The French have their wine, the British have
their tea. For Swedes, it’s all about “fika,” the de rigueur daily
coffee break with a sweet nibble that is a social institution.
almost 10 million inhabitants account for 1 percent of the world’s
coffee consumption, making it the second-biggest consumer behind
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
“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 savor a cup of coffee or tea or even juice and eat
something sweet, usually a cinnamon bun, pastry, cake or even a light
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.
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 United States in April.
also the art of taking one’s time,” Brones said, 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.”
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.”
“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,” said Viveka
Adelsward, a professor emeritus in communications at Sweden’s Linkoping
“Efficiency at work can benefit from these kinds of get-togethers.”
the Stockholm offices of the Swedish handball federation, employees
meet up in the kitchen twice a day for 15 minutes, at 9:30am and 2:30pm,
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,” said the head of the federation Christer Thelin.
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,” added employee
‘Trendy right now’
The practice never ceases to amaze foreigners.
throws people off who come here from other cultures. It arouses their
curiosity and they don’t know what to make of it,” said Sergio Guimaraes
of the Swedish Institute which promotes the country abroad.
And “fika” is starting to grow 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.
can be found in the numerous cafes offering Swedish “fika” that have
popped up around the world in recent years, including London, New York,
Toronto and Singapore.