How penpalling has helped these letter writers in Scotland form friendships during lockdown

Forming friendships on a night out or at a relative’s dinner party is becoming a distant memory as Scots approach the one-year anniversary of Covid.

Carly Mendoza and Dawn Murray who have both been busy penpalling during lockdown picture: supplied

For many, however, a way of keeping an active social life during lockdown has been through penpalling.

The long-standing hobby has seen a spike in interest across the globe since the pandemic hit last year forcing people to spend more time indoors.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Whether it is down to relying on one of the few thrills had in lockdown – a letter through the post – or an urge to form new friendships in this period of isolation, penpalling, otherwise known as snail mail, is thriving.

Carly Mendoza with her colourful envelopes ready to send to her newly-formed penpals picture: supplied

Kera Statuch, who lives in Edinburgh, has made four new penpalships since the pandemic hit in March last year.

The 33-year-old antiquarian said the hobby has been a way of continuing strong, personal conversations with people that she would normally be having in person.

"Deep chats are best done face to face, or in letters, not over the internet,” she said.

"Social media is for fast communication, but letters are for more than that.

Dawn Murray, from Forfar, who has taken on eight new pen pals since lockdown hit in March last year picture: supplied

"Sometimes a response to an ‘are you OK?’ message deserves more than just something typed on the bus or while stirring spaghetti.”

While Kera has been writing to a couple of her friends since she was a teenager, she said the pandemic encouraged her to join Facebook groups set up for pen pals to extend her letter-writing reach.

"Lockdown forced us into an unconventional situation with so much extra time.

"It certainly made me want to expand my social circle through letter writing.

"I think many people have thought the same.

"Once someone stumbles upon a pen pal group on Facebook, there’s a ripple effect.

"It’s only human nature to want a pen pal after hearing what fun it is, even more so if it comes with cute little gifts from rare corners of the Earth.”

Mother-of-one Carly Mendoza, from Glasgow, said the desire to keep connected to others during the pandemic drove her to pick up her pen and start writing.

After adding herself to specific Facebook groups, she said she was amazed by the amount of interest in the hobby, which is often threatened to go completely extinct in the digital age.

"I used to write letters as a teenager and I wanted to pick it up again when I had more time on my hands,” she said.

"I thought I was going to come back to it and be the eldest person doing it, but there are many people my age and older doing it.”

The 40-year-old, who lives with her husband Johnny and one-year-old baby Emily, said reading letters from her pen pals is “just like sitting across from a friend in a cafe having a cup of tea”.

"The first few letters can be a bit awkward, getting to know one another," she said. “But I have formed really strong connections with new people, which is something we are missing in lockdown.”

Carly doesn’t add any of her penpals on social media. They are purely relationships based on writing letters to and from each other.

"There’s something quite special about keeping a friendship going without using the internet” she said.

"I also keep all the letters and it can be nice taking some time to sit and look over them, to see how things have changed and progressed in your life over time.”

The civil servant, who has written about 15 letters so far, has become a hit in her local post office.

"I go to town with stationary, so everything is covered in stickers and very colourful,” she said. “It certainly cheers the lady at the post office up a lot.”

Dawn Murray, from Forfar, has been penpalling for 14 years. She has 22 pen pals in total from countries including USA, New Zealand, Canada and Australia.

The keen letter writer, who helps run Facebook group Snailmail Penpals From All Over The World which has more than 25,000 followers, said because of the interest she took on an extra eight letting writing buddies.

“I love it, and I do it for the friendship,” she said.

"I struggle with anxiety and depression and I find it hard to meet people a lot of the time, especially in lockdown.

"But with some of my penpals, I feel closer to them than some friends in person.”

Dawn, 40 said people who first get into penpalling can be a bit shy, but lockdown is certainly bringing more out of the woodwork.

“I think due to not being able to go out, people have wanted to start writing, or it’s something they used to do years ago and wanted to start again.

"It’s always nice to receive a letter. People usually say that they love an envelope through the door that’s not a bill.”


Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.