Making Friends at Flea Market


1933, the former slaughterhouse that stands on 10 Shajing Road in Hongkou district in Shanghai has been remade as a lifestyle and design center. Beside it’s cultural and historical side, an event attracts young people all walks of life in Shanghai gather together on every second Saturday of the month. That is the charity flea market.

The main purpose of this flea market is to raise money to support children in migrant schools. For an admission fee of RMB 1, you can come and sell items. Various necklaces, original graffiti works, handmade leather bags, different shaped dolls, nostalgic cartoons and exotic travelling souvenirs. If you can’t find these at department stores, they are all available at the flea market.

Apart from donation, flea market also creates a stage for young people to make friends in real life. Some stall owners run stores in the city, others have regular jobs and more and more expats are involved.

When I was there yesterday, I had fun watching a guy painting on the shoes. I asked him how many shoes he had sold out and the answer was one pair only. He seemed fine about it. “I’m not here to sell shoes. I’m here to make friends with artists and cool people.”

As I go to the flea market every month, I have made friends with some stall owners. A young couple left me deep impression. They made accessaries by themselves and sell them at 1933 every month. The guy told me,

“you can argue all you like that the prices for new items in China are equal to second-hand prices in a Western first-world country, but the price is not my point. It’s the physical experience – like seeing a film at the cinema instead of watching a DVD at home. It’s rewarding to see others truly appreciate your works.”

My Mom is a fan of flea market as well. Surrounded by young people, she is very outstanding in the crowd. She is well welcomed by stall owners as they are surprised to see a middle-old lady interested in such event. I heard a girl talking to my Mom, “Hey, it’s you again! If you really like this necklace, just take it.”

I once talked to a British girl called Amy at 1933. She said that the flea market in the UK is very mature. They have flea market at community every weekend. She is fond of car booth which is a very popular flea market style there. She explained,

“Earning some extra money is one thing, the other thing which is more important is to make friends and communicate with people in the same community. I’ve missed flea market when I just moved to Shanghai. I’m so glad to see there is such a flea market here too. I participated it right away.”

Now she’s selling second-hand original books from the UK and her classmates sometimes join her.

“It’s not convenient to take all the books back home after we finish college here and it’s a waste to throw them away. Flea market is a great stage as we know there are a lot people here would like to read these original books.”

I bought about 10 original books at her stall and they only cost me 50 yuan. It was a good bargain.

It’s also a process of recycling. Every item has its own value. Maybe it’s meaningless to you, but it might be the one someone else has been looking for. I’m thinking of packing things that I don’t need and sell them at flea market next month. It would be fun to make friends with other people as a stall onwer.

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