Postcard Knowledge

I’m still trading postcards via postcrossing. Lots and lots of postcards. One feature of the site is a forum where users can arrange private trades of cards or play a game called “tagging” where someone starts a thread on a particular kind of card, and people tag one another, thus obligating themelves to send that kind of card to the person they tagged. For example, in a bridge tag, I might tag person X and then send them a card of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge card, and person Y might tag me and send me a card of the Zakim Bridge.

One of the things I’ve found very interesting about participating in these trades is the ideas that people have about Washington DC. When I’m asked to send someone a DC card, I’m invariably asked for one of three things: a postcard of the pandas at the National Zoo, a postcard of the Smithsonian castle, or a postcard of the White House. People ask for other things as well, but those are the three main requests. Does this mean that those are the three things DC is most famous for? or the three things that people are most interested in?

This has me thinking about the requests I make of people from other countries. France? I want the Eiffel Tower. Germany? The Brandenburg Gate. England? Big Ben. I’m sure these people receive dozens of such requests.

So lately, I’ve been doing some research and asking for different things. Recently, I traded postcards with someone from Tampere, Finland. Rather than my usual requests for views of the city or wild animals, I asked for postcards of the Tampere Main Library and the Lenin Museum.

It was a wonderful experience. I corresponded by e-mail and postcard with this person and learned a bit about him, and I got one beautiful postcard of the library (that building is amazing) and one fascinating postcard of the museum (the only Lenin museum outside of Russia). He also thoughtfully sent along a brochure from the museum, and a few other cards of Tampere.

All of this has me thinking about what stereotypes I have of other places and how they limit my view of the world. Now I’m off to ask for a tulip postcard from Holland.

Posted on November 10th, 2006 by Katxena