Postcrossing Blog

News, updates, and all kinds of goodies and stories from the postal world!

Héléna (aka Helena2008) is a young postcrosser from the French region of Auvergne. Earlier this year, she gave an interview about her hobby to teen magazine “Trampoline”… and that’s how we knew we had a very enthusiastic postcrosser in the area! Turns out, she has a lot of stories to tell, so we invited her to the blog, with the help of her mom Marie (aka Marie007. Here they are:

Hi Héléna! How did you come across Postcrossing? What got you hooked?

Two years ago, my mom saw an article about postcrossing on Facebook. It was the evening, and I was in my bed, almost sleeping. Mom was very excited by this project, and she thought I would be interested, too. So she came in my bedroom, turned on the light, woke me, and she asked me if I was interested in this project. Of course I said “yes”. I didn’t know it at this moment, but it was the beginning of a great adventure! :)

Postcrossing Spotlight: Helena2008 from France!
Do you have any other interesting hobbies?

I collect stamps with animals and flowers. Postcrossing is a wonderful way to discover very beautiful stamps! Sometimes postcrossers use an envelope and they add some stamps inside the envelope just for me. It’s very nice and I always thank them. I’m very interested about languages, especially English. I learn English at school, and also at home with a free internet website named Duolingo. When I’ll be older, I would like to own a “learning languages store”. I’d like to be an English teacher for adults.

Show us your mailbox, your mailman/mailwoman, your postoffice or the place where you post or keep your postcards!

My mailman has a lot of work because of me! He is so used to deliver postcards to me, that sometimes he puts in my mailbox postcards which are not for me! When it happens, I take them and put them in the mailbox of my neighbors. At home, I have a wall where I put my postcards.

Postcrossing Spotlight: Helena2008 from France!
Show and tell us about your favorite received postcard to date, and what makes it special.

My favorite postcard was the one I have received from the city Helena, Montana, USA. It was so strange to see my name written on a postcard!! I also love to receive postcards of rabbits. I have a rabbit, so I’m crazy about these nice and soft animals.

Postcrossing Spotlight: Helena2008 from France!
What is it your favorite part of the Postcrossing process?

My favorite part of postcrossing is to go to my mailbox and see if there is a postcard for me :) The more exciting is when I receive an envelope. It’s wonderful to open it and to discover what it is inside. Some postcrossers are very nice with me and they send to me some girly stickers, stamps, or coins from their country. It’s very kind and it makes me very happy.

Have you been surprised by any place that you have received a postcard from or sent a postcard to?

Yes, I have been surprised many times by the places that I have received postcards. With a swap, I have received a postcard from Syria. It was from a girl who is almost the same age as I am. It’s hard to think about her and about the war in her country. I often think about this little girl and I hope she is fine.

Have you met any other members in real life?

I also love to travel around the world with my mom. In August 2016, Jeremy, a very nice American postcrosser invited me and my mom to visit the city of Helena (capital of Montana, USA). It was absolutely wonderful!! I went in a plane for the first time of my life, I have discovered America, eaten real hamburgers, visited a ghost town, looked for gold nuggets, visited the city of Helena…

Postcrossing Spotlight: Helena2008 from France!

This trip was the best moment of my life! After that, I have invited this postcrosser to France. He came in my house during summer 2017. It was great to show him my country and to see each other again. We are still in touch, and my mom and I are planning a trip next summer, to go back to Helena. I already know that it’s going to be awesome!

I have also met many french postcrossers, during Postcrossing meetings. I went with my mom to the meetings of Avignon, Lyon, Ternay, Valence… It’s really good to see postcrossers in real life. They are very nice and they have become my friends. My favorite meeting was last Autumn, when mom and I have organised a meeting in our own home. There were 20 persons and we have sent 435 postcards on this day!! I live in a small village with only 550 inhabitants. I can’t imagine the face of the postman the day after, when he has found the mailbox full of postcards to send!! :)

Postcrossing Spotlight: Helena2008 from France!
Is there anything that you are passionate about?

I love to travel the world and discover different cultures. I hope to receive one postcard from each country in the world. I have a big map in my house, where I can color the countries once I have received a postcard. I have currently received postcards from 98 countries. My bigger dream is to receive a postcard from North Korea. Maybe one day it will happen…

Postcrossing Spotlight: Helena2008 from France!
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When we’re talking to other postcrossers at meetings, we often hear about their long term penpals, and how some people have kept up a steady correspondence back and forth for years. So it got us curious… how many postcrossers had or still have penpals? And if they never tried it, how many would be interested in giving penpaling a go in the future?

To find out, we ran a poll on the front page last week, and collected 8351 votes. These are the results:

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As our own suspicions hinted, postcrossers are naturally fans of letter writing, with most people either having one at the moment (32%), or having had one in the past (33%). A further 24% of the respondents had never tried, but are eager to give it a go someday, and only 11% of participants stated that they were not interested.

