We are currently living in a student hostel, renting an apartment from a couple of students who have vacated for the summer holidays. The students (and the rest of Bergen’s 20-30,000 student population) return next week, and we will be moving into our more permanent apartment that weekend.
The student apartment block is a six level building, with more fire-proofing and electrical safety practices in place than a day-care centre for babies destined to be engineers. To use the stove we have to push a button which gives us bursts of power at 30 minute intervals, and then we have to set a timer for how long to activate the power within the 30 minutes. Only then can we start cooking, and then only for 30 minutes, after that the power turns off again.
I now wish we had installed similar safeguards in our house before handing it over to the rental agent.
Nonetheless, despite the vigorous student-proofing, the building is nice, tidy and has served as a lovely home for us for the past six weeks. However, it is not the sort of place you’d expect to find tenants with a disposable income.
Yet, since we’ve lived here, we’ve seen people throw out as-new looking furniture, including two glass dining room tables and chairs, a solid wooden desk, shelves, and any number of other items. For us this has been rather convenient. We’ve picked up a quality Canon printer, a blender, and an Ikea coffee table, all in great condition.
This intrigued me. How can students afford to continually throw out such wares, in what seems to be the most expensive country in the world? None of these items are cheap to replace.
I was baffled. It was apparent this was part of some Norwegian culture we had yet to understand.
It was this weekend that I would finally receive enlightenment.
We wanted to try out our new public transport passes, so took a bus to Åsane – one of the shopping centres in Bergen
We wandered through the mall. It was gorgeous and I became giddy with excitement. Shiny floors, and a long suite of small specialised shops, including a candle shop, cutlery shop, flower shop, and to add to my frenzy several boot shops. The stores were immaculate and a delight to wander through – so many lovely items to buy, particularly if your current belongings all fit into two Macpacs, and a suitcase recovered from the Auckland inorganic collection.
There were neither tourists, nor curiously, any other people for that matter.
We continued on to the Norwegian Noel-Leeming-equivalent shop. There were wide spacious aisles, and a vast array of specialised cookware, and other items. The Norwegian way seems to be to only have a small range of any one product (unless it relates to waffles), but of high quality.
I eyed up the waffle maker, the raclette machine, and the slicing machine.
Again curiously the store seemed empty. I felt like a celebrity, who had just kicked out all other shoppers so I could choose the best warming plate machine for my cat’s rehearsal birthday dinner party.
We wandered out again, and continued on through the shopping centre. Ahead of us was a large, expansive, square, white building. There were no markings on it, except for four large blue letters on the top left side.
I K E A
My excitement meter went into overdrive. Nearly running, I dragged Brian inside.
And, suddenly so many questions were answered at once.
This is where Norway goes on the weekend. Those other lovely stores – they’re just window candy.
This giant wonderland was packed with locals buying wardrobes, beds, kitchens, libraries, drapes, and dining room tables. We found it difficult to make our way even through the front entrance. Boxes and boxes of packed adultified lego were being carted out of the store. Norwegian houses tend to be small and compact – that coffee table in that brown box, will be replacing an existing one, soon to be making its way outside, maybe with a sticker on it labelled ‘ta meg’.
The IKEA store was a massive dizzying display home. A display home that is pure, 100% shopping-porn. I immediately regretted having rented a furnished apartment. There’s so much here I could buy and personalise our new apartment with.
And then I had my third enlightenment.
IKEA is why Norwegian’s homes all look the same*.
There are no aisles where you agonise over which colour shelf you take, and which model. Instead you ramble past a perfectly set dining room table with glassware, runners, napkin holders, chairs, and candles set in a gorgeous fully equipped kitchen complete with bowls and waffle maker. It is the ultimate fantasy of how you might imagine your home looking one day. One day, maybe. To shop, you write down the code, colour, size, and model you’re after, and then eventually hand it to a salesperson once you reach the end of the IKEA trail.
Finally, we succeeded in negotiating our way past the locals and out of furniture fantasy land. I survived the overwhelming urge to buy. As we ventured outside into the Bergen drizzle, mental normality resumed and my requirements readjusted.
Those lavish bedrooms, children’s rooms, bathrooms, hallways and coat rooms were now once again just a vague illusion.
All I really wanted was a waffle maker – a fantasy we can satisfy.