What is Fika? | The Ultimate Swedish Guide (2022)

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Fika…It is claimed that this unique word will be one of the three words you are going to hear when you visit Sweden: ”Hej!” (Hi!), “Tack!” (Thank you!), and “Fika?” – Have you prepared!

No doubt, living and growing up in Stockholm, the most unique aspect of Swedish culture that I carried throughout my life was the word: Fika. 

Alright, Alright …But what is Fika? What is all the fuss about? I hear people asking me this question as I use this unique word quite often. 

Having received many questions about this unique Swedish word, I felt the need to write the ultimate fika guide. 

Let’s dive in:

What is Fika?

I see this unique word of the Swedish culture is roughly translated as “coffee with friends”, but for me, it’s more than that. Moreover, summarizing this unique word in this way would likely offend my Swedish friends. So, I better be explaining it better 😉

Fika is not just a regular coffee break that you quickly drink at your desk while answering that last email. It is a mindful break where you take a step back from your hectic thoughts and enjoy the present moment while taking a sip from your cup of coffee or tea.

Fika also creates a great opportunity to get to know a new colleague from your workspace, catch up with your friends, and share some time with your loved ones.

This unique word has become such an important part of Swedish life that Swedes ensure they have at least one fika each day. Further, as fika has been proven to increase productivity, some Swedish companies have instituted mandatory coffee breaks at work. Cool right? 

What is fika?
Swedish people have several meanings for "fika"

Why is it such a big deal for Swedes?

This ‘modern world’ has made us all time super busy individuals, particularly in today’s hectic environment- including myself. 

Furthermore, sadly, we began evaluating our success and impact in life based on how busy we are.

This is a beautiful quote from Greg McKeown on his book Essentialism that I’d like to share with you:

“What if we stopped celebrating being busy as a measurement of importance? What if instead, we celebrated how much time we had spent listening, pondering, meditating, and enjoying time with the most important people in our lives?”

I think the intention and importance of having Fika are well reflected in this quote. Because Swedes believe, no matter how hectic your day gets, it’s important to slow down and spare time for yourself, and for your loved ones. 

That is why I love this Swedish saying: “Make sure you are never too busy for fika” 

never too busy for a fika
the kitty cat literally represents me :)

What time to have Fika?

There is no rule for that. You can have a fika anywhere and anytime. At work, you might want to enjoy a mid-morning or mid-afternoon fika. Personally, I like to have between 3 and 4 pm. A perfect break between lunch and dinner. When do you like to have your coffee break? 

fika cafe
Found this in IKEA-dream cafe <3

How to Fika like a Swede?

If you want to Fika like a Swede, next to your coffee you shall have a sweet treat. My all time go-to sweet treat is “kanelbulle” which literally means cinnamon rolls. I have been addicted to them ever since I was a kid. In Sweden, I would bet nobody can resist the smell of freshly baked cinnamon rolls emanating from bakeries. Stockholm is scented with cinnamon rolls for me. 

Besides having a kanelbulle (cinnamon roll), you shall also try the other varieties of Swedish traditional desserts. Here are my favorites among them. 

  • Semla (plural form: semlor)
  • Kladdkaka (Swedish chocolate cake)
  • Chokladboll (Oatmeal ball, or chocolate ball)
  • Prinsesstårta (Swedish Princess Cake)
  • Dammsugare (Punsch-roll)

Swedish pastry kanelbulle
All time favorite fika companion: Kanelbulle <3

How was this unique word coined?

During the history of Sweden, coffee had been banned several times. (Regardless, coffee was banned five times in Sweden between 1746 and 1817) 

The government also banned “coffee paraphernalia”—with cops confiscating cups and dishes

Despite the ban, consumption continued.

Back in time, the word for coffee was “kaffi” and Swedes had to find a secret word that was meeting the banned word. 

Swedes switched positions of the two syllables and removed one f.

And this is how the word “fika” was coined.

Without knowing, today, we are still using that secret word.

