When thinking of emigrating there are a few questions worth asking.
Is there a direct flight to Dublin? Is it a Muslim country? Are women allowed drive? For all the obvious reasons each of these has significant effect on the life as an expat and can help you choose between say, Doha or Dubai. But there is one subsidiary question that isn’t asked in the first round, maybe not even in the second but when you arrive at your new home, you will ask it within a week: Is there an Ikea?
Face it, it’s more than just a DIY or Home store, it’s a day out, it a safe pair of hands when looking for scatter cushions and it’s a no-brainer when looking for children’s furniture. It’s puts a city on the expat map, it’s reassurance that the location your new home is OK. After all, a city can’t be that bad if it has an IKEA. Jakarta doesn’t have an Ikea.
Of course there are two types of expat in Jakarta, the ones that don’t want an Ikea because it will normalise their exotic location and make it less impressive when telling their friends about the remote destination they now call home; and there are people like me, that love Swedish meatballs, cheap ice-cream, and nicely priced home-wares, that fills the need for retail therapy when the wardrobe budget has diminished to nothing more than a mirage in a very vast desert.
The more people I spoke to about my fondness for Ikea and indeed all things easy on the eye, and not necessarily long lasting, the more I realised that Jakarta expats seem to be ‘so over IKEA’ because the majority get their furniture handmade. I decided to give ‘not missing Ikea’ a go. I would join the trend in Jakarta and commission a piece of furniture, a rite of passage for any expat when doing a stint in Indonesia.
Not being creative by nature, I would open my handmade furniture portfolio with a side-table, identical to the one I bought in IKEA in Abu Dhabi for the princely sum of Eu. 200, perhaps one of the only pieces I purchased that as not from the ‘as is’ section. Making enquiries, with all the right people, I got the address of ‘the’ furniture maker and I visited the address.
The showroom, which was at the side of the street displayed a wide variety of pieces and there was a notable lack of a workshop. I forwarded the photo to the salesgirl via SMS and I asked for a price and an expected delivery date. I couldn’t understand the reply to either, but she smiled and nodded so I took that as ‘not too saucy and late next week’.
Curiosity getting the better of me, early the next week, I stopped by to check on progress, I didn’t even need to get out of the car, there on the side of the road, in the rain was my newly commissioned side table. The legs set firmly into the gutter and the rain dripping down off the tarpaulin roof of the shop. Thereafter I decided maybe it was best to wait for the call and not drop by unexpected again.
End of the week, the call came, still not understanding Bahasa I presumed she was saying the table was ready and that it wasn’t a design issue at this point. I asked about delivery, she replied, ‘yes, when rain is stopped we will deliver’. Next morning, two men carefully lifted it off the back of the small vehicle (motorised, but neither a car nor a van), balancing the table above their heads as they walked barefoot.
It took pride of place, opposite its sister IKEA one which it outshone and out classed it in every aspect. Then I asked the price again… Eu 50, only. No flat pack, no delivery charge, no neck damage trying to fit it into the car and no rolls of bubble wrap and cardboard for me to dispose of later.
For quarter the price, handmade and delivered to the door, I think I can do without the meatballs.