The word fika is probably one of the first words that tourists hear when visiting Sweden and it is one of the few words that Swedes prefer not to translate. If you translate fika directly it often says “coffee break” and is a break where you can drink coffee and eat pastries or treating yourself to something sweet to go with your coffee. But fika is so much more than that – it is a social phenomenon where people take a break and appreciate the good things in life, often together with good company.
A fika can be enjoyed alone or in company and at any time of day, but especially common is it to take a fika at work. In Swedish workplaces two fikas are usually taken during the working day: the first around nine or ten in the morning, and the other one is taken at three in the afternoon. While the morning fika could be forgotten or skipped during a stressful day, it happens very rarely that Swedes don’t take the second fika at three in the afternoon (which is also conveniently called “trefika” – “three-o-clock”-fika).
Below is a fika for dummies that is useful to read before visiting Sweden:
- The most important thing with a fika is to take a break and slow down in a stressful day, so a coffee-to-go is not the right way to enjoy a fika
- Fika is usually enjoyed with a hot beverage such as coffee or tea, but these may be replaced with lemonade, milk or other non-alcoholic drinks
- While a fika does not require having something sweet or a pastry together with the coffee or tea, it usually includes some pastries or cookies. The most common Swedish pastry to go with a fika is the cinnamon bun
Last but not least, fika is one of the most common and a deep-rooted traditions in Sweden, so never question a Swedish person’s right to fika – if you do not want a very upset Swede looking angrily at you.