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Friday, 22 February 2008
Cultural Imperialism?


Photo from Pinkbelt.

I thought this story of alleged Swedish cultural imperialsm towards Denmark was quite amusing.  Almost as amusing as the story about the Heraldists who wanted a penis reinstated on a military badge.  Army boys and their toys, eh?

Basically a Danish newspaper accused IKEA (the store) of “bullying” Denmark:

Why is it, the paper wondered, that Swedish and Norwegian place names are always associated with the shiniest, comfiest furnishings in the Ikea catalogue, while the names of Danish towns are reserved for doormats, rugs and carpets?

“It seems to be an example of cultural imperialism,” Klaus Kjøller, Assistant Professor in Political Communication and the Danish Language at the University of Copenhagen, told The Local.

“Ikea has chosen the objects with the lowest value and given them Danish names,” he added.

Doormats and rugs such as Köge, Sindal, Roskilde, Bellinge, Strib, Helsingör and Nivå are all “seventh class” citizens in the hierarchical world of Ikea furnishings, according to Kjøller.

“Ikea is a very professional company. I don’t think this can be a coincidence,” he said.

If you look historically at the relative power between the countries then one would expect Finland and Norway to be the “poor cousins” of Denmark and Sweden. Perhaps this is why Denmark is so touchy: being associated with rugs and carpets downgrades their perceived “high status”.  A quick websearch also indicates that Lonely Planet semi-accused Denmark of “cultural imperialism” in their review of Africa beer. Carlsberg produces Kuche kuche in Malawi and this is what Lonely Planet had to say about it:

Carlsberg dominates the Malawian brewing industry (Danish cultural imperialism?), and this is their ‘Malawian’ label. Not as good as Carlsberg itself (that’s really saying something!), but it does come in a bigger bottle…

Carlsberg was originally a Danish company, but merged with the Norwegian company Orkla ASA in 2001. It is apparently the 5th largest brewery company in the world.

I have mentioned IKEA product names previously. From Wikipedia, here is the way they organise their product names:

  • Upholstered furniture, coffee tables, rattan furniture, bookshelves, media storage, doorknobs: Swedish placenames (for example: Klippan)Beds, wardrobes, hall furniture: Norwegian place namesDining tables and chairs: Finnish place namesBookcase ranges: OccupationsBathroom articles: Scandinavian lakes, rivers and baysKitchens: grammatical terms, sometimes also other namesChairs, desks: men’s namesMaterials, curtains: women’s namesGarden furniture: Swedish islandsCarpets: Danish place namesLighting: terms from music, chemistry, meteorology, measures, weights, seasons, months, days, boats, nautical termsBedlinen, bed covers, pillows/cushions: flowers, plants, precious stones; words related to sleep, comfort, and cuddlingChildren’s items: mammals, birds, adjectivesCurtain accessories: mathematical and geometrical termsKitchen utensils: foreign words, spices, herbs, fish, mushrooms, fruits or berries, functional descriptionsBoxes, wall decoration, pictures and frames, clocks: colloquial expressions, also Swedish placenames

Looking at the above categories I wonder again whether the Danish newspaper’s problem was that carpets were given Danish names or whether more “high status” items were given Norwegian and Finnish names. 

Extra link: IKEA game.

Posted by bigblue on 22/02/2008 at 10:08 PM
Filed under: EuropeUnited KingdomEngland • (0) CommentsPermalinkBookmark or Share

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