There are some words in every language which are hard to translate, they end up being either abstract or being feelings or emotions which probably need much more than a word to be explained. And if you find a word matching them, that may not do justice to the meaning.
For Swedes, ‘Fika’ would certainly be the one. When I visited Gothenburg, there were lots of cafes with this word. Googling gave me the meaning of ‘Fika’ as ‘coffee break’. And I stayed with this till I sat next to a Swedish lady having coffee who actually explained the un-explainable.
As she sipped her coffee and explained, ‘Fika’ is an old Swedish word which is mostly understood as coffee break. If you take it a little further it means a coffee + cake break. However for Swedes its a ritual; its an attitude; its a state of mind; or its a social activity which makes you feel good and comfortable. If you have been to Denmark you would have heard a similar phenomenon for the word ‘Hygge’ which is more or less the Swedish Fika.
So what makes Fika so special in Sweden?
Fika is practiced by every Swede. Its taking a break, setting some time aside to meet your colleagues, friends; chat and socialise with them; its the time to take your mind off from work or from your mundane routine and spend some quality time with people you love to hang around with; who make you feel happy.
And when they do this, they are not taking phone calls, or multi tasking on their laptop or attending to other priorities. So it completely fits in the concept of a ‘break’.
Swedes love coffee, probably more than Italians. And trust me the coffee is amazing there. So what better way to catch up than have your daily dose of caffeine with some fluffy cakes and buns.
Cinnamon buns are known to be invented in Sweden. So they make it to the shelves of every superstore, bakery, cafe and also on the plate of a Fika break.
Fika is a noun and Fika is a verb.
I love to Fika. I want to Fika with you. Lets Fika. Lots of such lovely sentences you will find in cafes.
Did I Fika?? Well I did several times a day because I was tired of walking and clicking pictures. Given my gluttonous tendencies, I always chose something sweet to accompany my coffee.
In Gothenburg, Haga is an old cobbled street which has great places to Fika. Most famous address is Cafe Husaren, which has its giant cinnamon buns as its claim to fame.
Cafe Husaren is housed in a pristine heritage building. Started in 1800s it is house of ‘Hagabullen’, the giant cinnamon buns. As you can see in the pictures, they are size of a small soft toy or a a little bigger than a human head. You definitely cannot have one by yourself. What is on my plate in the first picture is a small piece of it. They do serve portions of it.
The decor of the cafe is again very retro. It will certainly make you feel so cosy, wanting to grab a book and sit back with your coffee for a long extended Fika. If in Gothenburg put this on your places to visit list.
Fika is an institution.
As an Hr professional I can say its a great way to boost productivity; no wonder Swedes are one of the most efficient country in the world. In today’s world of texting and short messaging, we have forgotten what it means to spend time with friends and loved ones without touching our phones, the tradition of Fika is a reminder for us to return back to build relationships and make our life genuinely happy.