If there was one simple thing about Scandinavian culture that I think everyone in the States should adopt, it would be FIKA.
There isn’t really an English word for fika, but it could be translated to coffee break, but it’s so much more. You don’t have to enjoy coffee to have fika, and even the Swedes admit that while they love to fika, they are not the ones drinking the most coffee in Europe – it’s the Finns. You can fika and drink tea, juice, soda, water.. My favorite of course if coffee, but then again, I am a Finn. We don’t have a word for fika in Finnish, but we still have the same coffee break culture.
I’ve written about Fika before and about my search for the best coffee, and somewhat explained fika, but wanted to revisit it today, because there is so much to learn about it.
You may think that when you go through Starbucks drive-through every day, you have somewhat adopted this European coffee culture. I’ve always been used to having a 10 o’clock on the morning and 3 o’clock on the afternoon coffee breaks, but I too got used to the American way of taking my coffee on-the-go while living in the US for ten years, and loved stopping in our local coffee shop in Beacon for my morning coffee and drinking my coffee when dropping kids off the school. I’d make coffee at home, and drink it while working, and well, I still do, but now I am trying my best not just have coffee, but have fika, and I’ surprised what a big difference it has made.
The difference between just “drinking coffee” and “fika” is that with fika you actually stop working. You don’t take your coffee on-the-go, you don’t multitask, you stop, take a break, and enjoy the coffee (or your choice on refreshment), typically with your friends, family or co-workers and with some cookies, or biscotti or a piece of chocolate.
Live a little: learn to fika
Today I encourage you to learn how to fika. Forget about multi-tasking and on-the-go, have at least one coffee break in your day when you truly just stop working and do nothing but enjoy coffee and sit down with other people and connect. No iPhones or checking Facebook allowed either.
Stop. Connect and recharge. Enjoy and savor.
Enjoy your coffee, and your snack with it. Truly taste the cookie, and enjoy it, instead of nomming it down while working and reading something from your screen, and then feeling still unsatisfied because you barely tasted the cookie because you were so focused on reading (and then usually having to take a second and third cookie too for the very reason). Drink your coffee when it’s just brewed and hot, from a real cup, not from a paper cup and not after it’s been sitting in your desk for an hour.
Swedes don’t drink coffee all day in their desks when they work. They don’t take coffee on-the-go and they don’t drink in their cars. I’ve never seen a drive-through coffee house here, or anywhere in Europe. Swedes have respect for coffee breaks, and treat fika as a national institution and a human right. It’s almost like they have so much self-respect that they feel they deserve this glorious reward, a coffee break, for themselves at least twice a day, and most people take it. In fact, even at work places you are looked down if you don’t take your fika – why wouldn’t you? I once worked in Finland and didn’t like the taste of the free coffee at the break room, and was trying to work through my coffee breaks, and the other employees and even my boss told me that I was not allowed to work during a coffee break.
It’s not really even about the coffee. It’s about living a little everyday, it’s about giving yourself a break, and allowing yourself enjoy life, even when it’s busy.
Stop, brew and fika.
Photo: I took the photo in one of my favorite coffee shops in Helsinki, Finland, at the Fazer Cafe.
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