When you make the move to China, one of the first things you’ll want to do is decorate your new apartment. Fortunately, there is Ikea in China!
It may seem a little bit odd that I would write about Ikea in China. First of all, isn’t everything made in China anyway? The simple answer is yes, but there’s more to it than that.
It's affordable and familiar
You can find household items for sale all over China, from corner stores to big supermarkets. Prices are usually pretty good.
However, if you don’t know what you’re buying, then you may end up with low-quality products or really outdated styles.
Ikea, on the other hand, is like a familiar face in China. It offers simple, practical products which are easy on the eye. And the stuff is affordable, even for ESL teachers who might be on a tight budget.
Ikea in China is just like Ikea anywhere else in the world – you’ll be able to find all the household items you need in one fell swoop. But there are some interesting differences about Ikea China too!
Why you may need Ikea in China
When you arrive in China, your apartment will have limited household items or none at all.
If you’re working in the public school system, accommodation is generally included with your contract. While you should have all the essential household items you need, you may still want to buy a few bits and pieces.
If you’re working in a private language school, accommodation is generally not included in your contract (your salary will be much higher) but you’ll get help from the school to find a place. In this case, Ikea will really be your best friend!
Things you might buy at Ikea in China
You can pick up some nice bed sheets, comfortable pillows, and coat hangers, all for under 500 RMB. That’s about USD$75 or GBP£55.
You can find cutlery, plates, bowls and glasses which are all pretty good. You’ll also find pots and pans and small accessories that will make your new apartment feel much more livable.
Most importantly though, Ikea China sells a few items that you may not have thought about. Tin or can openers are a simple item in China, but they are expensive in the international supermarkets.
If you like wine, most wine glasses in China are expensive in wine shops. And your local store may only sell small, dirty looking things, leaving much to be desired.
Another staple is a wash basket. Yes, big supermarkets do sell them, but Ikea has a much better selection, and they are more portable.
If you’re planning on moving around China as you spend your time here, it is better to go for more compact items that you can pack up and move out with.
Quirky habits of Chinese customers at Ikea
If anything, going to an Ikea in China makes for an amazing day trip. You can get lost for hours in these shops, but it’s the people-watching that is truly intriguing.
Chinese people seem to treat Ikea like it is their actual house. You will see people asleep in chairs and on beds. Many come here for a snooze in the air conditioning on a hot day.
Young girls pose in the showroom areas as if they live there. They take photos with their DSLR cameras, dressed up like it’s a fashion shoot!
I am yet to have been to an Ikea where the kids section isn’t treated like a day care center. Kids will be playing with the toys, drawing on the boards and jumping on the beds, as their parents and grandparents look on.
Families and children love exploring Ikea in China.
A visit to an Ikea cafeteria in China has to be seen to be believed. Many ‘customers’ bring their own food or use it as a place to rehydrate with their own drink flasks.
You may even be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of someone eating Ikea’s famous Swedish meatballs with chopsticks!
Ikea in China is a real eye-opener.
The food at Ikea in China
No trip to Ikea is complete without stopping by for a bite to eat.
China Ikea has some pretty decent Western-style food at low prices. You’ll find tasty dishes that taste like home including steak or lamb with vegetables and gravy. You can also get spaghetti, salmon, as well as the odd Chinese dish.
After that, you can wash it all down with a Swedish beer, glass of wine or soda. Yum!
You can find Western food, like spaghetti, at Ikea in China.
Don't forget the bargain buys on your way out. Ikea China sells ice cream for as little as 1 or 2 RMB and amazing hot dogs for 5 RMB. There’s also a full selection of confectionary and Swedish treats to choose from, which you can nibble on in the taxi on the way home.
At Christmas, make sure you stock up on the mulled wine. You’ll be hard-pressed to find this European delight anywhere else in China.
China Ikea stores near you
Ikea in China seems to be pretty successful, especially if the hordes of customers are anything to go by.
Currently, there is an Ikea in the following cities across China:
- Beijing (2 stores)
- Chengdu (2 stores)
- Shanghai (3 stores)
If you need the address details of a particular store, visit Ikea’s store locator page.
As highlighted in the infographic above, here are some highlights of China Ikea:
- Chinese customers have some quirky habits, like bringing their own food into the cafeteria
- China is one of the world's leading Ikea product purchasing countries
- Stores in Shanghai and Wuxi are absolutely enormous
- There are 24 stores across the country (4% of the world's total).
Experience Ikea China for yourself
Some first-time teachers in China feel like they shouldn’t indulge in anything that’s Western. They’re there for the culture, and they would like to live a relatively Chinese way of life.
That’s fair enough, but China is becoming more progressive. Going to Ikea is as Chinese as it gets for the modern middle-class family, so do stop by and experience it for yourself.
Have you experienced an Ikea in China before? If so, what did you think of it?