Danes accuse Ikea of ‘Swedish imperialism’

Stephen Chernin/Getty Images Ever since Gustavus Adolphus kicked the bucket in 1632, it’s been increasingly difficult to make the case that the bucolic Scandinavian nation of Sweden is an imperial power. But some in Denmark are trying to do exactly that. An analysis by two Danish academics found that the Swedish furniture store Ikea gives ...

596092_080307_ikea2.jpg
596092_080307_ikea2.jpg

Stephen Chernin/Getty Images

Ever since Gustavus Adolphus kicked the bucket in 1632, it's been increasingly difficult to make the case that the bucolic Scandinavian nation of Sweden is an imperial power. But some in Denmark are trying to do exactly that. An analysis by two Danish academics found that the Swedish furniture store Ikea gives its "better" products Swedish and Norwegian names, while "lesser" products are christened with Danish names. An analysis by a blogger on a Germany-based Web forum also reached the same conclusion.

Here's the hierarchy:

Stephen Chernin/Getty Images

Ever since Gustavus Adolphus kicked the bucket in 1632, it’s been increasingly difficult to make the case that the bucolic Scandinavian nation of Sweden is an imperial power. But some in Denmark are trying to do exactly that. An analysis by two Danish academics found that the Swedish furniture store Ikea gives its “better” products Swedish and Norwegian names, while “lesser” products are christened with Danish names. An analysis by a blogger on a Germany-based Web forum also reached the same conclusion.

Here’s the hierarchy:

  • Tier 1, Swedish: Upholstered furniture, bookcases, and multimedia consoles get the names of Swedish towns. Example — the Kramfors sofa.
  • Tier 2, Norwegian: Beds, dressers, and hallway furniture are bestowed with the names of Norwegian towns. Example — the Leksvik bed.
  • Tier 3, Finnish: Chairs and dining tables are christened after Finnish towns. Example — the Harola chair.
  • Tier 4, Danish: Doormats, runners, and inexpensive carpeting get Danish names. Example — the Roskilde rug and the Köge doormat.

The hierarchy, an example of “Swedish imperialism,” sends the message that Denmark is the doormat of Sweden, one of the academics said in a Feb. 14 article in the Danish newspaper Nyhedsavisen.

Some Danes, upset at the doormat treatment, called for a boycott of Ikea, but that idea never had a chance since there is no practical alternative for Danish shoppers. I guess they’ll just have to get used to the world’s Scandinavian-furniture lovers walking all over them.

Preeti Aroon was copy chief at Foreign Policy from 2009 to 2016 and was an FP assistant editor from 2007 to 2009. Twitter: @pjaroonFP

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