Long before deciding to move here, I knew that I could adjust quite well to Nordic culture due to its lovely traditions like fika—the Swedish coffee break.
While it’s true that many other countries also take coffee breaks, they aren’t appreciated in the same manner as they are here. Fika is a cultural ritual often including baked sweets, fruit or open-faced sandwiches enjoyed alongside coffee. There are usually cookies(Hallongrottor is my personal favorite), cakes and kanelbulle, a traditional cinnamon roll, to choose from at most cafés. People in Sweden really love fika and it has its own hours. People prefer to culminate in unofficial fika at 10 and 3, where you may find it difficult to reach someone on the phone.
In addition to the food, fika is also about relaxing in the company of others. Too often in my home country, Turkey, cafés are filled with individuals on laptops who take up an entire table for four to check their email, especially in weekdays. In this lovely Nordic country, a café can be filled all day with friends, classmates, colleagues and significant others discussing the weather, travel, weekend plans and family life.
The word itself (pronounced fee-ka) originates from a former spelling of the Swedish word for coffee—kaffi—. The term is now used both as a noun and a verb that refers to the occasion itself (fika and fikar). You can be invited to have a fika, or you can ask to fika to someone all the same. Its ambiguous definition allows for many interpretations with no strict rules of conduct.
Apart from a typical coffee break among friends and co-workers, fika also serves an important purpose in Nordic dating culture. To have fika with a potential partner, allows you to meet casually without the pressure of a formal date, while still fostering the conversation needed to get to know each other. Those participating in a fika, whether as potential lovers or not, also typically pay for themselves, which lightens an issue I grew up with of playfully arguing over who takes care of the check.
Whether fika is taken as a break from work, school, or as a social gathering, its popularity in homes and cafés throughout Sweden and other Nordic countries is one reason why they all top the list for highest coffee consumption in the world. It’s quite a triumph for the region and one that I will enjoy taking part in now that I call it my home.
Images: Nicho Södling & Ulf Lundin & Susanne Walström / ImageBank.Sweden