Best cafes to have a Fika

As there has been a long time since I have visited Sweden, I’d like to name a few Swedish cafes in Istanbul which you can pretend to fika like you are Swedish 😉

Doppio Fika Point-Fenerbahçe

No doubt, this place has become one of my favorite cafes, which I love to go especially with my mom, to relive our Swedish memories. The decoration definitely resonates well with the Swedish culture, and you can find Swedish traditional pastries like kanelbulle (cinnamon roll) and kladdkaka here. If you ever happen to go to that cafe feel free to drop a DM on my Instagram account. I love to read your messages

Mums Cafe- Karaköy 

Another Swedish concept cafe is located in Karaköy’s french gateway street. Yıldız is the owner of this cafe and has lived in Sweden for almost 15 years with her family. I love the cinnamons rolls here because they are served in a very Swedish traditional way by sprinkling the top with “pärlsocker” (pearl sugar)

mums cafe
Kanebulle always remind me of Sweden

Swedish Coffee Point- Cihangir

It’s a shame I have never been to this cafe but I know that this cafe was established by two Swedish-born Turkish brothers in Lund in 2003. The couple decides to move their business to Istanbul and open a cafe in Cihangir, with Swedish coffee beans. Have you ever visited this cafe? If yes, what would you advise me to eat/drink here? Let me know in the comments below

How to Fika during the pandemic?

I admit, having a coffee with your loved ones becomes very tricky during the pandemic. While we’re constantly told we need to keep our social distance, we tend to feel lonely and isolated at the same time. However, Swedes encourage everyone to set up “Virtual Fika” or “Remote Fika” for distant socializing rather than social distancing. 

Actually, since I’ve started working remotely, I’ve been arranging virtual fika with colleagues with whom I’d like to catch up. I literally love it! It’s a great excuse to have a break and share a cup of coffee (or tea) with my friends or colleagues. Take a look at my article on how to have a virtual fika. 

Click to read my blog on how to fika during the pandemic <3

Bonus: Listen to the “Swedish Fika” song

8 Life Lessons I've Learned in 2021

Reading Time: 5 minutes

I guess this is what I am doing: “I write to discover what I know” –  Flannery O’Connor 

Finally, I took a step back and reflected on my thoughts for 2021. Here are the 8 life lessons I’ve learned:

The hard times are the best motivation for self development

Most of the time we suffer when we encounter something that changes our lives drastically. To adapt ourselves to the change or the new reality seems terrific at first glance. However, changes are inevitable, and we don’t have any other choice but to learn how to deal with them.

No doubt the pain we feel is an absolute fact, but we shouldn’t forget that suffering is our choice of reaction. While some people ‘choose’ to feel miserable and helpless in any challenging situation, some people consider it as an opportunity to transform their lives and experience their greatest potential.

I am a big fan of the famous Persian poet Rumi, and he describes the state of suffering as a “wound”.

“A wound is a doorway to a higher state of consciousness, towards enlightenment; it is indeed the very point where ‘light’ can gush into our lives”

I admit this mindset is indeed very difficult to obtain. However, once we obtain this mindset it will enrich our lives and expand our minds.

You cannot control everything

Sometimes we feel like a victim toward the situations that happen to what we don’t even have control over.

Somehow, since the pandemic began, I have immersed myself in my philosophy books, which I had left untouched and dusty on my bookshelf. I become more and more intrigued by the philosophy of stoicism which serves different perspectives on how to perceive our life

One of the famous Stoic philosophers Epictetus wrote:

“Happiness and freedom begin with a clear understanding of one principle: Some things are within our control, and some things not. The chief task in life is simply this: To identify and separate matters so that I can say clearly to myself which are externals not under my control, and which have to do with the choices I actually control”

So, concentrating on our strengths and our attitude in dealing with these situations will definitely change our lives for the better.

Stop overthinking everything

“There are more things that frighten us than injure us. We suffer more often in imagination than in reality”-Seneca

Anxiety is a real pain the**. In many cases, the negative chatter is conducted by our imagination, by the voice in our head, which prevents us from being our true, right, and honest selves.

However, that quote above from the world’s most interesting stoic Seneca does remind me that sometimes we underestimate ourselves and overestimate the situation. Don’t you think so?

Don't try to be happy. We're programmed to be dissatisfied

“Don’t try to be happy. We’re programmed to be dissatisfied” – Frank T McAndrew

That hit hard, didn’t it? Well, according to research that I have recently read says that happiness is something that is about to happen. In fact, dopamine increases just before we get what we want and drops right away when we get what we want. 

I feel as if we all get caught up chasing the instant feel-good rush by buying more and more things. We are exposed to the concept of “I will be happy if I get that.” So, each of us has become more and more hungry and unsatisfied individuals. In fact, the world today faces humanity that is more dissatisfied than ever before. 

