There’s a ritual developing here in our little corner of rural
It’s the monthly trip to Ikea.
I’d never had any real exposure to the Swedish furniture giant before, save for a puzzling encounter with a Swede in Washington DC, whose fervent – even over-zealous, I thought – enthusiasm for a new Ikea opening in the area made me look at her with no small degree of incredulity. I took it for a sense of national pride, or homesickness. I didn’t understand.
Now I do. It’s the consummate shopping experience, and I’m succumbed to the ritual, willingly and wittingly, even as I recognize what they’re doing to me.
They’ve thought of everything, and more, to make your trip convenient, efficient, and economic. Most people leave with more than they came for.
Now even in a consumer-oriented society such as the
Since most people are likely familiar with the Ikea concept, there’s no point in waxing lyrical about things that everyone already knows – the handy and appealing layouts, the channeled routes through the store, the specials, the ability to mix-n-match, the self-service section, the ease of returns (generally a foreign concept to Europeans), and so on.
But since I’ve become a convert, it’s the little things that I notice every time I go there – the organic milk used in the coffee, the healthy and diverse and tasty options at the in-house restaurant, the clocks dotted throughout all set to the same time – . I’m not even sure why they do some of these things (e.g. the clocks), but the fact that they went to such lengths makes it impressive.
The fact that it’s staffed by Italians adds an extra flavour too. Many of these concepts are beyond their natural tendencies – this is not a criticism, it’s just how it is, take it or leave it – and so the way they perform these foreign tasks is, I’m sure, a little different from the way the Swedes would, for instance. I can’t quite put my finger on it, perhaps it’s that ever-so-slight marginal degree of imprecision in the way things are laid out, or the shirt tail hanging out just slightly, the odd price tag missing, the package that doesn’t contain everything it should. (This last misfortune happened to me on our last trip there. It was the result of a product being returned without everything inside the box, and the staff simply sticking it back on the shelves without checking. Not one of the more endearing departures from the standard Ikea behaviour, I must declare.)
These positive Ikea feelings were no more evident when, on our last trip, we also went to the furniture store next door. First, it took about half-an-hour to get someone to help us. Next, when we went back to place the order, we found out that they had made a mistake in the pricing, by some 20%! And that’s without mentioning how uninviting the layout was.
So do Italians go to Ikea? Yes indeed, by their thousands. The fact that they’re cheaper, have a greater selection, and greater diversity in how your selections can be put together, all have something to do with it. It would hardly be a reasonable business proposition to make that size investment simply for the foreigner market.
But for those foreigners (me included), it’s a getaway, a reminder of what it used to be like, a sort of trip home, as it were. Here we are, making our commitment to this country and this culture which is foreign to us, and will probably always be that way, no matter how hard we try to integrate. Somewhere inside, at varying depths for each of us, we know this, and so we need our periodic home fix as a reward for the constant effort we’re putting into our new lives.
Or maybe I'm reading way too much into it (as I am occasionally wont to do). Maybe it's simply because we're all building new homes, are busy furnishing them, and it's the most convenient shop around ...