Viking in front of burning ship

The Expatresse meets her nemesis – in IKEA

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An innocent shopping trip turns into a bit of a nightmare for Amanda, and brings her face to face with the customer care representative who could do with a little more care.

Let me just say that my day started with my removing what a Facebook friend calls a clagnut, from the fluffy behind of a cat.

I don’t know what came over me – perhaps clagnut fumes – but I was compelled to drive to IKEA and try to purchase a dresser for Baboo and one for The Spouse this morning.

This process brought me face to face with my latest nemesis.


Fabien works at the help desk in the IKEA warehouse. And he does help. But... with a certain... I dunno. Glee?

Maybe schadenfreude is a better word. He definitely seems to take some perverse delight in my suffering.

See, I dealt with Fabien last week when I did my Big Shop (speaking of which, are they ever going to deliver and assemble that huge pile of boxes? It’s been a week now). I had to go get him to help me because one of the boxes was overhead, and I was fairly sure I was not going to be able to manage it.

Ikea trolleys loaded with boxes
IKEA shopping: those trolleys can get heavy

Turns out I probably could have as Fabien picked up one from the floor and slung it onto my cart for me. While kinda giving me the stink eye.

Merci, Fabien!

He’s the right guy to ask to get things that are up high, however. He’s huge. Certainly more than 2 metres/6′6″ (The Spouse is that tall). And built like a linebacker.

This is a big guy. A big, blond, Belgian... viking.

Who last week greeted his colleague in the French fashion with a bise on both cheeks.

Fabien to Fellow Colleague: “Dude! I didn’t know you were working this shift!” [Bise, bise]
Me: “Um, excuse me. Can you help me lift this box?”

Today I wanted some dressers. Which, up in the showroom were marked ‘Ask at Help Desk’.

So I sidled up to the Help Desk, flipped nonchalantly through the catalogue there, greeted the Help Desk Dude on Duty before looking up and locking eyes with Fabien.

Dun, dun, DUN!

Me: “Um, I’m looking for this dresser...”
Fabien [with one raised eyebrow]: “Aisle 12, Place 22.”

So I’m in Aisle 12, standing at Place 22, trying to wrestle the giant box o'dresser onto my cart. But the cart keeps moving. And the box weighs a ton. I am wracked with the giggles at my predicament. Seriously. I have given up, hands on knees, head down, laughing, but on the verge of crying. When I look up and there is Fabien.

He slings my box onto my cart as if he were shaking out the laundry. Then he says, in French, “Um, lady. This piece has two boxes,” and slings on the second box for me.

Crikey. I would have gotten all the way home and never noticed.

IKEA trolleys
Miles 'n' miles of trolleys

There was a moment when I re-approached his desk and asked about some shelving, but while I actually did understand his response, I could not figure out what pieces I wanted. Silly me.

So I maneuvered my already too-heavy cart over to where there were dressers I thought might suit The Spouse. And struggled to drag a single box onto my cart.

It weighs 65 kilos, people. That’s 143 pounds. Like what I should weigh.

I’ll just fast forward over how I struggled to get the boxes into the car (more Hilarity in the IKEA parking lot... and lots of bad words) and then struggled to get them out of the car and into the garage because the way I managed to fit them into the car meant there was no room for kids, who finished school early today.

I did get the boxes into the garage, but was unable to get them upstairs. So I had to cut them open in the garage and take the pieces up a few at a time.

I intended to get Baboo’s dresser assembled before dinner, cook something quick and brilliant, and then assemble the piece I bought for The Spouse.

Wanna know what happened? Cuz that wasn’t what happened.

  • The dresser stands, incomplete in Baboo’s bedroom.
  • Baboo had no dinner.
  • Skittles ate leftover pizza.
  • That the cats knocked on the floor.
  • While I, unable to understand the idiot-proof IKEA assembly instructions, had to repeat several steps several times.


I did get the frame and one drawer done.

And I did buy myself a little electric drill at IKEA. Because mine is an American one with American plugs, and I could not find the right plug/power converter box/whatever combo to make things work.

It was bad enough looking for an extension cord for the new drill. Which is a lifesaver. Money well-spent.

But I am as yet unable to get said drawer into the frame.

Viking in front of burning ship
Need any help, lady?

And in the basement, The Spouse’s dresser beckons. Like Poe’s ‘Tell-Tale Heart'.

The Spouse called, and I cried about how “I’m not going to have this done before you get home Thursday.”

“Ah, but you will,” he said.

Not because he has such great faith in me. Though he probably does.

But because he’s been asked to swing by Costa Rica on the way home.

* Names have been changed to protect the identities of innocent Swedish home product emporium employees.

Reprinted with permission of

AmandaOriginally from Ohio, Amanda was bitten by the travel bug when she spent a summer as an exchange student in Australia. Before following The Spouse to Luxembourg, they lived in Taiwan, South Florida, Buenos Aires, Bratislava (SK) and Russia. Follow Amanda as she settles into Luxembourg on her blog



Photo credits: Viking by chatirygirl; Row of IKEA trolleys and Ikea trolleys laden with boxes by s2art (, Pollycart (trolleys – top picture).

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