So, my personal goal was to rid myself of those consumer-focused ads (I mean, you can never completely get rid of them, that’s for sure). I unfollowed many of those influencers telling me that my life could be better if I buy this or that.

Finally, I felt kinda relieved because focusing on the present moment and practicing appreciation makes life easier, happier, and healthier. 

Let go of negative people

Among all the self-development quotes I read so far, none  of them impacted my life more than this: “You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with” – Jim Rohn

The people we surround ourselves with determine the way we are perceiving the world and ourselves. You are very likely to think and behave like them at a certain point.

“According to research by social psychologist Dr. David McClelland of Harvard, [the people you habitually associate with] determine as much as 95 percent of your success or failure in life.” That’s a big percentage.

Therefore, I try to be more conscious of who I surround myself with. In some cases, people literally choose to be unhappy, helpless, and depressed which causes you to feel exactly the same. One of the best things to do for ourselves is to allow people to let go and free ourselves.

Never take things for granted

“The secret of happiness is to see all the marvels of the world, and never forget the drops of oil in the spoon.” – The Alchemist

Again, we always think that things that are about to happen will bring joy and happiness. We have this tendency of thinking the future will be better than our present.

The world is full of wondrous things, which we generally overlook or unconsciously ignore. Most of the time we start recognizing and valuing things, once we lose them. That’s why I am practicing to be more and more present and enjoying the actual moment. Otherwise, moments just keep passing by, right? 

Conscious media consumption

We are constantly invaded either by the news that gives this certain illusion of everything in this world is going tremendously bad and you are in the midst of chaos, or either we get lost in this loop of social media thinking everyone’s life rocks and you clearly fall behind in life.

Well… I’ve been there. I didn’t know how constantly being exposed to invasive ads could harm my mental health. One thing is for certain, we all need to be conscious of the information we consume. 

So, I decided to diligently cut the excess distractions of my life which later helped me focus on things that really matter and on what really makes me happy. 

There is no such thing as a perfect time

It has always been my dream to have a blog where I could freely express my thoughts. I had trouble deciding when it would be the best time to launch my website or start posting on my new social media accounts.  To get started, I was so hesitant, as if the right moment had not yet arrived. Another quote from one of my favorite female authors:  

“A plan executed imperfectly now is better than a plan executed meticulously never” – Elizabeth Gilbert

The truth is, whether we want to admit it or not,  there is no perfect moment to start something new. You know what, that moment never arrives! At the end of the day, you are going to be the one who decides for yourself that the time is right, without depending on the outside circumstances. 

Curious to hear what are your lessons learned from 2021? Feel free to comment below.

Albert Camus and a girl is reading a book

The Absurdity of Living: The Philosophy of Albert Camus

Reading Time: 3 minutes

No doubt that the whole Covid-19 process caused drastic changes in each of our lives. Certainly, a thrilling granted story to be told later to our grandkids, don’t you think?

This wasn’t the first time that the world faced such an outbreak. And probably, one of the reasons why people immersed themselves in the history of plagues and epidemics at this particular time. The book ‘La Peste’ which translates as ‘The Plague’, written by Albert Camus gained its popularity for some obvious reasons instantaneously during the outbreak. I decided to re-read the book hoping to find some answers which pertained to the despairing moments of my quarantine.

A girl looking through the window

La Peste, pretty much describes the situation we are facing now. The book is set in a slightly fictionalized town of Oran on the Algerian coast, where a contagious disease causes a catastrophic outbreak and spreads terror throughout the town. There are an increasing number of deaths; everyone is worried about getting infected; if this happens, that person is isolated. Nobody can leave the town, and if they do they could be shot.

We lead busy money-centered and status-obsessed lives in the same way that Oran’s inhabitants did before the plague, assuming we have been granted immortality. The people of Oran associated this plague with something awkward that belonged to a different time period. They are modern people. There is no way they will die like the other poor creatures! “Yeah, everyone knows that, except the dead.” Camus implies sarcastically in the book.

the plague

At the height of the plague, when countless people die in a week, one of Camus’s particular enemies appears. A priest named Peneloux.

Peneloux describes the plague as god’s punishment for immorality while addressing the crowd at the cathedral in Oran’s main square.  Camus points out an aspect of our human nature: The tendency to seek meaning. Despite the fact that we are creatures in desperate need of meaning, we are abandoned in a world filled with meaninglessness.

lost in space

Call it plague, COVID-19…Whatever you like. All are dramatic instances of a perpetual rule: We are vulnerable towards the ruthlessness of the universe. Our lives literally hang by a thread and we are all fundamentally living on the edge of what Albert Camus called “the absurd.”

