fika: sweden’s gift to the world
Fika is probably any Swede’s favourite word (or time of day). This much-revered social and culinary institution is a cornerstone of Swedish culture. Essentially a coffee break combined with pastries or small open-faced sandwiches, fika can be had with colleagues, family or friends. It can be in the office, at home, or in a cafe. It can be a very welcome break from the work day, or a leisurely coffee date on the weekend. You can fika twice or more a day, or as often as you like. What makes it special, and slightly different from a regular coffee break, is that Swedes see it as an almost-sacred time to relax, to take a break, and to share this particular moment with someone. It’s the cosy factor that sets it apart.
The rest of the world is catching on with this cosy and, apparently highly productive Swedish tradition. From Dutch articles on fika as a Swedish cure to work stress and Italian articles claiming fika as the secret to work happiness, to fika travel guides on The Guardian, the fika revolution is surely gaining a lot of attention. Fika is regarded as one of the main reasons for the Swedes’ high productivity and creativity levels. It is so effective that the Swedish government made it mandatory. These frequent and constant breaks make employees more efficient, increase productivity, and create space for the best ideas and decisions to happen.
There are also plenty of Swedish-themed cafes popping up all over the world, serving popular fika treats such as the all-time favourite kannelbulle (cinnamon bun), semla (seasonal cardamom bun with whipped cream) and other sweet delicacies. The literal FIKA cafe is a now a successful chain in New York offering delicious coffee, pastries and chocolate. Scandinavian Embassy in Amsterdam is a minimalist coffee bar with a Swedish champion brewer at its helm, serving coffee from micro-breweries from Scandinavia (including the award-winning, Stockholm-based Drop Coffee) and the most delicious homemade cinnamon buns. Singapore’s Fika Swedish Cafe & Bistro offers authentic homemade Swedish cuisine, as well as assortment of traditional Swedish soft drinks like Trocadero and Champis.
If there’s no IKEA (which has delightful fika options, and the most beautifully designed fika cookbook ever) or Swedish cafes near you, don’t fret. You can fika anytime and anywhere in the world you find yourself in. It’s the spirit of fika that counts – grab a coffee and a piece of cake, and make sure to enjoy them. Savour this sweet moment and make the most out of it. Ska vi fika?
Angel Trinidad is an editor, writer and creative strategist based in Amsterdam. Born in Manila with a Scandinavian heart, she has lived in Germany, Spain and Sweden. She writes for several magazines and online publications specialising on arts and design, Dutch and Swedish culture, music, travel and lifestyle. Previously the editor of KLM’s Holland Herald magazine and Arts Holland, she has also written for A-Mag Amsterdam Magazine, Happinez, Holland.com, The Green Gallery and CITIx60 city guides, among many others. She keeps an online diary and newsletter of her sparkling adventures at www.angel-magazine.com