Postcrossing is a lovely and fairly safe way to share postcards from around the world with hundreds of random strangers. We cheer for any unusual hobbies that rely on the good old-fashioned postal service!
I don’t know about you, but personally I’m up there and cheering for any hobby that involves good old-fashioned use of the postal service. Royal Mail, I salute you! Despite those strikes that you often have that delay my post, and despite confusion over what exactly constitutes a ‘large letter’… other than that, Post Office, you rock!
So when I stumbled on postcrossing my first reaction was that of a Toy Story Alien (‘Ooooooooh!’). The idea is simple. Postcrossing is a postcard project that enables you to receive a postcard for every postcard you send. As one of the website’s slogans states, ‘I send Therefore I receive’.
How does postcrossing work?
Well… You simply create yourself a free account at www.postcrossing.com and give yourself a bit of a profile. This is what people writing to you are able to see so it’s your chance to tell them a little about yourself. Members also use this profile as a place to write about their postcard preferences too. I wouldn’t advice you to make demands for specific types of postcards (in other words leave the use of the words ‘I WANT’ to ‘Veruca Salt’). You can, however, write about the types of postcards you would LIKE to receive in this profile, such as ‘city views’, ‘multi views’, ‘art’, ‘ad cards’ and similar themes to give senders an idea of what would interest you the most.
When you first sign up, you have a limit of 5 postcards travelling at any one time. This means you can have five addresses to write to but you won’t be given anymore until one of those cards reaches its destination and gets registered. When the card is registered it unlocks another address for you to use, as well as unlocking your address for somebody else in the world to write to you. (So, yes, you are sent a card from a random person somewhere in the world, NOT from the person who you sent a card to this way it is more a worldwide chain opposed to a pen pal type project).
When you are given an address you are also given an ID number that you MUST MUST MUST write somewhere on the postcard you are sending and this is the only way the receiver can register it when it reaches the destination. For every ‘sent’ card registered, another address is unlocked.
Over time, the more cards you send the more addresses you can unlock at any one time, taking the limit up one from the standard 5 for every twenty postcards you send (phew… did you get all of that?)
Is it safe? Who can see my address?
As with everything, providing your address online is going to have its risks. Postcrossing does not display your address to anyone other than the person who has unlocked it through actively participating through the project. I’m glad to say that I have received over 150 postcards with no problems or nasty experiences whatsoever… and hope to continue to do so.
What if your card doesn’t get registered?
Every postcard expires in 60 days. If your postcard isn’t registered by then or seems to have taken a detour and decided it wanted a holiday somewhere other than where you addressed it to, you are able to unlock another address. In my experience I have had postcards arrive in anything from 3 days to 43 days so be patient – as I suppose it depends how quickly the ‘postie’ can do his rounds, or indeed how quickly the recipient of your lovely postcards makes it to their computer to register your card. Of all the cards I’ve sent I had only about 4 expire. Not bad going, really!
When you receive the card yourself, you can register the ID on it via the ‘register a postcard’ link (funnily enough) and type a little optional message of thanks to the sender. You will only start receiving cards as your ‘sent’ cards start to get registered.
What else do I need to be aware of when postcrossing?
* Language – Profiles give you the opportunity to tell everyone whatever language(s) you speak (i.e Basic English and Fluent Elvish). It’s handy to bare this in mind to save you writing an essay to somebody who doesn’t speak fluent in the same language you do. English is mostly used, so if you are like me, speak English and can just about muster enough words in French to order a cheese sandwich… don’t worry.
* Changing your options – You can edit your profile to choose whether you would like to send and receive cards from your own country too.
* Your Postcard Wall – Every member has a ‘wall’, which is like an album where you can scan in any postcards you receive or send for people to comment on or view. Sometimes very nice senders or receivers scan these cards in for you; we call these people our favourites!
*Know your countries I’ve actually found out about countries I never knew existed through doing this project. I’ll let you decide whether that translates as ‘Postcrossing is an educational project’ or merely that my knowledge of geography is just as poor as my language skills… Anyway, the reason you’ll need to know the countries is so you can separate countries into European or International to put the correct postage stamp on it. As with many things, if in doubt, there’s always Wikipedia.
So there it is – the beginner’s guide to becoming a Postcrosser. Now all you need is some stamps, some postcards, enough ink in your pen and away you go!
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