Albert Camus is often associated with the idea of existentialism though he did not prefer the term and was rather focused on something he referred to as the absurd or absurdism.

Humans find meaning in a seemingly meaningless universe… It’s the conflict that arises between the need for rationality and the fundamentally chaotic nature of the universe. Sometimes I imagine the universe saying: “Ah, you wish for meaning? Sprinkle sprinkle and, voila: plague, pandemic…” It seems like our need for meaning the universe is totally indifferent towards it.

Indeed the whole situation is absurd, and according to Camus, the absurd cannot be negated. This means that we can react to it in two ways: “We can live it or we can escape from it.”

thinking man

Albert Camus points to the Greek mythological figure Sisyphus. Sisyphus was the founder and King of Ephyra and was also a quite deceitful person.

He was later punished for pushing a rock uphill which rolls down every time Sisyphus nears it to the top. This process repeats for eternity. Sisyphus existence is so meaningless and hopeless that trying to give to his repetitive action any meaning is totally absurd.

Sisyphus becomes conscious of the absurd predicament of life, but yet he keeps pushing the rock at his best. Despite this hopeless fate faced by Sisyphus, Camus tells us that we should imagine Sisyphus happy so we ourselves can face the absurdity of life:

“The struggle itself towards the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”- Albert Camus

According to Camus, this is the time we are capable of living fully once we accept the fact we live in an absurd world. And yet at this moment of self-consciousness and confrontation, we are the happiest.
So maybe the salvation is to not just embrace the absurd, but also revolt against it. Embracing that rock of Sisyphus, and refusing to bow for the pain that life has tossed at us, and still push it at our greatest. 

“The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.”- Albert Camus


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Try "Swedish Virtual Fika" for Distant Socializing

Introduction to the Swedish Virtual Fika

Reading Time: 3 minutes

We are now a society at a distance, and we are all going through very difficult times.

While the government and media strongly advice to stay at home, many of us struggle with loneliness and anxiety. 

Humans are innately social and tend to reach out to touch or be close to others when feeling unwell or afraid.

But, being isolated from each other doesn’t mean staying socially disconnected.

On the contrary, it’s more crucial than ever to stay connected with each other during this unprecedented time. But the Swedish people have a great solution: 

staying connected during COVID-19

Nonetheless, we are too busy with our work, studies, successes, and failures, as well as our future concerns that we almost forget what really matters to us now. 

We forget to stay connected. 

Especially at this time when we need each other’s support more than ever.

My advice to stay connected while socially distancing is to have a “Swedish Virtual Fika” per day.

But, wait a minute, is that a pill?

What is Fika?

girl taking fika

Fika is a phenomenal Swedish word which basically means “coffee break”

But, it’s more than that. 

Fika is a moment when you slow down your life. 

A moment when you sit down and appreciate the good things of your life while taking a sip from your cup of coffee. 

This precious moment becomes even more enjoyable when you have your sweet bun on the side (preferably a cinnamon bun) and a good company. 

a man having fika

Swedish people make sure they have at least one Fika break during the day.

No matter how hectic their day gets, it’s important to slow down and spare time for themselves, and to their loved ones.

buddhist monk having tea

Swedish people are not the only ones to have pointed out the importance of having a coffee/tea break during the day.

Vietnamese Zen Buddhist Thich Nhat Hanh, who is known as the world’s calmest man, also takes a full hour to drink a cup of tea with other monks every day.

He explains

“At that moment you are real, and the cup of tea is real. You are not lost in the past, in the future, in your projects, in your worries. You are free from all these afflictions. And in that state of being free, you enjoy your tea. That is the moment of happiness, and of peace”

One US psychologist rightly noted rather than talking about social distancing, we should be practicing distant socializing.

So, let yourself to have a coffee break and align yourself to the present. 

Make yourself a cup of coffee, have your favorite biscuit,

Call your friend, your mom, your lover and ask:

“Let’s have a virtual Swedish Fika”

Because why not?

We are all in this together.

video chat

All great, but not familiar with the digital world?
No worries, here I find a very nice article that explains the best video chat apps all free.

Find the most suitable app for you, and enjoy your “Virtual Fika” with your loved ones.

Aslı Erdogan