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The Swedish Art of Fika

Article by Hanna Glover May 1, 2019

With end-of-semester deadlines fast approaching, it’s never been more important for you to pause and take a moment for yourself. Hanna Glover explains why university students should be incorporating a Swedish-style coffee break into their daily routine.

At university, everyone living away from home can relate to homesickness. When deadlines become overwhelming there is nothing one desires more than the comforts of home. Since making the move from Sweden to England,  I have found that there is something I have missed more than anything – apart from family and friends, obviously – and that is fika.

Pronounced ‘fee-ka’ it is a Swedish word that can’t really be directly translated in English. Essentially, it’s sitting down and having a coffee, usually accompanied with a warm pastry and friends. On basic terms fika is having a cup of coffee but as any Swede knows – it is so much more than that. It is a way of living. If you’re reading this and thinking about how much you don’t like coffee, it’s not actually a requirement for the perfect fika. In fact, the ‘ingredients’, if you will, can be anything – a cup of tea, juice or smoothie with a cookie or a warm bun.

Fika is an opportunity to be present with yourself and others… It’s an invitation to pause, take stock and breathe.

Some people might disagree, but fika isn’t just about what you eat. It’s about the intentional act of taking a break and enjoying life. And the opportunities for it are endless in the daily life of a Swede. For example, I would take a fika at work, during my lunch break, and chat about the day with my colleagues, black coffee and store bought cookies.

On weekends I would meet relatives at country cafes and have a fika with homemade saffron buns and drink coffee out of delicate china cups. More than likely when asking to meet up with a friend, we ask each other, ‘when do you want to go for a fika?’. And in all honesty, you can have fika with yourself, wherever and whenever. The point is, there is never a reason to not have a fika.

The perfect Fika. © Hanna Glover

However, since moving to England I have found this ‘fika culture’ doesn’t exist the way it does in Sweden. More often than not, I find myself meeting up with friends to drink coffee and work on university assignments, or we grab a coffee on our way to a lecture and drink out of (hopefully reusable) cups. As busy university students we don’t always remember what it means to do something just for the sake of doing it. Instead we visit our favourite cafe to check our phones or do work, ignoring those around us.

Fika is an opportunity to be present with yourself and others. Like I said before, it’s more than what you consume  – it’s an invitation to pause, take stock and breathe. It’s a tradition I think most stressed out university students could benefit from. More than anything, it’s an opportunity to connect with friends and take a restful moment together. It’s a tradition I am doing my best to incorporate into life here in the UK by inviting my friends for a fika, saying ‘let’s leave our phones at home and just enjoy a cinnamon roll together. Let’s fika’.

I dare you to go for a fika this week with a friend or family member. Don’t worry about making it perfect – the only thing you could do to ruin is to rush it. So slow down, breathe and savor every sip.

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