My latest travels have taken me to a destination some talk about in the whispered, reverent tones normally reserved for tales of El Dorado or the worship of ‘Cronuts’.
It’s currently in vogue and certain people back in New Zealand will no doubt be rather jealous.
Others will probably ask if I tried the meatballs.
As I left german soil and arrived in the grandoise atrium of my Scandinavian destination, I couldn’t help but be impressed.
IKEA takes itself very seriously.
I’d never been to an IKEA before. For one, like many things we just don’t have them in New Zealand.
Secondly, they are usually found on the outskirts of a city – great when you want to take the free IKEA shuttle out of Stockholm to the best south-bound hitch-hiking petrol station – but not so fantastic when you bike everywhere.
But it was Sunday, the Swedish superstore was open and I was in the unfamiliar position of trying to accumulate belongings, so I enlisted an IKEAphile friend and hit the road.
Normally, I am the “get-in and get-the-hell-out-again” breed of shopper.
Here is a sample of the shopping conversation:
Joe: “Oh great, this must be where we can find the pillows.”
Gabi: “This… would be the tea towel selection.”
“But surely we must be there now?”
“That, my friend, is the cushion department.”
“Here we are. How on earth do you choose between the 30-something different kinds of pillows? Gabi….?”
The labyrinthine halls of IKEA are simply the wrong place for this kind of shopping attitude.
Once you finally make it through the ruggery, past a Christmas installation, the cactus and fake plant nook and the blinding light section, you find yourself at a checkout area comparable in size the Auckland Airport International Check-in. Screaming children and trolleys included.
It’s that, but also the fact the Swedes have engineered something that transcends just replacing your ratty old bed sheets.
Maybe it has peaked in popularity thanks to this scene from 500 days of summer and perhaps everything is fairly good quality and design for low prices, but I found the idea of such a consumer destination marketed on the experience a little bizarre.
I mean, the closest thing we have in New Zealand is a chain of ugly, red warehouses imaginatively named “The Warehouse”, that attract only bored teenagers working on checkouts and everyone else is there to buy cheap stuff and leave immediately.
So, I should say, I found the idea bizarre until I found IKEA’s Swedish store, where you can buy caviar in a tube (I’m an addict) and other Swedish goodies.
And lounged on expensive showroom couches. And ate the meatballs, with lingonberry sauce.
With 50 cent hot chocolate. Unlimited refills.
Needless to say, I better understand the buzz around the place, but I won’t be going back to partake in this strange shopping tradition until I really need to. Or I just happen to be in the neighborhood or… Damn.