'Ikea is cheap! '
This certainly is one of the most significant 'culture shock' I have developed ever since I live in this continent. Yeah, you heard me right, Ikea is considered as 'cheap' here. Yes the currency rates does play a major role in this issue, but the lifestyle over here is another major determining factor that indeed "Ikea is cheap". Relatively, at least.
I remember when Ikea first opened in Malaysia in 1-Utama, it was simply phenomenal. The Ikea culture quickly become 'the most desired' lifestyle of the younger generation, and many of us desperately pursue a life that is synonymous to the styles/designs that are portrayed by Ikea. Perhaps we are tired of those 3D furniture style as easily available in Old Klang Road (of Kuala Lumpur), or maybe it is because the merchandizes that Ikea carried is more of a Western design and that brings in a refreshing scene to the home furniture world. Whatever it is, Ikea surely has captured everyone's attention.
However, nice things often come with a 'nice' price tag. Hey, aesthetic costs. While the nice Ikea reclining chair, the nice decor items, the frames, the arts, the sofas, the beds, the toys, the rugs, the cabinet, the so on and so forth are definitely some of the 'must-have' in most of the Klang Valley households back home, it is no doubt that most of the Ikea furnitures are priced on a higher price range than those that you can get from an ordinary furniture store in Malaysia.
My fiance has a cousin who resides in NYC. When I first visited his upscale apartment at the end of 2004 I was totally blown away by the interior design. Hey I have never been to any apartment that is of that standard. During one of the meal I asked him where does he normally go for his furniture shopping, and before he could answer me I promptly continued 'like Ikea, maybe?' He threw me a shock look, and uttered these 3 words that stumbled me 'Ikea is cheap!' I rationalized that it must be the exchange rate that lead to this statement. And of course, New Yorkers earning is normally higher than the general population due to the high living standard and cost of living. But to tell me Ikea is cheap? 'No way ...!' I thought.
The aforementioned happened before I reside in USA. Honestly this statement makes more sense after spending sometime living here. I realize that the demand of general American population when it comes to home furniture is very different from back home. Take mattress for example, here you will NEVER see something like thin tilam (hey I can't even find a translation for thin tilam in English) but only thick mattresses that highlights all sorts of neat features. Sleep number, firm vs softness, special coil/spring, special contour design, heat tempered, memory foam, just to name a few. At home in M'sia mine mattress was bought from pasar malam (Malay: night market), yet here you're 'forced' to get a proper mattress for aat least a few hundred bucks because you can't get anything that is of a lesser standard. Recently I have been shopping around for a sofa/loveseat/futon, and guess what, I don't see any sofa that is priced below $500, but Ikea has so much to offer when it comes to more affordable deals. This goes the same for bed frame, coffee table, etc etc etc. Now I agree that Ikea really is cheap, cheap in a more affordable way ... Quality wise, hmmm, maybe, because I think most of the furnitures here are made in this country. Guess that would lead to the high price due to the high labour fees.
When I think about this retrospectively, I hope my fiance's cousin wasn't offended by me. Hey I seriously did not have any idea about the furniture scene in USA. To make matter worse, he doesn't only go to fancy store for his furniture, he goes to SoHo (an eclectic neighbourhood in NYC that is a heaven to many artists) to buy his stuffs. How can that be synonymous to Ikea?
I took a year and a half to learn my lesson.
Hey, the next time if you ever hear this, don't say you're not warned!