Image and text by Gabrielle.

This is just a little thing, and maybe it’s not particularly French, but one thing we noticed after living her for about a year, was that our traveling French friends always send us postcards during their trips. It seems to be part of their vacationing habits or traditions. And of course, it’s totally charming!

Postcards and France

Postcards from Australia. From England. From Spain. And when I traveled with Caroline to New York, one of the first things she wanted to do was send postcards home to her family and friends back in France. We’ve received more postcards in our time here than we did in our last 15 years in the U.S.

I’m not totally sure why the postcard tradition surprised me. I suppose it’s because I rarely if ever receive postcards from my American friends. When I think of why Americans don’t send postcards very often, I imagine it’s partly because when Americans vacation, they often take short trips — typically less than a week — which isn’t really enough time for a postcard to reach home while you’re away. And I’m sure it also has to do with texting and Facebook and Instagram and all the modern ways we stay in touch — making checking in with postcards less necessary.

But from what I can tell, the French seem to take their vacations really seriously and stay at their destination for a couple of weeks, or even longer if they’ve traveled across the world to reach their destination. So sending a postcard makes perfect sense.

How about you? Have you sent or received a postcard lately? And have you ever taken a long vacation? Or do you squeeze them in over an extended weekend?

P.S. — Even though we don’t send them, it’s not unusual for my family to buy postcards when we’re traveling — especially at art museums. They make great souvenirs and additions to scrapbooks and journals.

66 thoughts on “Postcards”

  1. We love postcards in our family. We send them, even on short trips. It’s a fun (and inexpensive) way to send a little memento from a trip. We always send to family, but sometimes the kids find something they want to send to a friend as well.
    A couple years ago I was a volunteer with Snail Mail My Email, which was a fun lesson in letter writing and renewed my love of the hand written note/postcard/letter. My kids kept track of everywhere I wrote a letter to for the project, and in the end we had destinations all over the world.

  2. A few years ago in celebration of wedding anniversaries (my in-laws’ 40th, our 15th, and my sister- and brother-in-law’s 5th), we all went on a cruise together to Bermuda. When we arrived home, my MIL had sent us a postcard from Bermuda, saying, “Wish you were here!” as a joke. Hee hee.

  3. Now that my nieces and nephew are older I send postcards to them and my friends’ kids when I am on a longer trip or in a place that they would think is fun. I started when I went Yellowstone a few years ago. I also update Facebook for the adults.

    We always sent postcards when I was a kid.

  4. My dad makes sure to send a postcard to the grandkids every time he travels for more than a few days. My kids really enjoy it, and they always ask to send cards to Papa when we travel as well. But that’s pretty much the only person we send to.

  5. Here in England sending postcards is pretty common, even on short trips I’d say!

    My partner and I send ourselves a postcard each on the last day of the holiday, listing our ten favourite moments. It’s so much fun to compare notes when they eventually arrive!

  6. I send postcards to my little nieces and nephews often – just sent some from my trip to Ojai, California. They love getting them and I think it helps build the bond between us. I also send postcards as Christmas cards – cheaper and simpler.

  7. Germans always send post cards everywhere they go. Maybe because they don’t send out Christmas cards like Americans do, this is there time to let people know they love and appreciate, and miss, them? And maybe it’s a little bit of a bragging rights thing…look where I went this year!? :)

  8. All my kids COLLECT postcards (this is the cheapest & easiest kid “collection” ever). Anytime a friend or relative goes anywhere – and I mean anywhere – we scribble down our address & ask for a postcard. Most of the time people remember & my kids are thrilled to receive the cards in the mail. They each have a cheap photo album (one w clear plastic sleeves, for 5×7 photos) to hold their collected cards. They can look at front & back a million times without harming. Very fun, totally free, and even the senders enjoy looking back over the years at the cards they have sent. :>

  9. I like to send postcards when we go on a long trip. I get a strip of mail labels and fill them out in advance so all I have to do is peel and stick the address after I have written a short note. When the labels are gone, I know I am done.

