HOUSTON – Roxana Apsan has traveled across Europe with her company, but her first visit to the United States brought her to Houston, Mississippi.
Apsan was a member of an IKEA buying team that visited Franklin Corporation last week and she said Southern fried chicken, iced tea and pecan pie were all dishes she has been told to try. She was also told to smile and just be polite.
“The people here are so friendly and easy to talk to,” said Apsan, a manufacturing and design specialist with IKEA. “It is also so very green and spring is very pretty around here. There are so many flowers and the trees are already starting to turn green.”
Apsan said she grew up in a small town south of the Romanian capital of Bucharest.
The IKEA team touched down in Detroit and hopped another flight to Memphis. She said her first real look at America came on the ride from Memphis to Houston.
“Everywhere we have gone – the stores, the factory, your office – people have been very nice and very kind,” said Apsan. “Europeans are not always known for being polite. The people in Mississippi and their politeness remind me a lot of the people from Sweden.”
IKEA, a privately held company of Swedish origin, designs and sells ready-to-assemble furniture, appliances and home accessories.
Apsan said she also appreciated the local sense of humor.
“It’s not always easy to visit another country and learn their culture,” said Apsan. “People here have a good sense of humor and have made me feel comfortable. That has been important to me on my first visit to America
The IKEA team that visited Franklin was made up of people from around the world.
Cristiana Serbanescu, also of Romania and a member of the IKEA team, said she has visited the United States several times, but this was her first trip to Mississippi.
“People here seem to be more laid-back and relaxed than in New York or Philadelphia,” said Serbanescu, an accountant with IKEA. “It is much more rural and this trip has taught me that America is such a big and diverse country.”
Serbanescu said the team ate barbecue ribs and ordered a hot-fudge sundae upon their arrival in Houston. She said the team would be in town several days and hoped to learn more about Mississippi culture.
“We have a long and deep history in Romania and while American history is much shorter, people in Mississippi seem to love talking about their history,” said Serbanescu. “Everywhere I go in America I love to learn of your history.”
Both Serbanescu and Apsan were hesitant to talk about the business side of their trip, but they did say they were pleased with the quality of Franklin Corporation furniture.
IKEA is the world’s largest furniture retailer. The company is known for its modern designs and eco-friendly products.
As of October 2011, IKEA has 332 stores in 38 countries. In fiscal year 2010, it sold $23.1 billion worth of goods.