fika, have a coffee - How to be Swedish

Have many coffee breaks, called fika – How to be Swedish

fika, have a coffee - How to be Swedish
Swedish fika

Fall in love with the concept of fika

Fika is a big part of every Swedes everyday life. Basically, fika just means to hava a coffee. But it is so much more than just that. It has been described as a social institution or even phenomena. Swedish people – often described as distant, calm and unsocial – love their fika. It gives them the opportunity to meet and hang out with friends, get to know new people, check out potential partners or network with business folks.

Fika [ˈfiːˌka]

Fika at work

At many working places, fika is part of the regular daily schedule. In the morning a fika at 10:00 and in the afternoon at 15:00 is not uncommon.

For you sweet little new-Swede, that means two 10 – 30 minutes-extra breaks, called fikarast or fikapaus. When everyone gathers in the meeting room, you better stop working and join the group. You won’t get any extra points from your boss when you pretend you have no time for a break, because your work is just too important.

Among the consensus-oriented Swedes, fika is a great way to exchange knowledge, opinions about what’s going on in the company, and generally bond with your colleagues. Resulting in better productivity for the company and better wellbeing for each employee.

Swedes spend in total 9,5 days each year having fika

What’s on the fika-table

Essential for a fika is the cup of coffee. But, of course, not everyone likes it. To have a tea, soda or any other drink instead is just as fine.

Most Swedes combine their brake with some pastry, called fikabröd. Among the most popular are kanelbullar (cinnamon buns), chokladbollar (chocolate balls) and biscuits.

Fika for meeting and dating

During leisure time, fikas tend to be a little longer than during work. From 30 minutes to several hours. You can meet your friends, someone you have a common interest with and want exchange knowledge, or even get to know a potential flirt or partner. The informality of a fika makes it easy for everyone to suggest or agree to a fika.

If you don’t like the person or get bored, you can always say “Sorry, I have to go home now because I have booked a laundry time“.

(More about the meaning of “Swedish laundry”, in a later post.)

Where to fika?

Preferably in a café or restaurant. But of course you can also invite someone home for a fika. Maybe not for the first time though, that can be a little creepy, but certainly when you know the person a little better.

If you don’t feel like meeting up with someone, no problem, just go by yourself. Enjoy the atmosphere in the café and have a good strong cup of Swedish coffee.

Fika history

The word fika originated from the 19th century word kaffi (coffee) – then Swedes switched positions of the two syllables and removed one f.

kaffi -> ffi-ka -> fika

During the history of Sweden, coffee had been banned several times. Some Swedes didn’t follow the rules and had to come up with a secret word to meet for “kaffi”.


Useful Swedish words and phrases

  • En kopp caffe, tack! – A cup of coffee, please!
  • dammsugare – vacuum cleaner (green marzipan rolls, shaped like cylinder vacuum cleaners)
  • fikabröd – coffee break pastry
  • Ska vi ses över en fika någon gång? – Shall we have a coffee together some time?
  • Åh, jag måste tyvärr gå nu. – Oh, unfortunately, I have to leave now.
  • Jag har bokat en tvättid. – I have booked a laundry time.


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