Presented by Ibus Media
IKEA is the epitome of Sweden and completely ingrained in Swedish life. As a Newbie in Sweden, you can truly never fully understand the Swedes if you don’t understand IKEA! For many Swedes living abroad, a trip to the local IKEA store will help cure any homesickness.
Starting with the stores themselves, their humongously large industrial steel structures in yellow and blue (the colours of the Swedish flag), the Hej! at the entrance doors, the Scandinavian design and colour palette of the furnishings, together with the food and drinks in the café and restaurant, all showcase what Sweden is and to expats brings back memories of home. Add to that the various showrooms looking like the average Swedish home, the wide selections in the market hall (including cheese slicers and proper tea mugs), the orderly queues at the checkouts, all the way through to the Swedish grocery shop at the exit. A trip to an IKEA store will give you an insight into Swedish design and homelife well before you get invited to a real one.
Where did the name IKEA come from?
The name IKEA is taken from the name of the founder, Ingvar Kamprad, and where he grew up; this was a small farm called Elmtaryd in the village of Agunnaryd, located in the county of Småland, southern Sweden. Starting his business, Kamprad’s aim was to ensure everyone could improve their everyday life by affording practical, yet stylish and modern, furniture. When Kamprad passed away earlier this year, he left behind him 313 IKEA stores in 38 countries/territories. Most of the stores are owned by the IKEA Group, whereas some are owned and run by franchises.
What about the product names?
Allegedly Kamprad wasn’t great at reading as he suffered from dyslexia, and he couldn’t remember number series. So instead he gave every product a name (and ironically they nowadays also have a barcode). To most non-Swedish speakers, many of the products have exotic sounding names, but there is a strict logic behind the names throughout the stores.
It is always tricky to learn a new language, but with some imagination, a trip to IKEA can be very helpful. Paying close attention, some of the product names can help you learn about Sweden, the other Nordic countries and also the Swedish language.
By looking at bathroom articles, you’ll learn the names of Scandinavian lakes, rivers, and bays. Garden furniture all carry the names of Swedish islands. The beds are named after Norwegian places, sofas are named after Swedish towns, and rugs after Danish towns. Chairs and desks have male names, and fabrics and curtains have female names.
When the evenings are getting darker, try some Godafton or Ljusnande candles. The former meaning ‘good evening’ and the latter ‘brightening’. You could also purchase the ceiling lamp Maskros, which means ‘dandelion’ and of course comes as a flatpack, Törstig (thirsty) is the name for some of the drinks glasses and Flyttbar (moveable) is the name of a kitchen trolley. The opportunities to pick up Swedish words are endless. However, throughout the years there has also been less successful product names in English speaking countries, including e.g. Fartfull (meaning quick or speedy), Jerker (a male name) and Lessebo (a village).
Be picky and you can grab real bargains
By doing your research (check what the Swedes have in their homes!) you’ll soon get a better understanding of the various collections at IKEA. Take for example the PS and Stockholm series; these products are at the top of the range when it comes to quality and design whereas IKEA 365+ are products for everyday cooking.
Looking at the more popular, the Billy bookshelf is space efficient, cheap and super versatile and can be found in many homes in Sweden and around the world. Other Swedish favourites are the Klippan sofa, seen in offices and homes alike. Many love the flexible armchair Poäng which combines Swedish and Japanese design. Others, including Joey Ingram, a professional online poker player, can’t live without the Markus chair. According to Ingram, this is one of the best chairs ever made for supporting and alleviating his chronic back pain, a problem that plagues most online poker players. Personally, I am in love with my bed from IKEA. My top tip is to select one of the top range beds and mattress toppers; still cheaper than products of competing quality from other stores.
Improve your IKEA knowledge
So next time you are asked to join a Swede in a trip to an IKEA store, see it as an invite to the ‘real Sweden’ and take the opportunity to learn more about your new country. However, if at all possible, try to avoid IKEA at weekends, and start the visit off with a trip to the restaurant. Walking around IKEA hungry is never a good idea!