IKEA in China, Australia and Sweden

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IKEA Expatriates

IKEA in China, Sweden and Australia: Expatriate strategies and practice

IKEA has 22 stores and distribution centers in China with more than 2900 employees. Given the cultural differences between China and Sweden, IKEA expatriates are trained on language, work ethics, traditions and politics of China through coaching (Karcz et al., 2006). The company invests costs and time to train expatriates and their families to minimize risk of return, alienation, cultural offence and to increase cultural awareness. Chinese co-workers are trained by the well experienced IKEA expatriate managers. IKEA chooses people with experience and human empathy before being cross-culturally trained on Chinese attitudes and work ethics. However, IKEA lacked language and cross-cultural training for expatriates and opted to hire people with Chinese connections (Sjogren, 2015). For example, people born in Sweden to Chinese parents and understood the Chinese language were easily hired to assignments in China. The company saved a lot in time and resources. Moreover, a personal assistant was offered to expatriates with basic knowledge on Chinese knowledge and culture to solve the translation problem. The company encourages the expatriate managers to be accompanied by their families. Furthermore, IKEA established a Business College in Delft, Holland to train managers and other employees on overseas assignments. Nevertheless, training in this company takes place worldwide on a number of issues.

IKEA in Sweden has about 20 stores and employs an estimated 1500 workers. Expatriates in Sweden are provided with high salary including car and house and a personalized office set up. The company offers 25 day holiday, casual dress code and 9am to 6pm working hours. With equality being the key, the company provides co-worker discount, employee-assistance program and other perks and benefits such as vacation policy, retirement benefits and insurance benefits (Iacuzzi, 2014). The company also trains expatriates to adapt to the life in Sweden such as food, Swedish language and politics. The company runs the IKEA training program on weather, local tips for easy life and cross-cultural differences. Special interest is given to training on standards of living, finance, education, weather, Swedish life and visas. The program also trains on business culture and socially responsible business (Truc, 2013). For example, lessons of being punctual and setting agenda of a meeting are taken seriously to be backed up by charts, tables, figures and facts. Since Sweden does not have double taxation, expatriates from Western countries are paid state pensions directly to them in Sweden as though they were in their own countries.

IKEA in Australia provides expat training on living in Australia in cooperation with the Australia Expat Forum. Special training on the Australia’s strict quarantine policy, bio-security concerns and shipping of wooden items are given interest to expatriate training (Lauren, 2016). Since the culture of Sweden and Australia are not much different, the expatriates especially from Europe and the United States do not have to learn the language, culture and work ethics. Compared to Sweden, the cost of accommodation and food in Australia is reasonable. An expatriate can be accompanied by their family and minimal training is required for families to cope with Australian lifestyle and culture. The company provides newspaper ads and internet search links for best houses or rent properties for expatriates entering Australia (Lauren, 2016). Accommodation is family-friendly with swimming pools, big gardens and garages. The company also offers health and family oriented lifestyle, time-off, maternity leave and equal opportunities regardless of gender.


Iacuzzi, S. (2014). IKEA’s work-life balance in Sweden and China. Siaf Volterra.

Karcz, K., Liu, R. & Adamska, J. (2006). How to survive as an expatriate in China? A case study based on IKEA, NCR and Texol. School of Management and Economics, Vaxjo Universitet.

Laurne, M. (2016). Why moving to Australia is different than other international destinations. Sydney Moving Guide. Available at: http://www.sydneymovingguide.com/why-moving-to-australia-is-different-than-other-international-relocations/

Sjogren, H. (2015). Design by IKEA: A cultural History. Business History Review, 89(2):364-367.

Truc, O. (2013). Ingvar Kamprad’s IKEA philosophy is only a strong as sum of its parts. The Guardian. 6 March, 2016.