I would love to say that my travels through Sweden were filled with adventure, but it would be a bold-faced lie. One of my favorite things about Sweden, and most of Scandinavia for that matter, is that it’s not brimming with excitement.
I like to think of it as the world’s suburbia, and let’s face it, as much as I’m a city dweller, there’s something comforting about suburbia that enables you to let your guard down and embrace the small comforts in life.
So since there was no skydiving or tattoo artistry planned during my 2 day stay in Stockholm, I penciled in a trip to Ikea. After all, Sweden is the birthplace of Ikea, and what’s a trip to the global suburbs without contemplating the purchase of a cheap area rug or matching end tables with a plastic veneer mimicking an oak finish?
Same Same…but Different
I’m sure Stockholm had much more to offer than a blue and yellow big-box store, but I was pretty pumped about seeing what Ikea had to offer. After a short 20 minute train ride from my hotel, I surfaced from the subway, and for some reason, I was surprised to see a very familiar sight. I was standing with 20-30 locals outside of two giant glass doors through which a couple of escalators and a few hundred large blue plastic bags were visible.
Maybe I thought that Americans had a proprietary hold over international corporations, or maybe I thought Europeans would have a more refined taste in home furnishings. In either case, I was dumbfounded when I walked through doors and followed the maze of interior decorating through an all too familiar landscape. The cups from my friend’s kitchen were sitting in the cheap $2 bin, my TV stand was filled with DVDs on the second floor, and several people were looking confusedly at the labels on large rectangular boxes with mystery furiture inside.
Before I made my way out, I decided to venture up to the restaurant and try the meatballs. Surely, the Swedish Ikea must put Sacramento’s meatballs to shame. Unfortunately I have no idea, since I spend most of my time as a vegetarian and try to eat meat abroad once in a while as an experience. In any case, the meatballs were great.
While the whole trip was a bit disorienting, like a spacial version of deja vu, I found the experience oddly satisfying. I usually take great enjoyment in the learning curve of travel. You’re constantly re-evaluating what surrounds you and how you interact with the world. But it’s nice to find consensus from time to time, and if there’s one thing the world should agree on, it’s good, cheap, DIY furniture in a store that tells you where to go with arrows on the floor and feeds you along the way.