So last Saturday it was time to furnish Brenden's bedroom. Furniture costs at our base store are ridiculous, so we decided that the best move was to take a deep breath and embrace the Ikea experience. We loaded up our two cars (because you need a lot of space to bring home a dozen ikea boxes), said a quick prayer that Maddie wouldn't devolve halfway through the Ikea maze, and set out on our adventure. Little did we know that it would end up being only the first of two Ikea trips that day. And in an attempt to process my Ikea-related PTSD and find true healing, here are the highlights and lowlights from our trip(s).
1. First and foremost, Ikea and Italians don't mix. I blame this more on Ikea than on the Italians. A large multinational store should do a little more cultural contextualization and planning before moving into a new market. For anyone who has never visited an Ikea, their stores are planned out in a complex maze system that takes roughly 1-2 hours to navigate if you're not stopping to shop. There is a central corridor with arrows pointing you in the correct direction, sample rooms and furniture models on all sides, and hidden doors that can serve as cut-throughs if you knows where you're going. If everyone follows the arrows, you have organized chaos. If no one follows the arrows, you simply have chaos. Italians don't follow arrows. Or street signs. Or directions. Or commonly accepted crowd control rules. They also don't believe in stepping to the side of the walkway if they want to get into a deep and heated discussion with 20 of their closest friends. So you're left with large loud milling crowds of people wandering in no consistent direction and blocking any means of navigating the store in the manner it was intended.
2. We have conquered the yellow tags! This is a big win for our family. When we shopped at Ikea upon arrival in Italy, we had to spend some time learning their tagging system. We figured out that red tagged items meant you could pick up your items yourself in the warehouse. All we could gather about the yellow tags was that we had to stand in line and talk to someone in that particular department. We had no idea what happened after. So we only purchased red tag items. This time, we realized that all of the mattresses were yellow tagged, and since Brenden needed a bed, we had no choice. It was time to figure out the yellow tags. So we stood in line and after much pointing and use of google translate, we got a nicely printed paper. We had no idea what to do with the paper, but luckily we ran into an American couple who explained that we simply had to pay downstairs for the items on the paper and then go to the depot to get our purchase. Yellow tags, conquered!
3. I need to learn some Italian. I (wrongly) assumed that at an international store like Ikea, there would be at least a little English capability with the customer service staff who help with the aforementioned yellow tags. I actually really enjoy cross-cultural communication in most aspects of life (I am an expert chicken clucker when ordering food while traveling), but in a high stress environment like Ikea when there are a dozen people waiting in line behind me, my inability to communicate becomes a problem. I fully realize that it's my problem and not theirs, hence my need to learn some Italian. Thank goodness for google translate...a beautiful useful crutch for this busy mamma who hasn't had time to study Italian since Maddie's birth!
4. Cute babies are universally able to transcend the language-cultural barriers. While standing in line for the yellow tag, I was pushing Maddie back and forth in the stroller trying to keep her asleep. I've found that using a white noise app on my phone and tucking the phone into the stroller helps her sleep through pretty much anything. So as I rocked her back and forth, the couple in front of me started looking around and with my limited Italian, I realized they were trying to figure out why they were hearing an odd noise. So using my excellent cross-cultural communication charades skills, I explained the white noise app. Then of course they wanted to see the baby (because Italians love babies!), and I soon had a whole cluster of Italians cooing at Maddie and saying "bella." I seriously think that with enough time in Italy, she will think her name actually is Bella.
5. Sadly and as anyone who is an Ikea shopper will tell you, assemble yourself can sometimes mean assemble-yourself-until-you-realize-a-piece-is-missing. And so after Marty and Brenden brilliantly packed all of our boxes into the cars and we made it home, carried the boxes up the stair and began assembling furniture, we realized that yes, we were missing the central support leg for the bed. To be fair to Ikea, apparently it doesn't always come with the bed and you have to buy it separately. But I feel like that could have been mentioned when we were getting the other pieces. Saturday also happened to be our once a month parents night out where our daycare opens on a Saturday evening so parents can have a date. So you guessed it, Marty and I spent our date night going back to Ikea for the missing leg. 1.5 hours later we finally staggered away from Ikea with our $5 support leg. Because...and this brings me to item #6...
6. Who knew that the only time Ikea in Italy is more crowded than a Saturday afternoon is on a Saturday at 7pm! Apparently all of Naples likes to hang out in the corridor of Ikea on a Saturday evening.
So a little the worse for wear and still occasionally having flashbacks, we have conquered Ikea in Italy.