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    Uff da! The inside skinny on Swedish people

    If you can find your way out, there is much to be learned from a visit to Ikea.

    I know all about Swedish people now. No, I didn't go there. I didn't have to. I went to Portland's new Ikea store, which is housed in a building about the same size as Sweden, only with more parking.

    Here's what I learned:

    • Swedish people have small behinds. I know this because every chair I saw had a seat that would accommodate half the normal American behind. So remember, that dining set for six will really only seat three of us.
    • Swedes are not self-conscious about aging. When a middle-aged Swede heaves herself up and off a couch or bed that sits two inches off the floor, and her knees make noises that sound like gunshots, she wouldn't care a bit.
    • Swedish people are big party animals. Their cocktail napkins come in packages of about 10,000 and only in very bright colors. Their ice cubes are shaped like stars and triangles. They did not stop using fondue pots in the 1950s like people in the rest of the industrialized world. They have a corkscrew called Groggy, which is Swedish for "how you feel if you use this too many times in one night."
    • Swedish people do not believe in gym memberships. They burn calories by wrestling 91 pieces of wood out of two boxes and spending seven hours turning it all into an entertainment center. They are a very proud people: To a man, they insist they can follow assembly directions for an end table that resemble schematics for a high-rise building.
    • Swedish people are very, very absent minded. To remember where things are, they use special separate containers for shoes, oatmeal, dog food, laundry (light and dark), file folders, Christmas decorations, CDs, toothbrushes, knives, toilet brushes, tiny little socks, garden tools, magazines, garbage (paper, food, metal, glass), spaghetti, and batteries.
    • Swedish children are raised under very strict rules. They are forced to play with finger puppets shaped like sea creatures, making up stories using imagination and creativity, while their American counterparts develop repetitive-stress injuries from playing video games like Parent Decapitator 2.0.
    • The most important thing about Swedish people is that once you wander onto their turf, they will do just about anything to keep you there. If you're foolish enough to stray off the beaten path (marked with large, painted arrows on the ground), you might never find your way out. There are worse things, though, than eating meatballs and lingonberry sauce in a nice, clean cafeteria for the rest of your life.

    Kimberly Marlowe Hartnett writes and edits for Crosscut. You can e-mail her at kimberly.marlowe.hartnett@crosscut.com. She also blogs at Type Like The Wind.

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    Posted Wed, Dec 12, 11:04 a.m. Inappropriate

    Oy vey!: One of the region's best newspaper reporters took time out of his busy day to email me and point out that "Uff da!" is Norwegian, and therefore "not from the land of cheap-ass furniture." Oh, and I managed to spell Uff wrong (I had only one f), quite an accomplishment with a measly 3-letter word. I corrected the latter and will let the former stand because I've always wanted to get Uff da! in a headline. --Kimberly Marlowe Hartnett

    Posted Wed, Dec 12, 2:17 p.m. Inappropriate

    RE: Oy vey!: KMH: You can rest easy because your article on Swedes reads as if a Norwegian had written it, which is why it is so good and accurate.--Knute

    Posted Wed, Dec 12, 4:48 p.m. Inappropriate

    IKEA is like a ride at Disneyland: You wouldn't jump out of a boat or other moving conveyance at Disneyland and head off through the ride would you? IKEA is the same way. You travel down the path from one amazing Furnitureland to another, as vistas of nordic living play themselves out before your eyes. Other furniture stores let you wander around in any direction - IKEA is a programmed experience just like Pirates of the Caribbean or It's a Small World. If you get a little consciousness-elevated before going, just like Disneyland, the experience is heightened. All IKEA needs to do is put a channel of water where the walkway is now, add a few Audio-Animatronic Svens and Larses to sing a catchy song, and they'd have an E-ticket attraction for sure. And just like Disneyland, the ride dumps you out at a souvenir shop.


    Posted Wed, Dec 12, 5:09 p.m. Inappropriate

    RE: IKEA is like a ride at Disneyland: This is a frighteningly good idea. Especially the "Audio-Animatronic Svens and Larses" part.

    Posted Thu, Dec 13, 9:13 a.m. Inappropriate

    Uff da too ..: As a charter member of the Ester Moe Lodge of the Daughters of Norway here on Whidbey Island, I was ready to poke you about the Uff da - Swedish connection. But somebody beat me to to it. Actually, the Daughters of Norway are quite all encompassing and accept the following women:

    * Born in Norway or descended from or married to someone who was,
    * Born in Denmark, Sweden, Finland or Iceland, be descended from or married to someone who was,
    * Have a slektning (relative) who was born in Norway or who was descended from someone who was born in Norway.

    Maybe they could add:

    *Shops at IKEA on a regular basis.

    I enjoyed your take on the new PDX store. I was in Stockholm several summers ago and yes, the Swedes have small behinds; grow old gracefully; party 'til dawn; and are in terrific shape. I've never seen so many people biking/talking on cell phones/smoking all at the same time. Outside of the Italians -- they are one good lookin' country.

    Hey, ever heard of a bunad?

    Sue Frause, Langley

    Posted Thu, Dec 13, 4:59 p.m. Inappropriate

    OK, I'll fall for it....: .....No! Dare I ask...what is a bunad??? --Kimberly Marlowe Hartnett

    Posted Thu, Dec 13, 9:49 p.m. Inappropriate

    standing in line: All this conversation about Scandinavians almost sidetracked me from recalling my favorite experience at Ikea when standing in line ahead of me were former Governor Gary Locke and his wife, very pregnant, her elbow resting on his shoulder. This, of course, was early in his first administration. There was no sign of a security detail as far as I could see and onlookers smiled and nodded, but nobody approached them. The governor was pushing one of those huge dollies, stacked high with merchandise. My thought then: only in Seatttle--or should I say Renton?


    Posted Sun, Dec 30, 6:42 a.m. Inappropriate

    Crew of the mothership weighs in: Among the many thoughtful comments I've had about this story--who knew there were so many Swedes reading Crosscut?--came a great one from Björn and Görel Hermansson, who live some nine time zones away. It spoke specifically to my observation that finding one's way out of an IKEA store is a challenge:

    "We live outside a town in Sweden called Örebro, GPS reading: N 59*11.861 E 15*03.629. Why do not use a GPS when you go shopping? It helps a lot..."

    Now, THAT'S feedback worth getting.

    Posted Fri, Mar 20, 10:52 a.m. Inappropriate

    For those of us with Swedish family roots, IKEA offers a taste of tradition...Swedish/Scandinavian foods not stocked at Fred Meyer/Safeway/New Seasons.

    Great piece, Kimberly!

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