I am not sure I can be defined as a bargain hunter, but I do love a bargain. My downfall is that I am a quality over quantity type of person. So I am one of those types that often ends up liking the most expensive item in the shop. Unfortunately good quality and bargain do not often go hand in hand. But twice a year across the whole of Norway there are bargains (of good quality) to be found.
Twice a year, every year, flea market season begins. Typically, in the spring and autumn. Throughout March/April and September/October every neighbourhood participates. Loppemarked (or loppis for short) is the word to look out for.
Often based in schools, these flea markets are essentially huge fundraising events for the school marching bands and they are a community affair. Everyone gets involved. Flyers go up around neighbourhoods asking people to donate all their unwanted items. From furniture to books, toys and clothes, everything is welcome. Some schools even organise pick up drives so you can make a pile on the pavement and not even have to make the effort of delivering it. You can of course deliver it to the local school too.
In fact, drop-off day logistics at schools are impressive. Perfectly coordinated drop off zones are well signposted. Parents and pupils await donning their high-vis vests to direct you in and out. In the matter of minutes you are rid of all that unwanted junk and you have also done a good deed for the day.
Shoppers and bargain hunters need just turn up at school gates armed with cash, ready to find that much-desired coffee table or vintage bicycle. Price haggling is acceptable too for those of you that are up for it. Even if you make a regretful impulse purchase, never fear, because you can just get rid of it when next loppis season comes around. My 50 NOK yoga ball was re-donated last week – it just took up too much space!
Think Selfridges on Boxing Day…
If you are into all things vintage and retro – loppis season is your dream come true, especially if you get to the markets early. Although, I must warn you there are people who take this very seriously and wait outside the school gates for opening time. For those of you that have been to the UK during the Christmas shopping period think Selfridges on Boxing Day.
People literally storm the school gates and charge!
What I love most about loppis season is that it is for everyone. It is more than a niche group of people that like old things and love a rummage. In Norway everyone gets involved with loppis season in one way or another. One year I visited Kjelsås school (in Oslo) and the parents staffing the event were awfully proud that Jens Stoltenberg himself (former Norwegian Prime Minister and now Secretary General of NATO) had popped by and dropped off his old suits that he wore when he was Prime Minister. The suits were going to be auctioned off later in the day like all the most valuable items. Even Jens gets involved.
Loppemarked season is more than an event that takes place twice a year, it is a tradition right up there beside the dugnad, a kind of community service day where everyone is expected to show up and usually involves gardening and or repairing/cleaning of communal areas, and the consumption of brown cheese.
People buy used stuff and most importantly people give away stuff when they upgrade. One man’s junk is truly another’s treasure here. You would be surprised what people are willing to part with. I always am.
I totally advise a weekend visit to your local loppemarked whether you are a bargain hunter or not. There are waffles, cake and pølser (hot dogs) on sale and the vibe is always upbeat. If nothing else any purchase you make will be contributing to the budding marching band musicians of Norway.
There are a couple of weeks left of autumn’s loppis season but if you don’t make it be sure to mark your calendars in spring.
Photos: Gunnar Bothner-By