...because you thought Sweden was Switzerland!

Sunday, January 28, 2007

IKEA, the great Swedish export

Saturday morning at Linköping. We might have been too overeager, because we were there 20 minutes before opening time. Some 50 other early birds were with us as well, taking advantage of the free coffee the staff had prepared for us. It was early-morning-quiet despite the number of people there, and it was understood that one should talk low unless you wanted attention to yourself (It's Sweden, after all!). So we were there, all content to sip on our coffee cups and wait around. And then, all eyes turned to the staff switching on the escalator. The disposition visibly changed. Everybody became alert. It was a bit noisier, because now the mad shopping scramble had begun.

That's IKEA's opening time on a Saturday for 'ya! We decided to take our time and to take a video of the shopper-mob walking up the escalator instead (See below). After all, we were just there to get some coat hangers!

IKEA must be, they say, Sweden's largest cultural export. Founded by a Swede (the first two letters of IKEA are the founder's initials; the last two letters represent the place where he grew up), it is now an international chain that sells well designed, easy-to-assemble functional furniture and other "home solutions" at relatively cheap prices. Anyway, as we were browsing IKEA, we were also reflecting on how Svensson (i.e. "typical Swede") the whole place just is:

1. A Svensson likes efficiency and predictability, so much so that he likes to hear in the morning news which way the wind blows (not kidding!). Thus, everything in IKEA is organized by name and serial number so that you could easily know on which shelf and which part of the shelf you could find the item you need. Of course, you can always meander in the IKEA warehouse if you wish, but this way, no one needs to waste their time if they don't want to.

2. Secondly, a fact: Swedes are the largest buyers of Do-it-yourself (DIY) materials and tools in the world. This is because the protestant Svensson is a bit rustic, and likes working with his hands. Things that are done out of scratch and with one's own sweat are good and something to be proud of. In tune with this, almost everything in the IKEA showcase is actually collapsible and fit in boxes in their warehouse. The parts are to be assembled yourself at home. This also keeps the costs of the furniture down.

3. Third, true to their reputation: Swedes like to be equal. This is true in student-teacher, boss-employee, and gender relationships (see the survey Cheryl sent me, about gender equality). Because of this, the bosses at IKEA are almost never hired "from the outside" but must have begun as a cashier or a staffmember there as well (the founder, I heard, also worked as one).

Finally, Related to all three points (efficiency, doing DIY, and being equal): In the IKEA restaurant just outside the warehouse, they also use their own IKEA kitchen implements and furniture.

Anyway, it's a good place just to hang around and try beds and sofas, even if all you want to buy is a set of coat hangers.

P.S. (January 31) Changed the link to the survey Cheryl sent me, becuase apparently the Inquirer only keeps their old articles for several weeks. The new link is the source for the Inquirer report.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Finally a posting on IKEA! hahaha, as you can tell I am fan too. A friend that works there says that most people make it a habit to visit IKEA once a month. Everybody loves to touch and feel different fabrics. Kids love it too because of all the odd boxes and nooks that they can play in, over and under. I'd like to think that I am that kid too. --kg

8:06 PM

Blogger Ahoy! said...

Ooh, finally a comment from Kristine :-) Heheh. I think you can put in your name BTW by choosing "Other" in the Identity choices and putting your name down. IKEA! We should go to the "real Swedish" IKEA when you get here. ;-) I know it's probably all the same everywhere, but it's fun to look around!

5:22 PM


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