Friday Photo: Markets Around the World

I am fascinated by stores: sparkling cheap jewelry made to look expensive only in bright lighting, polished plates in geometric shapes, the shelves of spices in the baking aisle, the spines of new books.  I adore entering a Sheetz and twirling amid the Twix bars to my right, and suddenly being distracted by the Chex Mix to my left then realizing that I could buy any flavor of Red Bull that I want.  I don’t even know if Red Bull has flavors, but it doesn’t matter!  It’s all within reach!  Look at the colors!!  Everything’s possible!!!

On this Black Friday, it would seem appropriate to comment that I’m an ideal shopper, except for the fact that I only love looking at stores, not buying the products within them.  In my opinion, a group of people can be best understood through the act of buying and selling, because this action discloses a culture’s needs and priorities, perceived or otherwise.  In Chile, stores selling similar products are located in the same area of the city — a mall of hair salons, an alley of hot dog vendors, a street of antiques — to increase efficiency.  In France, bakeries open early because fresh bread is bought almost daily. In Italy, I’ve heard that it’s bad luck for a street vendor to lose his first sale of the day, so he’s often willing to negotiate for a lower price.  In Trinidad, boiled corn, still in the husk, is available on the side of the highways — you just veer off on the shoulder and roll down your window.  When buying and selling, convenience, need, creativity, and want all come into play.

On Black Friday in 2007, I was stuck on a crowded train between Luxembourg City and Brussels with a woman who was on the phone directing a jewelry purchase in New York.  Today, however, in honor of my friend Kara who posted a similar set of photos on her blog, I post a few photos of markets around the world, where what’s on sale reflects somehow we somehow all live through our consumerism — for better or for worse.

buying breadfruit in Trinidad
shopping district in Lille, France
cheese market in the Netherlands
calves for sale at the Greencastle Livestock Market in Greencastle, Pennsylvania
buying morning newspapers in Santiago, Chile


10 thoughts on “Friday Photo: Markets Around the World

  1. RogueAnthropologist November 25, 2011 — 11:49 am

    Thanks for sharing your photos, too! I didn’t know you’d lived in Chile and Trinidad. I like your thoughts on what buying and selling shares about culture–I feel like we could have a much longer conversation (or blog posts) about that topic.

  2. I didn’t live in Trinidad or Chile – but I visited good friends in both places, which was super valuable. My current goal is to travel as many places as possible to visit people who really know the culture and can explain it to me; in other words, if you return to anywhere in the world where you’ve been, I will invite myself and learn from you. Or simply… and more cheaply… we can have a long conversation !

  3. RogueAnthropologist November 25, 2011 — 9:33 pm

    Visiting friends is a great and affordable way to travel. My first journey outside the U.S. was to visit British friends I’d worked with the previous summer. My You’re definitely welcome next I live abroad–I’ve never had a visitor in my travels!!

  4. Great article and wonderful photos. It is really great to see parts of the world through the “thoughts and lenses” of others. You always do such a great job of it.

  5. @ Clyde: Thank you !! @Rogue: I’m curious where you’re going next 🙂 I haven’t managed the Middle East yet, so I need a few tips…

    1. RogueAnthropologist November 27, 2011 — 9:09 am

      Have you used couchsurfing? I haven’t done it much in the Middle East, mostly in Central America. In India I used it just to meet people in the city I lived in.
      Regarding the Middle East, I’d say Jordan is a good (and comparatively calm in terms of politics) place to start out.
      I do and don’t know where I’m going next. Since I’ve been away so much I haven’t seen a lot of my friends in the U.S. so I’m kind of focused on domestic roaming–I’ve been up to NYC a lot this year (I have a problem of having too many friends there–can’t see them all in one trip!) and in January I’m going to Phoenix to stay with a very dear friend. Haven’t been to the Southwest at all before!

  6. I am definitely on couchsurfing!! Did it quite a bit in France and have hosted people here in the U.S. It’s a great network. And I know nottthing about Jordan… I will have to do some research. And I really want to talk to you about India. Domestic roaming also has its place… the difficulty with international roaming is it tends to complicate relationships with people at home. It requires a lot of work to maintain… 🙂

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