  10. Interesting. We don’t send postcards either (although we do buy them at museums and art galleries for ourselves), but I remember when I lived in the Netherlands in the 1970s they would send cards from vacation and only sign their name on it. I found it really strange to only sign your name and not write a message. I had assumed that the postcard tradition had faded in Europe like it has here in North America as I used to send more postcards when I was a teenager here in Canada.

    Thanks for the reminder about my postcard collection sitting idly in a box in the basement. I should dig them out and have a look at them again.

  11. I’m American and postcards are very common in my family. We did live in Germany for three years when we were young though so maybe we had that European influence? I never realized it wasn’t common in the states

  12. we sent postcards on our last trip (to santa fe NM), even though we were only there for a few days – it was fun!

    of course it helped that the shop where we got the cards was in the hotel lobby, sold stamps, and had an adorable little mailbox right outside its door. very easy and too cute to resist.

  13. I studied in France for a year when I was 20 and traveled all over. I sent postcards to my family back in the US from every stop. When my great-uncle passed away several years later, we found that he’d kept all my postcards in a little wooden box in his desk. Now, you better believe I’m a postcard-sender!

  14. We just sent a few postcards from DisneyWorld a couple weeks ago! We sent to my daughter’s tutor, grandkids and friends with kids. Love postcards!

  15. Oh! And I also secretly purchase postcards when on trips with my husband and send them to him later throughout the year with a trip memory written on the back (yes, even though I’m just as likely to check the mail that day). I clearly love postcards!

  16. My mom mails postcards from wherever she is – even if she’s only been away for a long weekend. It’s the best treat to receive in the mail! She always carries stamps with her and is on a first-name basis with everyone at our local post office. She must be very European despite her small town residence ;)

  17. Mehernaaz Sam Wadia

    I love sending and receiving postcards, thanks to my brother who travels a lot and sends us postcards from everywhere. And my habit of sending has spawned a whole new set of postcard sender friends.
    The joy of receiving a postcard has an old world charm. Just holding one, reading it and tagging it onto a soft board or fridge, the real physical manifestation of having been in someone’s thoughts when they were having a great time is beautiful. And it adds its own manner of whimsy when the postcard arrives at the destination after the sender returns.

  18. Growing up, my uncle, who travels the globe for work, would send his nieces and nephews postcards from all of the different places he visited. I always loved getting one in the mail and hearing what that part of the world was like. I recently got to pass along the same tradition to my own niece and nephews when I travel! They seem to appreciate it so far and like to chat about wherever I’ve visited after they get a postcard.

  19. When I was single & traveled a lot overseas, I would send postcards to family, to friends with kids, & a general one to my workplace. I would also keep one or two for myself. I’ve kept the postcards along with my traveling mementos, & now have the urge to dig them out (we just moved & still have items in boxes) & look at them. The only time I’ve sent postcards have been on prolonged visits, but this post makes me want to send them more often… & request them! I don’t remember what made me send the postcards on the first trip, but it may have been in lieu of bringing back gifts for loved ones, sparing both the expense (I budgeted my pennies to travel!) & luggage space.

  20. My husband and I are French living in Scandinavia for years now and we didn´t loose the habit. We ALWAYS send few postcards even on very short trips. We went recently to Rome, and on the first day, we sent postcards from the Vatican because it is a little state with its own post system. We often receive postcards from family and friends and we love the way it means “we thought about you” much more that an impersonal gift or souvenir!

  21. I remember my first grade teacher sending me a postcard (probably to the entire class) when she took a trip to Hong Kong. That made an impression! I still have it somewhere. Our family generally loves postcards, but this is a good reminder to get them going for my own nieces and nephews!

  22. More than fifty years ago when I was just learning to read, my dad (who travelled a lot for business) began sending me postcards written in big block letters. My sisters and I started to save them and then friends added to the collection. I have been the keeper of the family postcards and have a box of hundreds from all over the world. We don’t receive many these days, but I will be passing the box on to my son some day.

