Falafel, bulgogi, polenta. You won’t find these items at San Diego’s best international cafe. In fact, the menu is usually limited to Scandinavian specialties. The patrons, however, are known to show up in their own regional and traditional dress, speaking languages from all over the world. I would argue this cafe has the most diverse clientele.
Hipster family all wearing skinny jeans and matching organic T-shirts
Indian mom sporting a vibrant sari visiting her son in the U.S.
Turkish woman, speaking on the phone with her family in Turkey
Senior citizens civic group in the corner, discussing community action
A caretaker with adult special needs charges
Iranian couple from Carlsbad, American residents for 40 years, delighted by our baby, they are pleasantly surprised when we invite them to hold her. Really? You would let me touch your baby? She kissed her.
Another family with two boys, speaking a language I didn’t recognize
Women in hijab from East Africa
Across Europe and the United States, our family has patronized IKEA because of Småland and to eat the meatballs.
Some people don’t come for the meatballs. In Bucharest, we thought there was an emergency when fire trucks pulled up. No, the firemen were just coming to get hotdogs.
In Germany my prayer partner and I would meet at the IKEA cafeteria, put our babies in a high chair, and spend time in fellowship.
In our current season of parenting, IKEA gives us a cost-effective date night. Baby is still portable and easy to please, so the three bigs – all potty-trained and still within the height constraints – go to Smaland after we’ve partaken of our family meal of meatballs and mashed potatoes. With our 1.5hrs* of free onsite childcare we fill our coffee mugs with free* cappuccinos and pick a house. Shall we sit in the floor plan that reminds us of the Airbnb we stayed at in Sofia? How about the new floor plan with all the baskets? Or maybe let’s sit in a kitchen at a table and have our calendar talk.
We’ve stayed at our fair share of Airbnbs around the world and, let me tell you, most are furnished with the same IKEA ware. In a sense, it makes Airbnb feel like IKEA’s own hospitality chain. For us, we feel instantly comfortable when we’ve only been in a country for a few hours, yet the curtains are the same pattern as the last place and the white ceramic dinnerware is the same Flitighet as the place in Portugal. We’ve slept on innumerable varieties of IKEA sofa beds. Those fake plants? Yep, they’re popular in Italy too.
If we feel this way about IKEA, I bet all the other global citizens scarfing down meatballs (chicken, vegan or mixed meat) feel similarly. We come to IKEA for cheap food, but also because it feels like home, no matter where we’re from.
* Insider tip, which I’ve been known to share unsolicited with other IKEA patrons: Get the IKEA family card at the kiosk when you enter the building. It entitles you to free coffee and not the standard one hour, but 1.5 hours of free childcare. Granted, my kids usually just rack out and watch the movie, but hey! Sometimes they’re social and play with all the other multilingual kids. The point is, they are well-cared for while my husband and I have our date. And the coffee? At our San Diego IKEA we have an actual coffee machine similar to ones in Europe. You press the button for a latte, capo and something else I never get. FREE. For free, it’s decent. Oh, and when you get that first email from IKEA welcoming you to the IKEA family (since you signed up for it when you got the IKEA family card), just unsubscribe. You know you don’t need email to lure you back in. You’ll be back. Did I mention there’s free childcare?