IKEA blues

How could a trip to IKEA ever be a disappointment?  I am a long time IKEA fan, so buying furniture for our Swedish apartment was pretty much a pilgrimage for me.

To understand why it was a disappointment, you need to understand how the Swedish Personnummer system works.  A Personnummer is a 9-didgit number issued to every Swede at birth.  It’s like a social insurance number, but far more intense.  Without it, you cannot open a bank account, get a credit card, rent an apartment, get a gym membership, go to the library, or rent a DVD.  Without a personnummer, you are not really a person in Sweden.

My personnummer application is in the mail, for real.

Also, our Canadian credit cards do not come with pin codes, so it is tricky to buy things via credit card.  Usually we get around this by showing our passports, promising we are who we say we are, and saying thank you.  We don’t yet have Swedish credit or debit cards, see personnummer above.  We can take money out of ATMs (surcharge city!), but as it turns out, only 2000 Swedish crowns at a time.

Catherine organizing purchases at the Gavle IKEA

So back to IKEA: we had a great trip to IKEA.  We took the bus, and I did a substantial amount of planning, budgeting, and strategizing to get the most stuff for the least $$.  We then went to IKEA, found our way around via Swedish signs (just kidding, I know the layout of every IKEA store ever built!)  We got our marketplace house wares, and navigated the self-serve section, and then ordered out special items (couch, bed, etc.) and also ordered delivery service.  Delivery is 495 SEK no matter how much stuff you have, so we were happy to be getting our money’s worth – we bought EVERYTHING! Bookshelves, desk, table, couch, pots, kitchen stuff, sheets, mattress, hat rack, storage, towels, rug, etc. fricken’ etc.  So imagine us going up to the till, ringing it all through (anticipating a celebratory lunch in the IKEA restaurant) and then Graham hands over his credit card…

Ej godkänd  (which the clerk told us means ‘NOT APPROVED”).

Maybe mine will work?  NO

Maybe my debit card will work? NO

So we tried to trick the local ATMs into giving us each 2000SEK twice – Nej God (no good.)  Graham was understandably a bit cranky at this point (remember, we were waiting to eat lunch.)  I tried to be charming and explain to the customer service people our issue.  After some back and forth, they kindly offered to store our things until tomorrow, so we can come back and buy them then (our ATMs will hopefully provide us each with 2000 more SEK).

We did eat and IKEA lunch (I totally recommend the princess cake, even though it looks weird), only slightly less delicious without the thrill of victory.  Tomorrow I am going back to IKEA (with another 4000 SEK) to buy the stuff and give them the delivery info.

We’ll post on the before/after transformation of our apartment (with some interim assembly shots) soon.


  1. Funny and a deja vue for me!!! You can’t do much in Canada as a newly arrived immigrant either without having your social security number assigned to you. I remember very well that I had to hand over almost ALL my cash as a security deposit for the basement I rented in Vancouver without being able to get any more for a few more days.

  2. Good thing they were willing to store your collected not-yet-purchases for you – that’s a lot of the work of shopping: choosing and collecting and trucking to the till. I love that you knew your way around – they are all the same, aren’t they? What, no swedish meatballs? 😉 Best wishes on a more successful venture tomorrow.

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