a unique perspective on this crazy world

Posts tagged ‘IKEA’

apparently misery DOES love company

This all started when I was browsing in the shops seeing if Swedish fashion would entice me to part with some more kroner.  But the palette made me feel kind of depressed.  It seemed to resemble the weather outside.  I wondered what came first…  and if, between the challenging weather patterns and all this black and grey clothing, the Swedes were depressed.

But I just thought it was more of my silly black humour.  I didn’t buy anything though.  It was all too shapeless and dark.  I guess Swedish women are so gorgeous they can wear a potato sack and look good.  Most of the clothing seemed to be working on that model.  Along with an awful lot of parkas!  If you need a black parka, this is your paradise 😉

I tried to like Acne – but it just looked mostly weird and I didn’t think it would look terribly flattering on me.  I am more a Dolce and Gabbana kind of girl.  I like it when French guys young enough to be my son come up to me and shyly tell me in broken English that they like my dress.  I didn’t think Acne was gonna get me that kind of attention…  I realize I don’t look very hip.  But it seems that looking sexy means I meet a lot more strangers – and my travel stories are better 😉

After my Swedish shopping experience I was reading a novel on the plane home called Delicacy by David Foenkinos.  It’s definitely worth reading.  But he’s French and I thought he was really picking on the Swedes with the Markus character.  And there was this big emphasis on the Swedes being suicidal.

I am a woman who enjoy facts more than chocolate so I had to get some info before I wrote about the depressing clothing in my blog.  Apparently, the Swedes ARE famous for being suicidal.  But the average Swede… pretty happy.  It would appear that really cool happy places make the unhappy people more unhappy.  Not enough other people around to commiserate with apparently.

So it would appear Sweden is a kind of Disneyland.  So, if you are more a Sartre Nothingness kind of person, you should likely hole up somewhere like the Democratic Republic  of Congo.  Lots of miserable people there to make you feel better about your lot.

Or you might just try not caring so much what other people think…

Personally I would be really happy in Sweden 🙂  But then I am pretty happy everywhere.  You make your own happiness – and a lot of your luck.

I was definitely happy when I was observing – or learning about – Swedish design.  They may dress like shapeless goths – but they like their interiors full of colour, shape and function.

I won’t bore you with all the details of everything I learned about Swedish design.  One of the coolest things I saw was the dollhouses at the Nordiska Museet.  What was especially fascinating is that they weren’t all for kids… and normally children were not allowed to play with them, just to observe.  But some of the early ones were to show people how to apply interior design in their homes.  An early version of the Home and Garden cable channel 😉

Another highlight for me was tacking on the Architecture Museum to my Moderna Museet tour.  Not only an entire history of Swedish architecture but some of the key architectural wonders happening all over the world at the same time.

One of the most interesting things I learned about was the One Million Dwellings Programme, an ambitious housing project implemented in Sweden between 1965 and 1974 by the governing Swedish Social Democratic Party to make sure everyone could have a home at a reasonable price. The aim was to build a million new dwellings in a 10-year period.  At the same time, a large proportion of the older housing stock was demolished.

In the end, about 1,006,000 new dwellings were built, which accounts for 25% of Sweden’s housing. There was criticism that the new apartments were ugly but they were modern and well-designed and generally the people who got to live in them were thrilled.  Yet another example of rational thought by the Swedes as to how to make the general society a better place.

The other interesting fact that I learned – both in Stockholm and in London – was the impact of the first World’s Fair at the Crystal Palace (London) in 1851.  I’ve been to the Crystal Palace – and to the shells of a few other World’s Fairs over my travels.  There were some interesting aspects to most visits but the importance of the concept was lost in the abandoned look of the sites.

But this is why it’s good to keep travelling… and learning stuff.  In Sweden, design is life it seems and the very first World’s Fair had a huge impact on Swedish society.  And the world in general.  Back in those days when google wasn’t a verb and the internet had not yet been invented – by either Al Gore or Tim Berners-Lee – information didn’t travel very far so the World’s Fair was a revelation… and all those interior designers selling themselves on reality TV should be eternally grateful to the Brits for kick-starting their careers generations before they were even born 🙂

In 1930, Sweden hosted the Stockholm Exhibition and introduced the world to Swedish functionalism.  Ingvar Kamprad was only 4 so I doubt he attended but the rest of the world who didn’t attend would learn about Swedish functionalism via the little company he started in 1943.  He called it IKEA…

