Fika is a word that I have only recently discovered. While reading a book on Swedish culture, I noticed that the word ‘fika’ kept cropping up. I learned that ‘fika’, which basically means coffee break, is a process that is deeply engrained in Swedish culture. Fika is regarded as a positive step to improving mental health. This made me curious how this small and unassuming word can have so much significance in Swedish daily life. As you know I am a huge advocate of improving mental health. I devoted a full blog post to this so if you missed it please click here
The deeper meaning of ‘fika’ is actually a little more than ‘a coffee break.’ Fika is a time for slowing down and appreciating the good things in life. It’s a time to relax, usually with friends or work colleagues. This relaxation break usually consists of drinking good coffee and eating cakes. Fika is NOT grabbing a quick take out coffee, which is probably how we in the UK view coffee break time.
Swedes often use the fika time for chatting to friends and work colleagues and catching up with issues that concern them. You can also ‘fika’ alone, in a cafe, at home or in the park. The essential part of fika is that you take a proper break and slow down from your busy day.
The more I read about fika then the more I longed to know more. I always associate Swedish people as being calm and relaxed even during stressful situations. I have visited Sweden on holiday and I found the whole experience relaxing and tranquil, even in cities. There seemed to be an absence of stress as residents went about their business.
Surely this is something that everyone all over the world could benefit from? Here in the UK we rush around in our work and personal life, hardly stopping to breathe. Our physical and mental health starts to suffer as we fail to notice the strain we put ourselves under. How many of us are guilty of taking breaks at our desk or work station? I certainly have!
The Swedish way of life is to have a healthy life balance. This is explained in the book ‘Lagom’ by Linnea Dunne as “not too little, not too much, just right.” The Swedish people apply Lagom to all walks of life. They do this in various ways. At work they have a good work / life balance. They make sure they take a morning and afternoon break with work colleagues, enjoying fresh coffee and a home baked cake. The majority of Swedish workers also leave work at their contracted time, unlike a lot of UK workers who often work past their finish time.
Sweden is in the top three in the world of coffee consumers. This is because they put so much value on the coffee breaks as down time. A typical weekend fika consists of lots of scrumptious cakes and cookies, but surprisingly Swedish people never over indulge. Kanelbullar or cinnamon buns figure very highly in a fika spread. These can be found on most tables when partaking of coffee.
From my research, it sounds like fika is similar to the UK activity of going to the pub. Although, personally, I feel that fika would be more beneficial to a person’s general health and well being. After all, going to the pub in the UK is often regarded as an evening only event. It can also take some effort to implement. It is much easier and more flexible to take a coffee break, so I believe that will have a far more positive impact on a person’s life.
The idea of taking regular, genuine breaks at work must surely increase productivity and overall happiness in the work situation. This would then have a knock on affect on the country’s economy which can only be a good thing. With a positive effect on a person’s well being, fika appears to be the solution to improving modern life.
I hope after reading this, it gives you some ideas for creating your own fika. Perhaps you can make sure you take your proper allocated work breaks, instead of working at your desk? If you work at home why not set a time for regular coffee or tea breaks? Sit down with your feet up, relaxing, for at least fifteen minutes? Try incorporate fika into your life and see how it improves your overall health and well being.
Have you heard of fika? Would you like to try fika in your life? Let me know in the comments below.
Until next time dear friends