What is the Nordic Tradition of Fika?

Fika is normally coffee and a variety of baked goods.

Fika is a Swedish norm of having coffee accompanied by cookies, pastries, cake, or pie. In some settings, coffee may be replaced by juice, lemonade, or tea. The custom is so embedded into the Swedish way of life that visitors may think not taking coffee and cake is a criminal offense in the country. Fika is practiced across all levels of the Swedish society including at home, workplaces, and even when Swedes leave the country. The Swedes can fika at any time of the day as long as they are with friends or family. In workplaces, employees have a designated time just for fika.

History of Fika

The word “fika” was first used in the 19th century as a reversed word for “kaffi” (coffee). During the period, coffee had been banned in Sweden but some people continued using the product. They reversed the name to avoid authorities and mostly took coffee in groups away from public places. Fika became widespread and was associated with taking coffee in a group even after the ban was lifted. A traditional fika consisted of coffee and about seven homemade cakes, which will be considered an overkill in modern societies.

Fika at Work

Fika is part of the Swedish workplace culture, it is included in the daily schedule at least once a day, but in some instances, people can fika at 10:00 and 15:00. Each fika session is between 10-30 minutes. Employees gather in the meeting room or a designated place just for the purpose of drinking coffee and eating cake while holding informal conversations. Employers are fully aware that employees have to get a coffee break and it is not uncommon for bosses to mingle with their employees during this period. One might claim that fika is a waste of time at the workplace considering that Swedes spend about 10 days a year having fika. However, Sweden ranks among the countries with the most productive employees.

Going Global

The art of fika is slowly but surely developing into a global trend. It has been adopted in New York, London, Sydney, and even China where employees sneak 15 minutes for coffee and conversation. Some investors have even established coffee cafes just to target those who want to fika, especially in New York.


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