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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

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