A Swede’s Perspective
By SEBASTIAN HEGMAR | April 4, 2020
Cover photo by Theresa Korenke / The Amsterdammer
I have probably been to IKEA way too many times in my life. When I was younger, the biggest highlight of every visit was to use my shopping cart as a kickbike in the warehouse section. Today, the biggest highlight is to use my shopping cart as a kickbike in the warehouse section. Everyone seems to love IKEA for a plethora of different reasons: maybe for the cheap prices, interior design inspo or famous Swedish meatballs – you name it. Speaking of Swedish meatballs, IKEA was founded in Sweden in 1943 by the late, great Ingvar Kamprad. I would therefore argue that our Swedish stores offer a blueprint for what the ‘standard’ IKEA store is (or ought to be) around the world. And considering that IKEA exists in 56 different countries, I can’t help but ask myself how they compare to one another. In other words, I recently made a trip to the IKEA at Hullenbergweg 2 in Amsterdam to have a look for myself.
Equipped with my non-existing investigation hat, I got on Metro 54 and ended up having to walk about 10 minutes before arriving at the address. So far so good. But they say you only get one chance to make a first impression, and Amsterdam’s IKEA certainly makes a peculiar one with its hard-to-find entrance. I had to walk through the parking lot underneath the building to find a staircase which eventually led me to the starting base. It didn’t really feel welcoming for a pedestrian who wasn’t in the mood for a scavenger hunt. A clearly visible grand entrance with sliding doors next to a parking lot is what I’m used to – plain and simple. But I will cut this store some slack as it may have been the only feasible solution, knowing how Dutch architecture is known for creative workarounds as a result of their small living spaces.
I noticed a clear pattern as I scoured the store for differences; namely that a much greater range of items were on sale in Sweden. I could not find anything that wasn’t available back home, except for a pretty cool looking door mat with Amsterdam’s famous coat of arms and some similarly inspired wall art. Another find was that mattress sizes, generally speaking, were a bit narrower; I chalked this up as a smart decision on IKEA’s end because of the narrow houses many Amsterdammers live in. But I did end up scratching my head when I noticed the bed section completely lacking in what us Swedes call “resårbottnar.” These are basically all-in-one beds that do not require the purchase of a separate mattress, bed frame or bed slats. You only need to find a mattress pad and bed legs to finish what you’ve started. If you can’t tell, this really bugged me since I was in the market for one, but such is life.
I really hate to be this negative, but my obligatory pit stop at the IKEA restaurant quickly took a nosedive for many reasons. It was particularly odd that mashed potatoes wasn’t on the menu as it’s a standard choice back at home. The menu also advertised fish and chips, but there were neither any fish nor chips as far as I could see. I was also met with a surprisingly surprised face when I dared to ask for lingonberry jam on the side of my rubbery meatballs and cold, soggy potato wedges (and I was surprised that I even had to ask). To put it in perspective for a Dutch person, that’s pretty much the equivalent of asking for ketchup with your tosti. Another let down was the fact that I had to pay for my beverage, which might seem like a silly thing to complain about, but is actually included with your meal in Sweden. I ended up having to purchase my super fancy EARTH water in a Tetra Pak and keep on walking, but at least some of that money is going to a good cause, so I let it slide. After my meal, I decided to call it a day.
Some of the things I mentioned here are (in my not-so-humble opinion) valid critiques, even though it probably seems like I’m just a hater by now. But I will also say that most parts of my visit remained outstanding. It’s difficult to come up with scathing criticism for a retail chain operating at such a high caliber as this one. A lot of what I found to be different are just over-exaggerated nitpicks and will not spoil IKEA’s reputation whatsoever. So don’t let this discourage you from paying a visit to the crème de la crème of furniture stores in the Amsterdam region; just remember that things could definitely be slightly better.