• Sweden's news in English
 
app_header_v3

Is Sweden's 'fika' break concept going global?

AFP/The Local · 9 Jun 2015, 17:34

Published: 09 Jun 2015 10:34 GMT+02:00
Updated: 09 Jun 2015 17:34 GMT+02:00

The French have their wine, the British have their tea, Spaniards can't get enough of nibbling on good quality ham and Germans are suckers for sausages.

For Swedes, it's all about "fika", the de rigueur daily coffee break with a sweet nibble that is a social institution.

Sweden's almost ten million inhabitants account for one percent of the world's coffee consumption, making it the second-biggest consumer behind Finland.

Coffee is drunk with breakfast and after meals, but it is the mid-morning and mid-afternoon coffee breaks -- "fika" -- that are almost sacrosanct, factored into everyone's daily schedules whether they're at work, home, running errands in town or taking a hike in the outdoors.

If you live in Sweden, you'll know exactly what we're talking about.

"Fika", pronounced fee-ka, is both a noun and verb, and designates a moment, usually planned in advance, alone or with friends or coworkers, to savour a cup of coffee or tea or even juice and eat something sweet, usually a cinnamon bun, pastry, cake or even a light sandwich.

For Swedes, the art of the Swedish "fika" in no way compares to a few minutes at the office watercooler, or meeting up with a friend for an espresso in a French cafe. In Sweden, people stop what they're doing to have a "fika" at least once a day, sometimes twice.

Now it seems the concept is starting to get greater global recognition, thanks to Swedish coffee shops abroad and a growing amount of literature in English on the subject.

"Life without fika is unthinkable," according to the book "Fika: The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break" written by Swedes Anna Brones and Johanna Kindvall and published in the US in April.

"Fika is also the art of taking one's time," Brones told the AFP news agency this week, explaining that it's more than just coffee and a slice of cake: it's about making a commitment to slow down and take a break from the rest of the day's plans and routines.

"In the United States for example, you get your coffee to go. In Sweden, you sit down, you enjoy the moment, and that's what people want to do more and more."

READ ALSO: Seven delicious dates in the Swedish calendar

Sergio Guimaraes of the Swedish Institute which promotes the country abroad says he agrees that the concept can puzzle visitors.

"It throws people off who come here from other cultures. It arouses their curiosity and they don't know what to make of it," he said.


Swedish friends love to meet for fika. Photo: TT

But "fika" is growing in popularity outside Sweden.

"Sweden is very trendy right now, and since 'fika' is a Swedish tradition that makes it even more cool," said Brones, co-author of the new book dedicated to "fika".

Evidence can be found in the numerous eponymous cafes offering Swedish "fika" that have popped up around the world in recent years, including London, New York, Toronto, Australia and Singapore.

"There is a growing interest in Swedish food which is linked to Swedish authenticity and nature," Guimaraes adds.

In addition, he adds that "sweets have a special standing in Sweden. It's one of the few countries in the world that has special days dedicated to a specific cake or a pastry, from Waffle Day to Cinnamon Bun Day."

However other countries have a lot of catching up to do if they want to truly embrace the Swedish art of taking a coffee break.

Swedes have been drinking coffee since 1685, and it became a common and widespread drink in the 1800s. But it is not known when the tradition of having a daily fika began.

The use of the slang word "fika" first appeared in 1913, and is believed to be an inversion of the two syllables in the Swedish word for coffee, "kaffe".

The word also has many derivatives: a "fik" is a cafe where you have your fika; "fikarum" is the room at a workplace where staff meet for coffee; "fikasugen" means to crave a fika, "fikapaus" is to take a break from whatever you're doing to have a "fika".

READ ALSO: 'Swedes need to ditch cakes at coffee time'

"Fika" is also a natural part of the day in the workplace -- and stopping work to sit down for a mug of java and a chat with colleagues is not considered goofing off from one's duties.

"Studies show that people who take a break from their work do not do less. It's actually the opposite," says Viveka Adelsward, a professor emeritus in communications at Sweden's Linkoping University.

"Efficiency at work can benefit from these kinds of get-togethers."

Story continues below…


Do you have fika with your colleagues? Photo: TT

At the Stockholm offices of the Swedish handball federation, employees meet up in the kitchen twice a day for 15 minutes, at 9:30 am and 2:30 pm, to have coffee and a pastry.

"It gives us a chance to talk about what we're doing. Ideas take shape and that way we can avoid a lot of meetings," says the head of the federation Christer Thelin.

"By law you're entitled to a five-minute break per hour worked. For the fika we compile these five minutes into one 15-minute break, we satisfy our caffeine craving, and we talk about everything: a lot about work, but also current affairs and a bit of personal stuff too," adds employee Lasse Tjernberg.

So it turns out having "fika" could even benefit your career. Time to put the kettle on...

READ ALSO: Austria's most tasty desserts

 

 

 

For more news from Sweden, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

AFP/The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Today's headlines
Spotify launches new karaoke style streaming in Japan
Can karaoke help Spotify to crack Japan? Photo: DocChewbacca/Flickr creative commons

The Swedish streaming giant has taken inspiration from Japan's love of karaoke with its launch in the country.