So… it would appear the Swedes are mostly really happy, they like to dress in dark colours and they have a sense of style that is world-famous.  All the Swedes I met seemed pretty sunny… and the sun does pop out from time to time and – thanks to that Nordic light – when it does, it’s spectacular.

memories of IKEA instructions ;)

I am discovering I DO create the travel stories – but actually getting them on-line while I am travelling – a lot more complicated…  when I retire… for now… you will just have to be patient… lots of posts partly written or in my head, photos on my camera… so the stories will appear over the next week or two… tonight it is my last night in Stockholm but we are exploring the first…

I have arrived in one of my ancestral homelands.  It’s just a few days in Stockholm so not sure how much I will learn about my roots but there is a different sensibility arriving in the country from which your surname originated.

The Stockholm experience begins at the airport.  It is well organized, ultra clean and full of minimalist Scandinavian design.  It’s the airport of the Jetsons…

Until I tried to get some kronor.  The Swedes are a bit suspicious of the continent so the EU is OK but the jury is still out on the euro.  My personal life and the euro have followed an intimate and bizarre trajectory but for this post, suffice to say, I think the Swedes are right 😉

Even though it’s a hassle for tourists.  But I’ve used bank machines all over the world.  How hard can it be?

Well, this bank machine had obviously been designed by the dude who writes the IKEA instructions.  First I had to insert my card in a totally abnormal way.  When I finally figured out how to get my card in the machine, I’d missed the nanosecond when you could punch an obscure key to get the instructions in English.  I suppose I should have guessed it was asking for my pin number in Swedish but seeing a bunch of stuff in an incomprehensible foreign language throws you.  I finally secured my measly 2,000 kronors – which will buy nothing I am discovering… and I have built a LOT of IKEA furniture in my iterant life so the haunting memories exploded into my brain…

But then I looked at the perfect sky – full of Nordic light and marshmallow clouds – as my wildly expensive taxi traversed the motorways toward my hotel.

<no question Stockholm requires a fat bankroll – but is full of small treasures… I am in the Berns bar where the cute bartender knows my room number typing this… and some woman who sounds like Adele has just starting singing… so my overpriced Chenin Blanc is tasting better ;)>

And speaking of the Berns Hotel… I am a fan!  Check-in was fantastic.  It would appear Swedish women could turn anyone into a lesbian 😉  They had my name wrong on the reservation – a common mistake.  But she really appreciated the significance of a letter.  It’s a totally DIFFERENT name!  I think her name is Danielle.  She is gorgeous – but that seems to be the norm around here.  What was unique about Danielle is that she just sparkled.  Her personality.  Her smile.  Her attitude.  You could fall in love with her in under five minutes 🙂

She was an example of the person we could all be.  Why not be friendly?  Why not be great at your job?  Why not be engaging?  Why not twinkle?  I know it will improve your life because strangers will enjoy interacting with you.  And people that you actually know?  They will fall in love with you – hard 😉

But as I write this (originally, in my notebook) I have decamped to the Gold Bar at the Nobis Hotel… because I wasn’t sure if I should stay there instead of the Berns.  (Now, with all my experience, I think it depends on your purpose in Stockholm.  For aspiring party animals, the Berns is perfection ;).



Back at the Gold Bar I ordered an Orchid Royalty.  Apparently it won some accolades at a cocktail contest in London.  Aged Guatemalan rum, sweet vermouth, Pedro Ximinez and gold dust!  It was sublime.  Bartenders in Stockholm are good at their jobs and friendly enough but a bit stiff by world standards.  No one is going to blow you kisses if you leave them a tip like the charming dudes in Amsterdam 😉

Dutch guys and Sweden women… that might be quite the combo!  I’ve had fun with both.  I never managed to confirm Danielle’s name but we chatted over the past few days – and she lit up every time I said “hi”.  I won’t forget her.  I like to think I light up around other people.  Being on the receiving end of it has convinced me it’s really worth paying attention to – and working on.  It’s common knowledge I love glitter and sequins…  let’s see if I can mirror that in my personality as well…

p.s.  I have been snapping Stockholm… in the various weathers… so pictures will be forthcoming!  Stay tuned!

p.p.s. subsequent to writing this I had a chat with the cute bartender who has been my favourite during my stay at Berns.  His name is Daniel.  He confirmed Danielle is the correct name for the girl at the front desk.  I told him he was really great at his job.  Watching him in action is very impressive.  You can only chat on Sunday.  On the weekend you just have to watch in amazement as he participates in the show that is Berns 🙂


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