  • What are you currently learning how to do?
  • What have you always wanted to learn how to do (or play) and why?
  • Are you a part of any groups, organizations, clubs, or teams?
  • What do you geek out on?
  • How do you express your creativity?

 

Tell them what your typical eating and cooking habits are. 

If you're the type of person who enjoys cooking and trying new foods, you might be curious about your pen pal's eating habits. And again, a lot of the things that are normal to us may be completely foreign to someone in another country. Try answering these food-related questions in your letter, or pose them to your pen pal and await a response!

  • What are your favorite things to eat?
  • Do you cook? What are your go-to meals and where do you like to get your produce?
  • How do you get to the store? What is your typical grocery shopping routine?
  • What new recipe have you tried lately that you really loved?

 

Tell your pen pal about your personality and how you see the world.

Use these prompts to describe yourself to your pen pal.

  • How would your friends describe you? Are they correct or not?
  • What’s your favorite color and why?
  • What kind of style would you say you have?
  • What kind of stores do you like to shop at?
  • What are you good at?
  • What character traits do you wish you had or struggle with keeping in balance?
  • What are you known for?

Write about goals that you have.

If you write down your goals and get them on paper, even if you never look at it again, you are more likely to make those dreams come true! Especially if your pen pal keeps you accountable by asking about it in the future ;)

You could tell them about:

  • Places you want to travel
  • Things you want to accomplish
  • Things you want to learn how to do
  • Something you’ve always wanted to see
  • What your new year’s resolution is (or was), why you chose it, and whether or not you kept it up 
  • People you aspire to be like and why



If none of these call to you, just write about what you are hoping to hear about from them in their first letter. And if you still want some more ideas, check out this list from uncustomary.org of 100 Things to Tell Your Pen Pal, it’s full of great ideas!

I might have given you a lot to start with, but don’t worry. You can combine any number of these prompts from any list that you wish! You can mix and match, or you can just use it as a starting point and let the pencil lead you in whatever direction it decides.

Some pen pal letters are only one page long, some are 5 pages front and back (mine, I’m referring to mine, lol). Some letters are perfectly worded and lettered, some are a bit messier, with grammar mistakes and strikethroughs. 

Whatever comes out, let it be. Enjoy your pen pal experience! It will surely be unique and delightful. 

I hope this post gave you some good ideas for writing a nice, personal letter to introduce yourself to your new acquaintance. Keep writing and stay curious!!


With love,

Alison

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