IKEA in Asia

Let me say, for full disclosure at the very beginning, we weren’t at our best when we embarked on our IKEA adventure on Monday. We had woken up at about 3:30 am (our U.S. internal clock asserting itself) after an already broken night of sleep, this night and all the nights before. That morning Gary had braved the horrors of signing up for internet service and a cell plan (daunting in any country), I had spent the morning compiling what I thought would be a very large order over the internet. We had traveled across the island by bus and train to spend large amounts of money on school uniforms, and finally (thankfully!) dropped the girls back off at our temporary apartment to rest.

Of course, I had been expecting to get a furnished apartment from the very beginning, so buying furniture had never entered by initial thoughts. However, we soon realized that renting an unfurnished place and buying some inexpensive furniture from IKEA was really a better option: a better apartment and cleaner furniture :)

My first shock came I realized that I could not order the things from my list online. Perhaps, this is a universal IKEA thing. I really hadn’t ever ordered so many large items from IKEA before. When I called to clarify, they said that I would have to come into the store to place my order. So when we dropped the girls off at the apartment, we dutifully printed our six page list, refilled our water bottles and headed back to the train station about 4 o’clock. Normally, all this walking, despite our lack of good sleep, would have been welcome, but Singapore has an extremely humid climate that seems to zap all of your energy the minute you step outside and we could feel it. However, as we rounded the corner and the IKEA came into view we were still in pretty good spirits. We would just run into IKEA, place our order with a friendly associate and get back in time to gather a few much needed food items on our way home.

The moment we entered the store I could tell that perhaps this was not as easy as I thought it might be. The store was packed with people. Let me say that shopping for SIngaporeans is a national pastime and I am not being facetious when I write that. But seriously, it was a Monday; I thought we were safe from the crowds. Why in the world were all of these people here? I neglected to remember that it was the Muslim holiday called Hari Raya Puasa, or the end of Ramadan. The Muslims of Singapore dress in beautifully colored clothing (really strikingly beautiful and elaborate) and visit relatives, but for everyone else it was just a day off.


Nothing daunted, we threaded our way through the crowds to the nearest service desk and asked where to place our order. We were politely told to keep following the crowds in the showroom to the nearest ordering station. Still following the crowds, we finally came to the nearest station and proceeded to show our list to the IKEA rep. Again, this may be typical IKEA style, but she told us that while she could place an order for our mattresses and beds, we would have to walk through the store picking everything else up (from dining room furniture to colanders), pay though the check-out line and then take it to the home delivery counter. I was stunned by the seeming lack of sense. Where is the famed Singaporean efficiency we had heard so much about?

For the next three hours, we ambled through the crowds of laughing, recreational shoppers, picking up our lamps, dishes, pots and pans – everything that you would need to simply furnish a three bedroom apartment. At the home delivery desk, we even helped them place our items in bags to ship. The employee helping us at the home delivery counter was so unfailingly polite, I couldn’t even be upset when he said that we would have to carry all of our fragile things with us. So loaded like beasts of burden, we finally made our way out of the store to begin the long trudge back to the train station. Stopping briefly by the store, to load ourselves down a little more, we finally made it back to our apartment. Needless to say, I was asleep by 8:15.