Fika — Coffee breaks inspired by the Swedes
Consider this my petition to have an espresso machine with pastries/savory snacks in every office! But before you run to pitch this to the HR, knowing what Fika stands for may be helpful. Even if it doesn't convince the others it might just bring you to *the other side of paradise* (Song reference courtesy : Glass Animals).
The etymology of the word fika comes from the19th century word kaffi (coffee) — then Swedes switched positions of the two syllables and removed one f. But don’t be fooled. Its not as basic as it sounds, like most Scandinavian words it has nuance. Meeting and hanging out with friends Fika isn’t just a phenomenon but a way of being. Coffee with a sweet treat maybe?
Interestingly enough coffee was banned multiple times in Sweden. A fact I just came across, which talks about how in Sweden high taxes were levied on coffee and tea in 1746 and the country periodically even saw the ban on the commodity altogether. I would love to go down the rabbit hole and see what led to it or what reasons were given but for the sake of this piece I’ll stick to the overarching theme of coffee and why I recommend a ritual of sorts which draws from Fika.
Before we move further I thought I would quote these lovely Swedish words and phrases around Fika .
- En kopp caffe, tack! — A cup of coffee, please!
- Ska vi ses över en fika någon gång? — Shall we have a coffee together some time?
- fikabröd — coffee break pastry
A ritual that draws inspiration from Fika:
One of the happiest memories I have from college is going for choir practice with The Capital City Minstrels in Delhi. Even before the singing started food was all we spoke about. The ‘Capital City Munchers’ is a term someone at choir had used. I loved that. Just the thought of it brings a smile to my face. People would bring something small and there would be chai and then we went in for rehearsals. I remember the initial couple of years when Devina , a fellow soprano would bring pie’s and someone else brought in biscuits. The smell of a fresh pie or biscuit and chai is all we’re looking for really. That sense of connection over an enjoyable activity.
Chai before choir was a wonderful ice breaker and made it so much easier to interact with people. So in my head its a no brainer when I think about work or even a social mixer. For so many Indians ‘chai’ and ‘kaffee’ is all we need really and of course some ‘biscut’, to seal the deal. But end of the season pot luck was equally thrilling. Its even better when you have people from all over bringing in their culture bringing in the warmth of their homes to an office or a social space.
Sweden has a high GDP and we know that the Happiness Index loves ’em. Maybe there can be some takeaways we can all adopt. It doesn't mean letting go of our own traditions but also acknowledging some of the positives we see in other cultures.
I personally believe that we all have rich cultures that draw on similar themes but as time has gone by we’ve forgotten some of these ‘rituals’. If you know of any traditions that your culture practices that would be useful to others please write to me or leave a comment. We’re all learning and trying to grow. For me Fika is a new word and concept that caught my attention. A few years back it was Hygge, a Danish word that brings back warm memories of dates with my girlfriends to our favorite café where we split the decadent chocolate cake in four.
As a lover of all things chai and tea :P I would love to take a deep dive into the tea ceremony that is often spoken about in the Asian context. I’ve never paid much attention to the process, the ritualistic nature of it all.