Fika: just coffee, or so much more?

by Fizz

One of the most commonly advertised aspects of Swedish life is that of fika, a term thrown around as frequently as “hello” (or should I say hej). It refers, simply, to a coffee break, but if that’s all it is, why do the Swedes covet it so much? Every country has coffee – and indeed, most European countries that I’ve visited have some sort of cafe culture. But for it to be so ingrained that it even inspired the name of a cafe in my small hometown, surely there’s something else going on?

According to (swedelicious recipes!), it’s important to Swedes that they make time for fika every day, if not several times. As well as stopping work for come caffeine and a sweet snack, it’s also about making time for friends and/or colleagues. Apparently, businesses with fika as part of their company culture are more productive.

I guess this does contrast with the traditional Italian espresso, which is literally intended to be a quick shot of coffee, not a lingering affair. And while I’m accustomed to passing time in a cafe at home, it’s not an integral part of my working day. But Swedish employees might even find fika breaks written into their company contracts. And come rain or shine, the cafes see business.

Supposedly, the word comes from the inversion of the word “kaffi”, once slang for coffee (kaffe), and while it originally referred to coffee itself, it evolved to encompass the accompanying sweet treat, be it a cinamon bun or something else, and socialising.

Perhaps my experience is too diluted with other exchange students to fully understand the cultural value of fika, but I can say I definitely appreciate it. My travels aren’t complete without a bit of people-watching or tourist planning over a coffee, so I’m very pleased to be in a city where you’re never more than a couple of minutes away from a cafe. “Anyone for fika?” is a common phrase among our friends, and it’s always answered with a chorus of resounding “yes”es. If nothing else, I guess it’s telling that the only thing I can do confidently in Swedish is order in a cafe.


Things to do in Gothenburg – On The Fly 28/10/2022 - 09:02

[…] While you’re in Haga, it would simply be rude not to engage in the Swedish ritual of fika! Stop for a coffee and a cinnamon bun, take the chance to relax with friends and watch the world go by. It’s a tradition coveted by the Swedes, who always fit in time for fika, even in the work day. It’s especially welcome if you’re spending busy days sightseeing, as it’s a good break for the feet! Or on cold or rainy days, it’s lovely to stop inside a cosy cafe to warm up. Haga is extremely quaint with lots of cafes, but you won’t struggle to find spots for fika elsewhere in the city! Read more about the tradition in my post about fika. […]

Rob 21/11/2022 - 11:23

So much coffee every time I visit Sweden. I’m sure it must be good for me. 🙂

Fizz 30/11/2022 - 18:04

Good for the soul definitely!

Cosy fika spots: the 10 best cafes in Gothenburg – On The Fly 13/08/2023 - 10:37

[…] you’ve arrived in Sweden and you’ve heard about the absolute social staple that is fika; or maybe you need a place to rest your feet between sightseeing; or perhaps it’s cold and […]

The Cosiest Autumn and Winter Activities in Gothenburg – On The Fly 18/08/2023 - 23:03

[…] Fika is, of course, one of my favourite parts of life in Sweden, and it’s even better in the winter. When days are dark and cold and you need a boost, coffee with friends is definitely the way to go! As well as waking you up, it will warm you from the inside out and give you the much-needed energy for more sightseeing! Around Christmas you’ll notice shops and cafes start to fill up with lussekatter, also known as saffransbulle. They’re a soft, sweet bread treat, with a noticeable yellow colour from the saffron. They’re a staple of advent in Sweden and pair wonderfully with coffee or glögg, which is Swedish mulled wine. It’s sweeter and has more emphasis on the citrus flavour than the wine, and is often non-alcoholic so everyone can enjoy it. […]


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