Colorful letters as a model for pen pal projects

By Julia Schneider

Finding a letter from a friend in the mailbox triggers feelings of happiness. Reading nice words makes these positive feelings even greater, as they may evoke fond memories or tell about other great experiences. However, the postal service is not only overloaded before and at Christmas. Complaints about the post office have been increasing lately. In October and November alone, Berlin’s “Tagesspiegel” reported 17,000 complaints. In some regions, it is even claimed that no letters were delivered for weeks. 

But who does still write letters? This is a legitimate question, because the prerequisite for delivering a letter is that one has been written beforehand. Just like a tandem bicycle, it takes two people to make progress. It is the same thing with writing! If you now have the feeling that you have not received any mail for weeks, this may be because no one has written to you. That may be sad. But sometimes it is true. 

I haven’t written a letter for ages, that is, one with ink and fountain pen. This might be because I usually don’t have a fountain pen at hand, and if I do, I don’t have ink. On the other hand, it might just be an excuse. Because in the rare cases when I have both fountain pen and ink, and then paper, envelope as well as a stamp, I still don’t write a letter. That’s not a bad thing in most cases … at least that’s what I tell myself. After all, I can send a text message, an email, or a WhatsApp message. I can also send a message via Signal, Twitter, Instagram or Telegram … just the digital way. It is definitely enough to operate all these messaging services verbally, so that very rarely something remains for the paper. 

Of course, in my mind there is this person who could be me, sitting at his desk, pouring lines of ink on paper, putting it in an envelope and taking it to the post office. But this me is as far away from me as the guy who sits comfortably in his armchair and reads a good book for hours as a print copy. The armchair is there, the book as well – only I am missing from the scenery. More often than not, I’m hanging over my laptop, typing furiously with my fingers on the keyboard or staring into my smartphone. I write so few letters that I already have no idea what my handwriting looks like. Not neat, I’m afraid. So if you ever got a letter from me, it would probably be hard to decipher – similar to hieroglyphics.  When I do get mail, it’s usually not pleasant. Something that still tends to be sent by mail today, according to my feeling, are bills. Mostly, it’s requests for payment or notifications of price adjustments that end up in my mailbox. And if no notification or invoice comes, then a reminder. And if I don’t get a reminder, I get a collection notice … fortunately, it’s not quite that extreme yet.  

But it remains to be said: Going to the mailbox is no fun in most cases. I would actually not find it unpleasant to live in a district in Germany where no mail comes for weeks. I think such a consistent non-delivery would also have a certain charm for one or the other person from my area. Such a service might even be worth thinking about – if projects like “Bunte Briefe” didn’t exist.  

This pen pal project between seniors and immigrants is a real blessing, because it offers the possibility to build new relationships, to exchange life experiences and memories as well as to improve writing skills. The goal of such a pen tandem is that after the exchange by letter, there will be a chance of a face-to-face meeting and a long-term friendship which will continue even after the participation in this project.  

Bunte Briefe is the second project of the association Leb Bunt e.V. and meanwhile more than 750 (!) letters have been exchanged. And recently the project has been opened to Germans under 60 years of age.  

Do you also want to enjoy postal deliveries again in the future and going to the letterbox? If you are interested, please send an e-mail to The project runs only until the end of January … so sign up quickly! 😉 

Goodbye and maybe see you soon!