Fika is a Swedish institution, and it means simply to sit down, have a break and a cup of coffee, tea, or other drink, sometimes with a sweet bread (which is often called fikabröd, fika bread), cookie, or sandwich. The word comes from a sociolect, a manner of speaking among leather traders. It is a scrambling of the letters in the dialectal word “kaffi” which means coffee. The word fik is often used to mean café, as in långtradarfik, or lorry/truck driver´s café.

Lunch fika at Café Fägnan.
Lunchfika at Café Fägnan. That´s a sandwich with pannbiff (Swedish hamburger) and Béarnaise sauce.

Sometimes fika can be used to replace other meals, like you might have morgonfika instead of a sturdy breakfast of porridge or sour milk with müsli (which would be your first option, I´m sure), or kvällsfika instead of a properly cooked dinner. Or even after a properly cooked dinner, as vickning, a late light supper. This suggests a simple meal of a hot drink and a sandwich. When I was a kid, we always had tea and sandwiches in the evening, calling it kvällsmat, or evening food. The hot meal was eaten in the middle of the day, according to traditional farming culture, at least where my mother was from.

The local folklore museum, Hägnan.
The local folklore museum, Hägnan (=fence), where café Fägnan (=delight) is situated. Our favourite hangout place in summer.
Horse fika.
Horse fika.

In the workplace, we have two fikas a day: one in the morning and one in the afternoon. It is important to take part in fika as this is when we relax with our work mates, develop a relationship with our boss, talk about this and that and get to know each other. It is the glue that holds collegues together, where we become friends and forge loyalty bonds that sometimes exceeds most other kinds of relationships. Having a job is important to a Swede, it is essential to be needed, to pull one´s weight in society, to count for something.

Ye Olde Phonebooth.
Ye Olde Phonebooth.

This can also make it a bit hard to stick to a healthy diet – in some groups refusing fikabröd (particularly if it is home-made) can be a bit like refusing communion or disown someone´s hospitality and offer/reaffirmation of friendship. It´s tricky.

The photos were all taken during last Sunday´s outing, with T Tuesday at Bluebeard & Elisabeth´s in mind. Happy T-Day!

Had to sketch, naturally!
Had to sketch, naturally!

24 thoughts on “Fika”

  1. AH! The incredibly wonderful things I learn over Fika. What surprised me was how you described your time at work. In the US, bosses are seldom if EVER seen, much less participate in daily rituals. In factories, office workers don’t, as a rule, talk to factory workers. In hospitals, nurses socialize with nurses, and doctors are too busy to socialize. At universities, professors don’t mingle with students. And when we change jobs, if we are lucky, one or two people remember you with a Christmas card for one or two years, but there is practically no other communication. So it’s good to know this wonderful ritual and custom in your country.

    Thanks for sharing your lovely sketch, as well as your Fika ritual with us for T this Tuesday. I learned a LOT.

    1. When I had come home from my year as an exchange student in IOWA, I was sad that not one of the four families I stayed with, or my friends at school, kept in touch with me – my letters were unanswered except for one or two. Others had similar experiences. However, I would say that Americans are much more hospitable in the here and now, while Swedes are more reluctant to bring new people into their homes, particularly on family holidays. But when a bond has been formed, it is often a very lasting one. Also, we have less socializing outside of family and work, which accounts for the importance the workplace has in our lives. Bottom line, we all need to connect, it just differs how we do it.

  2. So interesting to visit with you this morning and learn something new!
    Thank you for sharing about your life in Sweden along with your wonderful photos.
    That sketch book must be a joy to look through!
    Happy T Day

  3. Very interesting. I’m Norwegian and see the similarities in the language. I only know how to say a few phrases…generally the ones my parents said to me to keep in in line in public. 🙂
    Happy T day!

  4. I continue to be impressed by how your sketches bring the landscape to life.

    My daughter went to Sweden once to meet a penpal she’d had since early childhood, and she brought back the idea of “fika” with her. Maybe we can convert the nation 🙂

    1. I clearly remember that she took Ballerina cookies home with her as a gift for you. That is one of my favourites, since forever! Yes, fika may be our legacy to the world! 😉

  5. I love coming by and learning about your culture, along with some new words-so thank you for that! Looks like a lovely place. I think we could use that break here amongst employees/employers but most places here it’s all about work, work, work, get it done, keep going, etc. Your sketch is fantastic Victoria! happy T day!

  6. So interesting learning about your traditions ! I think I would enjoy that kind of work atmosphere 🙂 Thanks for sharing and I love your sketch today!!!!!

    1. I did not know about that scrapbook collection, scrapbooking and artjournaling the amazing way so many of you do it has been a bit off my radar. I am getting more interested, though, your inspiring work makes me want to try it! However, I am afraid my imagination is not enough, I find it hard even to doodle… Glad you liked the pics from Birmingham, yes, that was an experience!

  7. What an interesting post. I so enjoy reading about other cultures. Of course I’m hungry now, maybe it is fika time. I’m retired and one of the things I miss most is the socialization that took place at work. My experience may differ from others but I had a great network of friends in the workplace and have retained my friendship with a number of people I met there.

    I really like your sketch, I’ve only tried sketching outdoors a few time.


  8. Your sketch is just amazing! You have such a talent! I am so enjoying learning a bit about life in Sweden. I think if we had some of those customs here during the workday, people would be more content and productive. I visited Stockholm about 8 years ago while on a cruise.

  9. Hi Viktoria,
    I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed your post and hearing about your Fika traditions. I also love the pictures of the area you live in…….so picturesque and charming.

    Your sketch is fantastic!! I rarely sketch anymore, if at all.

    Thank you for the T-day visit….I’m really enjoying the 8 year olds. Have a great week.

  10. I love reading your explanation of fika, and the horse fika picture made me laugh. Thank you for visiting my blog earlier and for your kind comments. I find I get more creative, the more I use my creativity lol. It’s fika for the soul/spirit? Love your sketch, beautiful pictures.

  11. Love your sketch! Beautiful! Thank you for sharing so much about your culture. Ambericans have lost that job mentality…. Now, no one wants to work… Since moving to Arkansas i’m amazed how long ‘Help Wanted’ signs stay in the window… sigh… I’m so sorry for the late Tday flyby…. Hugs! deb

  12. Love to hear about Fika. It is so good to learn new things. We have our Fikas here in Brazil too and guess what we drink?Coffee. Thanks for sharing that.Sorry for the belated T day.

  13. Great Sketch!!!! You do amazing work with great detail ♥ Love your little break time traditions and no matter what diet I was on I would never pass on the opportunity to have a great snack. Probably why my diets generally fail. 🙂

  14. Fika sounds good! When I visited Gothenburg years ago all I remember was. …I think they were called Korv kiosks. .sausages and mashed potato ? I love your sketches! Belated Happy T day! Chrisx

    1. Yes, “korvkiosk”, that´s the Swedish equivalent of the hotdog stand. A classic is “tunnbrödsrulle” which is sausage and mash rolled up in a “thinbread”, almost like a tortilla. Thanks for visiting!

  15. thank you for sharing this about Swedish traditions…wonderful photos, and lovely sketch! and thank you for your comment on my blog…I wish we Americans observed All Saints day in a more traditional way that you mentioned. happy T day!

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