The breakdown of the results by country can be seen below, but please take these numbers with a grain of salt. The average age range of postcrossers varies wildly in places, with Asian countries typically being home to much younger postcrossers, while things are more evenly distributed in the Western hemisphere. Naturally, this has an indirect impact in the results, as younger people might not have had the time to try penpaling yet. That said, here they are:

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It’s always tricky to make conclusions from these kind of informal studies, but Japan seems to be the reigning champion of penpals at the moment, with over 50% of postcrossers still keeping in touch with theirs, and only 19% having given up over time.

Finland stands out as well — can you spot it on the graph? Over 97% of postcrossers have either tried, still have or are interested in penpaling. This does not come as a surprise, knowing their top spot on Postcrossing’s per capita ranking!

Which countries have more people looking for penpals for the first time, you ask? That would be China, India, Taiwan and Ukraine, all of which have over 40% participants in that category. (By the way, if that’s you, did you know that there’s a section in the Postcrossing forum dedicated to finding penpals?)

And Portugal, the birth country of Postcrossing, appears to be the one where people are least interested in penpals at all… Both Paulo and I have had penpals before, so I confess this is a somewhat surprising result for us. 😅 Perhaps other Portuguese postcrossers want to chime in on the topic?

In any case, how did your own country fare? Are the results more or less in line with your experience and expectations? Let’s discuss it on the comments below!

PS – As usual, only countries with more than 50 votes are included, so that the results can be more meaningful.

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After their stay in London, the Little Mail Carriers did a detour to the beautiful island of Guernsey, to have a rest from the hustle and bustle of the city. Denise (aka Tranchile) was their host for the stay, and had fun showing them around, despite the windy days that coincided with their visit.

Hello from Guernsey! 👋 We’re so glad to be here with our host Denise, who promised to give us the tour of the island where she lives. Shall we get started?

Little Chapel in Guernsey

One of highlights of Guernsey is this tiny chapel (appropriately called “Little Chapel”), built by Brother Déodat in July 1914. It is meant to be a miniature version of the grotto and basilica in Lourdes, France and is covered in pebbles, shells and broken colorful china. Now and then, volunteers repair the damage done by the weather over the years… Denise even remembers donating a broken cereal bowl of hers for repairs, when she was a child!

Cobo Beach

This is Cobo Beach, one of twenty eight beaches in Guernsey! There’s is a chip shop by the sea wall, and we saw some locals eating fish and chips from a bag there while watching the waves. Denise tells us that a film screen is put on the beach at low tide during summer, and the hotel opposite has a balcony and there is a big rocks concert played from there whilst people sit on the beach and listen to it… Sounds wonderful!

Looking at the Bailiwick's islands

We were hoping to visit one of the other Islands that come under the Bailiwick of Guernsey, but during our stay it was unusually windy and the ferries were cancelled. :( We had to hold onto each other whilst looking over the QE11 Marina at three of the islands instead.

From left to right, the first island is Herm, and you can just see the glorious sand there. It’s a quiet place with just one hotel, several cottages to rent and two camp sites. It also has a school for just about six children and the staff who work there. Jethou is the middle island, which is privately leased and not open to the public, and the bigger island on the right is Sark. It has no traffic, but if you are fit you can cycle around the island, or use horse and carts to go around at a more gentle pace.

Castle Cornet

Above you can see Castle Cornet, which was built in the 13th century, to defend the islands from the French. It’s been attacked and captured several times over the years, and finally returned to the islands in 1947 after reconstruction. Today it houses several museums and period gardens, and this half-term the schoolchildren have been dressed as Harry Potter characters and making spell books etc inside the main museum. How fun!

In the summer, a cannon is fired there at noon each day, which Denise tells us can be heard all over the island.

Guernsey's Number 1 Postbox

This is something we were looking forward to see: Guernsey’s Number 1 Postbox! It is the oldest working postbox in the British Isles and was put there by the Post Office Surveyor Anthony Trollope on 8th February 1853, as an experiment to see how well they would work for collecting mail. He had been impressed with the system of pillar boxes in France, and decided to test them on the Channel Islands. The experiment was so successful that they were later introduced in the UK.

Although the first postbox was red, all the modern ones are a lovely blue color.

Blue Guernsey postbox

The Market Square is a lively place in St. Peter Port, and it was there that we met 2 little friends, next to this curious statue… Can you guess why they made a statue of donkeys? It turns out that people from Guernsey are nicknamed “Guernsey Donkeys”, while those from nearby Jersey are known as “Crapauds” (or toads)!

