2010-02-14 — Good Characters (Leave a message)
The U.S. Postal Service has introduced a very nice set of Year of the Tiger limited edition note cards. It contains 12 note cards, 12 matching envelopes, and 12 matching 44 cents stamps for $14.95.
Instead of buying cards printed in China or Taiwan and mailing them to your contacts in China or Taiwan, send something produced right here in the U.S., or wherever your country is if you’re not in the U.S. Your Chinese recipients will be really happy to receive unique cards not available in China. And very likely they will keep the cards for a long time, if not forever.
The new year’s celebration lasts from 5 days to 15 days for most people. So it’s not too late to send your greetings if you haven’t done so.
Step 1: Buy the cards and stamps
The easiest way is to visit usps.com. It charges only $1 for shipping. The card set come with 12 stamps. It costs 98 cents to mail a greeting card to Asia. Therefore, you might want to purchase additional postage. My suggestion is to purchase an extra pane of 12 Year of the Tiger stamps for $5.28 and a pane of 20 American Clock 10 cent stamps for $2.
Step 2: Write the cards
When you handwrite the card, use blue or black ink, never red. If you use a calligraphy brush, black ink is the norm. When you use a fountain pen, gel pen, or ballpoint pen, blue is usually preferred over black. If you’re artistic, gold ink is fine as well. Teachers use red ink to critique and correct students’ papers and tests, so don’t use red ink. It’s worse than SHOUTING LIKE THIS and will bring you no good.
Unless you’re fairly close to the person, address the person by surname and title inside the card: Mr. Chen, Ms. Lin, or Dr. Chang. This form of address is polite and shows respect.
Carefully write your greeting so it leaves the impression that you actually spent time writing to the person, not hastily signing 500 cards without much thought.
When I was in junior high school, I had many American and Japanese pen pals. I could see a major difference between the two: almost all my Japanese pen pals used nice stationary and gave meticulous attention to their handwriting and other details whereas many of the American pen pals used thin 3-hole note paper or anything else they could grab. Their handwriting was sloppy, with many mistakes crossed out, not whited out like the Japanese would do.
The Chinese are somewhat in between. But I think people everywhere appreciate neatness. It shows that you actually spent time and cared about the communication.
Step 3: Address the envelope
Paste two 44 cent Year of the Tiger stamps and one 10 cent American Clock stamp nicely on the envelope. Make sure they line up and are not crooked.
Step 4: Mail it
It takes 4 to 7 days for a letter to reach your recipients in China, Hong Kong, or Taiwan. The postal services in these places are off for a few days for the Chinese New Year. It’s better to be late than never. And your contacts or friends will enjoy hearing from you.
Happy New Year!