Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Swenglish tip #2 - Fika

When I first heard the term fika, I was in love. Mostly because I had confused the words fika and ficka. One is pronounsed 'feeka' and the other is pronounced 'ficka'

A fika, or feeka, is a Swedish national pasttime – the coffeebreak. Ficka is a pocket. For a long time I thought that it was a beautiful metaphor – the coffeebreak as a pocket of time, a break in the day where you can sit around cozily and do nothing productive.

It turns out it wasn't a metaphor – but fika is a great tradition nonetheless. Many foreigners end up adapting the word into English - 'Shall we fika?' works well.

To fika can be a challenge for Americans. It goes against our instincts of multitasking with a giant latte in hand. To fika you must grab a cup of coffee from either the communal pot – or the coffee shop. And depending on where you are you grab a corresponding pastry or half of a roll with a slice of cheese. There will often be a piece of cucumber or pepper on your roll.

Then you and your colleagues or friends sit around and discuss topics like 'the eastern European conspiracy to win Eurovision,' the unfairness of the football games that got Sweden thrown out of what ever championship is currently being played, or political strife in any other country but Sweden.

The truth is, in Sweden, you MUST fika. I tried to avoid it. It drove me crazy when I would show up at the office, look at the pile of things to do on my desk, turn to my colleagues and we would all go 'agh SOO much work to do!' and then they would go off and sit around drinking coffee and talking crap for 30 minutes. And they would shoot me the worst looks while I tried to start working right away.

So to keep the peace, I do both the 9am fika and the 3pm fika. And I highly recommend you do the same.


  1. Is it acceptable to substitute hot chocolate? I can't stand coffee. :)

  2. @There is a hot cocoa option at most coffee machines in the larger Swedish offices - but I have detected a bit of mild skepticism towards people who don't appreciate coffee :)

  3. Hehehe I was recommended to read your site by a swede huh! it seems that you´re becoming kinda popular...anyway I´m latin, went to Sweden last year, had fika and loved it! but I´d like to know if fika is everyday at at those 2 times (9 am and 3 pm) I think it´s too much!!! but I think I´ll adapt! :D

  4. @Meksikanskatt and @Surviving Sweden. A year late but it's true, twice a day. Times varies - most of the companies I worked on or at does it at 9.30 and 15, some "only" do 20 minutes each but most 30. I agree about the mild skepticism about non-coffee drinker but as a tea drinker that option is most often available even when I visit other companies (I'm a computer consultant). Good blog BTW, just found it.

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