What is FIKA? This was the first question to
cross my mind after arriving in Sweden. It comes as no surprise when you hear
the word constantly repeated in public space and means of transport. New
friends ask you out for FIKA, teacher in the middle of the lecture announces
it’s time for FIKA, and even your boss can’t imagine to start working without
having FIKA first. So, what’s the phenomenon? And with that thought in mind
opening search engine.
Results are as follow: word coffee appearing
every few pages throughout Millennium trilogy, around 150 liters of coffee
drunk yearly by average Swede (placing them at fourth position of coffee
consumption in the world), at least 3 cups per day (and don’t think it’s a
teacup … it’s definitely not… what is considered normal size is a mug you can
see on the picture… with refill usually included in the price as if one mug
wasn’t enough), king Gustav III’s coffee experiment and most importantly
thousands of photos with stereotypically reserved Swedes socializing over the
cup of coffee.
But can you trust Google? It turns out that in
this case yes … at least from my experience. 7:00 am in metro – at least 3
people with coffee and a pack of sweets spotted, 10:00 am at university – after
45 minutes of lecture there is an obligatory break for having a FIKA (and you
are actually expected to go out of classroom and grab yourself a coffee so as
not to fall asleep during remaining 45 minutes of lecture); 12:00 am at
workplace – boss shouting “it’s FIKA time”; 4:00 pm – coming back home so as to
have FIKA again, 9:00 pm – meeting a Swede on some party in the evening: “Ok,
let’s have a FIKA tomorrow morning”. And everything repeats once more becoming
your daily routine.
No wonder that FIKA is commonly used word in
Sweden, meaning (as you probably figured out so far) having coffee break.
Etymology of the word is believed to be derived from 19th century
slang in which words were reversed: KA-FFI became FI-KA. What is more important
than word etymology is what the word stands for – the social phenomenon and
daily routine that can be performed at any time during the day. At work, at
home or in a café. It can be with family, friends, colleagues or someone you
are getting to know. With filter coffee with milk (another Swedish phenomenon –
milk is accompanying even dinner) as the most popular choice or nowadays even
with tea or just a juice. What is crucial however are accompanying sweets.
Cinnamon buns (called in Swedish kanelbullar),
cakes and sandwiches are just a few examples of acceptable fika fares. And
during carnival period the most popular one is definitely Semla – traditional Swedish pastry.
or not, I believe that most Swedes do participate in that routine. For
me it was a social behavior definitely different from what I experience in my
home country and certainly one requiring me to change my daily routine and
habit, so as to not to be excluded and truly took part in students live.