US rappers' gig ends in 'bloodbath' in Stockholm
US rapper Ghostface Killah. Photo: Scott Roth/Invision/AP

A man ran onto the stage during a concert by US rappers Ghostface Killah and Killah Priest in Stockholm.

Border checks
Could Sweden's border controls soon be lifted?
The border control at the Swedish side of the Öresund Bridge to Denmark. Photo: Emil Langvad/TT

The EU-approved six-month extension of controls in the south of the country will soon come to an end.

'Homemade bomb' on bus in Sweden was bike helmet
File photo of a Swedish police officer. Photo: Maja Suslin/TT

A bicycle helmet sparked a bomb scare on a bus in Uppsala.

What's on in Sweden
Four don't-miss festivals in Sweden this week
Stockholm Beer and Whisky Festival. Photo: Stockholm Öl & Vin AB

Arab cinema, Gay Pride, out-of-the-box art, whisky and craft beer – what more could a person in Sweden possibly need?

Sweden advised to bring conscription back in 2018
Bringing back the draft could help a stretched military, a government inquiry says. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Young men and women could be made to fill in questionnaires for recruitment to the Armed Forces as early as next year, according to a new proposal.

Nationalists suspend aide after Russia propaganda claim
The suspended aide is a political secretary to SD member of parliament Kent Ekeroth. Photo: Claudio Bresciani/TT

His suspension comes only days after another of the party's political secretaries resigned amid controversy over a property deal in Russia.

Presented by Lernia
Top 7 tips to help you learn Swedish
Photo: Lernia

Struggling to learn Swedish? There are a few ways to make it easier. Here are seven tips from the experts.

Here's how much Sweden's highest-earning authors make
It was a good year for the likes of Jonas Jonasson (left) and Camilla Läckberg (right). Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT & Henrik Montgomery/TT

From Nordic Noir to a hundred-year-old man (and one called Ove), Sweden's authors had a good year in 2015.

Sweden named world's sixth most competitive country
The good news also came with some caveats. Photo: Izabelle Nordfjell/TT

The country moved up three places in the top ten of the latest edition of the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Index.

Sponsored Article
Expat finances in Sweden: the Common Reporting Standard
National
Aliens' sex lives? Why Swedes want Nasa to send a condom into space
Sponsored Article
Let's Talk: a personal Swedish language tutor in your pocket
Analysis & Opinion
'If Sweden really wants startups, drop the red tape on migration'
Gallery
Property of the week: Gotland
Blog updates

27 September

Cutting your nose …. (The Diplomatic Dispatch) »

"Last week, Jeremy Browne, the Special Representative for the City of London, visited Sweden. Jeremy was…" READ »

 

7 September

Svensk or svenska? (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hejsan! My inbox is full of questions :-). Here’s one about when to use “svensk” and…" READ »

 
 
 
Sponsored Article
‘I view the world in a different way now’
National
Trump an 'embarrassment' Springsteen tells Sweden
Sponsored Article
Retiring abroad: ensuring your health is covered
Gallery
People-watching: September 23rd-25th
Politics
Russian Sweden Democrat aide resigns over suspect deal
National
Muslim teacher leaves job after not shaking male colleague's hand
Sponsored Article
'Creating a sense of home': Collective living in Stockholm
Travel
Why we adore autumn in Sweden
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
Gallery
People-watching: September 21st
National
Stockholmers hunt killer badger after attack on neighbourhood hipster cat
Sponsored Article
Gran Canaria: 'So much more than beaches'
The Local Voices
Why this Russian developer is committed to helping refugees - with tech
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
National
Six key points in Sweden's budget plan
The Local Voices
How a Swedish name finally made recruiters notice this Iranian's CV
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Gallery
Property of the week: Luleå
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
Gallery
People-watching: September 16th-18th
Sponsored Article
Retiring abroad: ensuring your health is covered
Culture
Why Swedish TV has given these kids' trucks a sex swap
Sponsored Article
'There was no future for me in Turkey'
National
TIMELINE: Everything you need to know about the Julian Assange case
Sponsored Article
7 reasons you should join Sweden’s ’a-kassa’
Gallery
People-watching: September 14th
Sponsored Article
‘Extremism can't be defeated on the battlefield alone’
Politics
Why Sweden is putting troops on holiday dream island Gotland
The Local Voices
'What I mean when I say: I came here to blow myself up'
Society
VIDEO: Are Swedes that unfriendly?
Features
INTERVIEW: How Arthur the jungle dog opened hearts and minds
Gallery
Property of the week: Smögen, Västra Götaland
Society
Sweden's ancient forest tongue Elfdalian fights for survival
National
Where Sweden's foreigners are from
The Local Voices
'Whenever I apply for jobs I’m treated like an unwanted stranger'
The Local Voices
Is Swedish bosses' ignorance keeping refugees out of jobs?
2,960
jobs available