Fika: All About Sweden’s Popular Coffee Tradition

When you think of Sweden your initial thoughts probably revolve around IKEA, ABBA, and Max Martin. Allow us to introduce you to a new concept that every coffee lover should adopt from the Swedes: Fika. Roughly translated, fika means “to drink coffee”. In other words, it’s a coffee break. However, this tradition entails much more than simply drinking coffee. Fika is a way of life, a cultural phenomenon, and a staple of Swedish culture. No one does coffee breaks like the Swedes.

 

Fika is a social gathering and is often enjoyed between work colleagues and friends. The main function that fika fulfills is a much-needed break from our busy lives and hectic schedules. It is an opportunity to sit down, away from one’s desk or daily errands in order to socialize and relax. So ingrained is this notion that some Swedish businesses have institutionalized the fika ritual, understanding that proper breaks increase productivity and enhance morale. It is not unusual for work fika to operate as an informal meeting. Remember that episode of Friends where Rachel picks up smoking at Ralph Lauren because she realizes that during smoke breaks important business decisions are made? Similarly, fika at work is also an integral part of corporate life.

 

Smiling woman holding coffee cup in a cafe in Sweden

Getty Images/ Image Source/ Astrakan Images

 

So what else constitutes proper fika etiquette? It’s customary to fika once in the morning and once in the afternoon. Some Swedes fika up to three times a day! (We’re starting to wonder why we weren’t born in Sweden). The coffee break is also usually accompanied by a baked good, typically with a Swedish cinnamon bun (kanelbullar). Fika is also used as a verb. Perhaps one of the most popular sayings in the Swedish language is “shall we fika” or “let’s do fika”. It’s music to any Swedes’ ear.

 

Fun Fact: The origin of the word is believed to be an anagram for the word “kaffi”, the old spelling for “coffee”. We’re thinking the Swedes have really mastered the art of this whole work-life balance thing and we should definitely take a page out of their book.

 

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