  23. Jacqueline Terbrack

    I don’t often send postcards, but I do buy them everywhere we go. When my oldest daughter was young I started buying them anywhere we took her and writing a note to her on the back. Why we were there, what we did, and any notable things about her experience. Now that she’s almost 4, I include anything she said or did that was funny or entertaining. I buy them anywhere and everywhere I can, and I think they are a nice momento for her of her childhood!

  24. I love sending postcards to friends & family. I will write a silly “Wish you were here!” if I can’t think of anything else to write. I love mail, so I guess I hope that taking time to mail postcards during a vacation lets others know that I am thinking of them!

  25. Lisette Wolter-McKinley

    I collect post cards and put them in my old fashion postcard stand. They make a great conversation piece in our living room. When I traveled around Europe for a month I sent postcards back home to friends and family.

  26. British American

    I’d forgotten about post cards. I grew up in the UK and we would take 2 week vacations and we’d always send a postcard to each of my Grandmas to let them know we were having fun. I think they’d send us a post card too, if they went anywhere. Since being in the US, I haven’t taken any vacations, so haven’t had the chance to send any. I bet it has declined what with texts and Facebook and all though.

  27. I used to send postcards all the time when I was a child growing up, but I don’t do it so much now. (did you know you can send a postcard from the Eiffel Tower and they will postmark it sent from the Eiffel Tower!) I do love postcards from galleries and museums. My friend Chrissie has created a work of art in her downstairs loo with some of hers, do check it out!

  28. My husband loves to make his own postcards by printing out pictures we’ve taken on card stock. He mails them to family and friends, just to say “hello” or show them something cool that we’ve seen. I love how low-tech it is!

  29. Good timing! I went to Italy last week, for just one week and sent 2 postcards for my family back home. One came yesterday (when I was already home) and the second hasn’t arrived yet! But I don’t think that stops the charm or fun of receiving them. I wish more friends sent them–I’d love it.

  30. Very French indeed. When my Aunt was planning her last trip here to visit .. about a week prior to her arrival she asked that I go to the post office and buy 30 post card stamps. From day 1 family and friends were sent postcards from the mundane (our home town) to the over the top (Vegas)!

    1. I live in Las Vegas. It made me laugh when I read that you described it as over the top! We have never traveled with our children anywhere and there isn’t much in town for children to see and do. They think palm trees (brought in from Arizona) are tall trees (the desert here is treeless). Chances are that they would be fascinated with a regular town with trees, grass, streams, and tall buildings that aren’t ALL hotels/casinos.

  31. Always! I have to write around 8 postcards every time we go on vacation. And receive around 6 per year, usually from 2 good friends and our next door neighbors (when they are on vacation). Could be European influence as I am Indonesian and started this tradition when I moved to Germany in 2001. I don’t know how it is in France, but here in Switzerland where I live now, it’s COMPULSORY to take AT LEAST 2 weeks of vacation at once for at least once a year. Otherwise, the office administration will get really upset – seriously! The Swiss are very serious about vacation, and we do get a lot of it (5-6 weeks/year).

  32. Okay, so am I the only one wondering what the heck that is in the photo next to the postcards?

    Which, I love sending and getting and keeping in a scrapbook. The kids love sending them. We send one to ourselves this year and they loved that too.

    1. I’m with you Julie – what is that giant silver thing? Christmas ornament? Silver ball? I just have no idea.

      1. Yeah, okay, so apparently I am the only weirdo who think it looks like a fancy, metal boob. But, after staring at it a while I can see the pheasant possibility.

    2. Hah! This made me laugh.

      The object is a large ceramic bird I bought in Ethiopia. I shared the souvenirs I bought when I was there in this post, and thought I had pictures of the bird, but I must have forgotten to include it. Oh dear!

  33. I love sending and receiving postcards! Last year for our anniversary, my husband and I went to Yellowstone sans kids, and then sent each of them a postcard telling them how much we loved and appreciated them. We were only gone 2 days, but the kids loved getting the postcards the next week. It’s a tradition we plan to continue each time we take a trip without them, and I think it would be fun for our kids to send postcards to their friends when we go somewhere memorable.