Market Square and Donkey statues

Since we were just around the corner from it, Denise and our friends took us to see the Town Church, built in 1475. We looked up in awe at its beautiful stained glass windows and ornate pews, where the Liberation service is held every year on May 9th.

Town Church Town Church

Can you spot the gargoyle in the roof below? The white building next to it is a pub, and so this gargoyle is said to make this the closest church to a pub in the British Isles — it’s even in the Guinness, apparently! Maybe we’ll go in and grab something to eat before hopping back into our envelope…

Town Church gargoyle

See you later everyone… or, as they say around here, à la perchoine!

PS – Thank you Denise for showing the Little Mail Carriers around Guernsey! Where will they pop up next…? 🤔

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Writing prompt The writing prompts are an ongoing experiment that invites postcrossers to write about a different topic on their postcard’s messages every month. These are just suggestions though — if you already know what you want to write about, or the recipient gives you some pointers, that’s great too!

We’ve suggested book and music-themes for these writing prompts before… but what about movies? Cinema is a popular past-time, with many people enjoying a movie now and then.

In September, write about the last movie you’ve seen.

At the time I’m writing this post, the last movie we’ve seen was Coco, a fun animated movie about a music-loving boy who accidentally finds himself in the Land of the Dead… and gets into all kinds of adventures trying to find his way back to his family. It’s beautifully done and I promise that after you watch it, you’ll never be able to see a “Remember me” checkbox on any login page again without humming the corresponding song from the movie… 😜

What about you? Was the last movie you’ve seen any good? Share your big screen tips on the postcards you write this month!

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Andry (aka Andry1961) from Estonia is a special postcrosser: over the past 7 years, he has mailed postcards from over 30 different countries! Before the Travel Mode came along, this was not a very easy task… but his diligence and determination to get those countries on the map were part of the inspiration behind the new feature.

For years, we’ve been fascinated by Andry’s many travels around the world, so this spotlight interview was long overdue — come meet a globetrotting member of the community! :)

How did you discover Postcrossing, and what made you stay?

I have always spent a lot of time in post offices sending postcards to my acquaintances. One day, my girlfriend sent me a link about Postcrossing and told that this might be something that interests me. That was true! It was very interesting to meet other people who shared the same interest to send postcards, to receive them, to choose them, to explore the stamps from different countries and of course the label “par avion”.

When and how did your traveling adventures around the world start?

I have been interested in collectibles since the early days of my teenage years. As the collectors gatherings happened all over the USSR, it led me to travel alone to Riga (Latvia) in 1974 when I was just 13 years old, then to Leningrad (now St Petersburg) in Russia, after that to Chisinau (now part of Moldova) etc. Since those days, I have already visited 115 countries of the 193 member states of the United Nations.

Andry mailing some postcards in East Timor
Andry mailing some postcards in East Timor.
What are your favorite countries so far (if you can choose) and why?

Countries where I want to go back again and again are Australia and USA. To rent a car there and to just drive and stop in places which are really famous or maybe places that I have never heard before. In Estonia, where I live, you can drive 3 hours maximum and then you meet the state border.

One of the most valued travels were to Antarctica (I went there in 2009 with research ship Akademik Ioffe), to Ushuaia (southernmost part of Argentina) and I especially value a travel to Iraq.

We traveled to Iraq in November 2012 with a small group of 13 people from Estonia, going to Bagdad, Samarra, old Mesopotamia, Karbala, Najaf and Basra. We did not come across any other tourists there, but there was a lot to see! The locals asked us to pass on a message: “It is safe here, we are waiting for tourists!”… but just half a year later it was impossible to travel there. I also sent some postcards to postcrossers from there. I was supposed to send one postcard to Israel, a country that you couldn’t even mention in Iraq, much less send a postcard to. I wrote the address as it was, but instead of Israel wrote Ireland as the country name. I guess they figured it out in the post office in Ireland, as some time later the postcard reached its Israeli recipient. Great thanks to them!

Inside the post office in Bagdad, Iraq.
Inside the post office in Bagdad, Iraq.

The visiting of Iraq post office was also a very special. Although they assured us it was safe, they did not allow us to go anywhere alone without an escort. So, they organized a visit to the post office for the whole group because of my passion, with an escort of 12 soldiers and two local guides. :)

What’s your favourite part about visiting a new country? Is there anything that you do in all the countries you visit?

Visit a post office (and I’ve been doing this since the age of 13), go to a market and if possible, use some form of local public transportation.

Outside a post office in South Georgia
Outside a post office in South Georgia island.
What countries are next on your list?

This year I have plans to visit Andorra, San Marino, Saudi Arabia (If I get the tourist visa) and Columbia. In the first half of the next year I plan to visit 7 African countries located along the gulf of Guinea. And of course, the neighboring countries of Estonia, including attending some meetups nearby.

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