There are a few things that are known far and wide as traditionally Swedish; Ingmar Bergman, ABBA, the Nobel Prize and of course IKEA. The furniture giant, founded by a man who supplied the people with affordable furniture, as long as you took the time to put it together yourself, is a bit of an institution even in its homeland.
Certainly, what would become of all the university students and youngsters, who need to furnish their first apartments on a tight budget if it were not for IKEA? How could a normal family be able to furnish their home with warm colors and plenty of decorative items to elevate their status in their neighborhood, if not for IKEA? What would the divorcee, who now needs his or her own place to stay again, do, if there was not IKEA to purchase those pieces of furniture which were left behind with their estranged partner?
Yet there is also peril associated with a trip to this fabled place.
How many times have I not found myself strolling through its bowels, only intending to purchase one or two things, but found myself lured by attractive prices and fantastic offers to fill up my yellow shopping bag with various bits and pieces until I came home laden with colorful spatulas, glass jars, a weirdly shaped lamp and a zebra striped bathroom mat. And then there are the crowds…
If you are someone with a normal 9 to 5, Monday through Friday job, that only leaves weekends to do things like, for example hit IKEA for another shelf to your Billy bookcase (though I hear they are retiring that old, faithful series). This means you will have to brace yourself for the hundreds upon hundreds of others who have to do the same thing. The chaos that greets you on a rainy Sunday at IKEA is a sight to behold, not all that different from the traffic jams that always happen on a Sunday after Midsummer, when everyone is driving back home from whatever pleasant country house they spent the holiday at. The big difference is, that in IKEA there are no traffic rules and if you are not bold enough to march on ahead, then you might find yourself overtaken by a stressed out middle aged male, pushing a laden shopping cart with various kitchen supplies, or forced to slow to a crawl behind a large family with prams, shopping carts and only somewhat mobile children wailing at the top of their lungs. Soon you might even find yourself helplessly lost in your quest to navigate the teeming hallways and aisles, boxed in by wire crates filled to the brim with Torsten, the fleece rug now on sale for just 129 SEK. If you are lucky, you might find a refuge in the restaurant, with their famous, cheap meatball meals with coffee included in the price.
That they place their very hot food area just outside the cash registers seems like a pretty sneaky decision on the part of the IKEA staff. Let those fools in the miles long line to pay for all their boxed up furniture parts and cutlery sets gaze upon those bright signs advertising cheap hot dogs, ice cream and coffee, because you know that is where they will be heading by the time they are blissfully done with their whole ordeal. A shining beacon to feast your eyes on, as you try to shut out the noises of the people surrounding you.
And much like any ordeal you go through, when you finally stand outside those bright IKEA doors, with your heavy shopping bags, which you might have to drag with you on public transport, mumbling apologies to those around your, for taking up more space than seems appropriate you tell yourself no more, not again, not for a very long time at least. But the fact is, that with most other things in life, you will always come back to IKEA. Perhaps for the meatballs, or…perhaps, because where else can you find bargains on essential stuff like that?