Pouring your heart out

Pouring your heart out

E-mails are no match for handwritten letters when it comes to expressing feelings

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Steve Lau with  the special posting boxes that will be placed at all post offices tomorrow
Steve Lau with the special posting boxes that will be placed at all post offices tomorrow
Photo: Oliver Tsang
For Steve Lau Chi-fung, nothing quite beats the magic of receiving a letter in the post - one written on paper that he can keep forever and read again and again. Lau, senior manager (local mail) of Hongkong Post's product development, marketing and sales division, has been working with the organisation since 1998. He says that when letter-writing was the primary method of communication, a letter carried more than just the written words.

"My father came to Hong Kong from the mainland in the 50s and he would regularly write letters to his mother back home," Lau says. "He told me that my grandmother, who was illiterate, would wait for the letter to arrive, and take it to my uncle, who would then read it to her. To my grandmother, the letter brought more than just news. It also brought comfort, knowing that she was being missed from afar."

As well as being a way of passing on news, senders would often include small gifts, such as a pressed flower, a newspaper clipping or a photo, or would even personalise the letter by spraying it with perfume.

Lau is particularly fond of handwritten letters. "I used to write letters to my girlfriend, who is now my wife, when we were dating. I would send a bookmark with the letter, too," he says. "I think you can express more in a handwritten letter than an e-mail."

Lau says it is important to understand there is still a difference between e-mails and handwritten letters. "When you send a handwritten letter to someone you care about, you are sending [something really special]. The uniqueness of a letter, with your handwriting and signature, is irreplaceable," he says.

Tomorrow is World Post Day, an annual celebration of the establishment of the Universal Postal Union in 1874.

For the past seven years, Hongkong Post has organised a Free Post Day to mark the occasion. On this day, people are invited to send a letter for free to a recipient in Hong Kong.

Hongkong Post has also urged students to write a letter to someone special and send it out for free. The feedback has been very positive.

"Some teachers told us how their students surprised their parents by writing them a letter. These stories are encouraging for us. I hope that we can keep Free Post Day around for as long as possible, even when one day electronic mail replaces all postal communications," Lau says.

"I want to tell our younger generations, if you want to express your feelings fully to someone you care about, send a handwritten letter."

Young Post Junior Reporters will visit the General Post Office tomorrow, and send a letter to someone special. Look out for their stories in the coming weeks.

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