  34. I grew up with parents who would send postcards to their friends and family – even if it was for shorter trips. I will send cards when we have taken longer and more interesting trips – but not all the time. I love receiving post cards – I actually have a collection from childhood of postcards received from all over the world – family friends, family etc.. I have also enjoying buying postcards from where ever we go as a reminder of our visit. I do now try to get my kids to send cards once in a while back to family in the States – especially when we visit a new place. Definitely a tradition and habit that would be great to keep up. PS – I have noticed the same thing since living in France also – we have also received postcards from French friends – really fun!

  35. I think it has to do with the fact that most Americans travel within the US primarily. It seems less exciting somehow to send a postcard from Disney World than it does from the Eiffel Tower. I bet lots of Americans send postcard when they’re abroad. When I lived in Italy for two years I sent postcards to my American family frequently when I went on jaunts here and there and they loved it and SO DID I.

    I’m abroad again in Australia and you’ve inspired me. I’m going to start sending some postcards just to say I’m thinking about you!

  36. Postcards are my favorite souvenir! And there’s something so touching about the gesture of sending and receiving them, remembering friends and family and wishing they were there.

    I have sent postcards to my 7th grade English teacher for over 20 years now, since I was in her class! Picture images from everywhere we’ve gone, exotic and not so exotic. She’s hung my postcards on the ceiling of her classroom, with her ceiling now being covered with my sentiments as well as from other students. This teacher and long-time friend is retiring next year. I get sentimental thinking about those postcards and so many shared memories being retired also!

    I love that the French love postcards!

  37. You’re right, sending postcard is/was big in France. I would say the Internet and the social medias are killing it slowly but surely with the new generation. My maman always sends us postcards from the other side of the world, even when she goes on a short vacation. Finding postcards in North America is getting difficult!
    They tend to be faded and dated. Hopefully they won’t disappear…
    Ah, the pleasure of receiving a nice postcard with a very cool and exotic stamp!!

  38. When I was 25, I traveled alone through Europe for 3 months, sending dozens (or more) postcards to family and friends. I also started a tradition (now continued with my family) of sending ourselves at least one postcard from wherever we travel. It is fun to keep a brief record of the things we do as well as have it stamped (especially when it is from another country). We keep the postcards in a wide glass bowl (idea from Young House Love ) in order to keep them out and remember our adventures together.

    Maybe it is partially generational for US people, but I am 35, and I try to always send postcards. It is too bad that the written word, especially hand written, is vanishing. I feel that taking the time to send a personal note/postcard shows that someone means that much to me. Even on a short trip, I always send a postcard to my parents & my grandfather. Even if they get it long after my trip, they know I was thinking of them.

  39. I tend to buy postcards, write them out, even address them and/or get proper postage, and ten never send them. Since moving to Scotland, though, I’ve written several letters (a few if which are still in my desk…) Partly because I wish I was getting mail, so I thought it would be nice to send some, but also because I just live buying stationery!

  40. Our family has recently started a tradition where we send our parents and siblings post cards from where ever we go, specially if its an international trip. We love it when we get postcards too.

  41. When I was a young girl I actually collected postcards, everyone either bought some for me or mailed them to me for my collection. I even used to mail them to my parents when I traveled. :) I love the feeling of getting mail (that are not bills) and postcards are so fun. I think keeping that tradition is wonderful and hope to pass it along to my kids (when I finally have some).
    PS I’m from Canada. :)

  42. I think it’s a generational thing. I’m in the U.S. and when I was younger (early 1980s) my friends and I used to send each other postcards all the time. We also used to write long letters to each other. This is before email and social media and before it was common to have a household computer. I think it’s died off for the younger generation here because of texting etc. I still buy postcards as personal mementos and to scan into my photo books. Nowadays I send “virtual postcards” via email to friends. It’s interesting to hear that it hasn’t died off in other countries, but I wonder if the younger European generation is sending out postcards?

  43. I’m from Australia and we have a tradition in my family that whenever someone goes on a big holiday we always send postcards to the others back home :)

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