My earliest IKEA memory was when I started college and purchased a desk for my miniature sized apartment. After hours of trying to assemble the furniture on my own, I called my dad. He completed the assembly in less than an hour.
When I asked him why there were so many pieces still in the box, he exclaimed, “Those are extras.” I laughed every time I sat at that desk that magically held together for four years of college and even into graduate school.
When we pulled into our hotel just outside of Stockholm, Sweden and the biggest IKEA in the world was directly across the street. This view would not usually excite me as a tourist, but the best was yet to come.
We watched streams of families with young kids enter IKEA at mealtimes and come out without shopping carts. Upon further investigation we found our favorite, and most affordable place to dine in Scandinavia so far!
Five sweet buns and five drinks cost only 25 SEK, or $3.50! We spent $20.00 on five plates of Swedish meatballs with lingonberry sauce, brown gravy and mashed potatoes, drinks and ice cream for the kids.
Just to give you an idea, a meal deal for five in Sweden at McDonalds, with dessert comes in around $50. Not to mention the fact that the IKEA cafe is bright, modern, equipped with bibs and bouncy seats, and completely welcoming!
Upon returning to our hotel, I was intrigued and dove a bit further into IKEA as a company.
IKEA was founded by Ingvar Kamprad, who showed a budding entrepreneurial spirit at a very young age, selling matchsticks he would buy in bulk. His passion quickly grew into furniture and the company was incorporated in 1943.
He marketed Ikea’s first piece of build-it-yourself furniture in 1956, which was the predecessor to my college desk with extra pieces. There are now 349 stores located throughout 43 countries.
Many people have varied opinions about a company that had a 2013 revenue of $37.9 billion. It is worth noting that the company is owned by charities established by the founder Kamprad! The INGKA Foundation, which oversees the IKEA brand, is thought to be one of the world’s largest charitable organizations.
While some believe this is all a tax evasion strategy, it should be pointed out that the INGKA Foundation gives away millions of dollars each year to various efforts. Granted, that pales in comparison to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, whose donations are somewhere in the billions.
Many people talk about the expense of traveling in Scandinavia and we have found it to be much more expensive than many other parts of Europe. We would, however, also say it is a stunning landscape, that would be at the top of list for further exploration someday.
Although I am not in the market for another college desk just yet, the Swedish meatballs and salmon salad would be hard to pass up, especially while traveling in Sweden!