What Is Fika? The Swedish Tradition We’re Crazy About
- Written by Alicia Drewnicki
- December 9, 2019
- 3 min read
After our post about “Hygge, Lagom, and Ikigai”, it sparked our curiosity to look into more wonderful traditions, rituals, and ways of making life, well, great! It was instant love when we found the Swedish word “fika”.
Here’s the Honestly Good Lowdown…
So What Exactly Is Fika?
It’s tricky to translate directly, but “fika” refers to “the ritual of having a coffee and cake break”. You meet up with people, eat delicious baked goods, drink coffee, and chat. You might assume this is reserved for weekends, but it’s actually something that happens on a regular basis – even at work! You can have a “fika” with family, friends, or your co-workers. Some companies even make it mandatory that their employees take two fika breaks each day! (it’s sometimes written into job contracts as a non-negotiable). This tradition is deeply ingrained into Swedish culture, and every Swedish person knows what fika is.
It’s not just the fact that the Swedes are some of the world’s biggest coffee lovers (research suggests that the average Swedish person drinks four cups a day). Having a fika break is something that you do with others rather than alone, so it encourages you to be sociable. It’s a way to slow down, relax, and fit quality face-to-face time with others into your daily routine rather than just speaking through a device. It’s also thought to be great for productivity, as some of the best work ideas can happen during a fika, and it’s the ideal way to get everyone’s opinion in a more informal setting. It strengthens connections, refreshes your mind, and gives you a break to look forward to.
Where Does The Word Come From?
The word “fika” comes from the 19th century Swedish word for coffee – “kaffi”. The Swedes switched the letters around, removed an “f”, and “fika” was born.
How Long Should I Have A Fika For?
It’s up to you! A fika can be 15 minutes, or even several hours. Typically, at Swedish companies, they usually have a fika at 9am (to plan the day) and 3pm (to review or share ideas). Productivity research by Alex Pentland shows that having regular coffee breaks at the workplace can increase staff productivity by 10 to 15%. (Source)
Let’s Talk About The Cakes…
Cakes and biscuits are an essential part of fika. We’re talking cinnamon buns, cardamom buns, cookies, pastries, and sometimes even open sandwiches Ideally, these sweet treats should be home made. The Swedish love for cakes and biscuits go back a long way. In fact, most Swedish households own a book which dates back to the 40s called “Sju Sorters Kakor” (Seven Kinds of Biscuits). It has over 100 biscuit and cake recipes, and was once thought that if a guest ever pops over for fika, the host should always have seven different types of cakes ready for them.
We hope this post has inspired you to consider adopting this wonderful Swedish phenomenon. I mean, who doesn’t love the excuse for an obligatory coffee and cake break in order to recharge and re-connect with others?