Fika (Sweden)

Fika outdoors during springtime
Family in Söderhamn seated for fika about 1916

Fika (Swedish pronunciation: [ˈfiːˌka]) is a concept in Swedish (and Finnish) culture with the basic meaning "to have coffee", often accompanied with pastries or sandwiches.[1] A more contemporary generalised meaning of the word, where the coffee may be replaced by tea or even juice, lemonade or saft for children, has become widespread. In some social circles, even just a sandwich or a small meal may be denoted a fika similar to the English concept of afternoon tea. In Sweden pastries in general (for example cinnamon buns) are often referred to as fikabröd ("fika bread").


The word "fika" is an example of the back slang used in the 19th century, in which syllables of a word were reversed, deriving fika from kaffi, an earlier variant of the Swedish word kaffe ("coffee").[2] From fika also comes the word fik (a colloquial term for "café") through a process of back-formation.[3]

An older word fika means "to strive (for)" in Swedish,[4][5] and fika therefore becomes a combination of the reversed syllables of kaffe (coffee) and the swedish verb word (fika).


Fika is considered a social institution in Sweden and Finland; it means having a break, most often a coffee break, with one's colleagues, friends, date or family. The word fika can be used as both verb and a noun. You can fika at work by taking a "coffee break", fika with someone like a "coffee date", or just drink a cup of coffee, tea or other non-alcoholic beverage. As such, the word has quite ambiguous connotations, but almost always includes something to eat, such as biscuits, cakes and even sweets, accompanied with the drink. This practice of taking a break, often with a cinnamon roll or some biscuits, cookies, or a fruit on the side, is central to Swedish life.[6]

Although the word may in itself imply "taking a break from work", this is often emphasized using the word fikapaus ("fika pause") or fikarast ("fika break"), with kaffepaus and kafferast, respectively, as near synonyms. Fika may also mean having coffee or other beverages at a café or konditori (a "patisserie-based coffeehouse").[7]

Traditionally, fika requires sweet, baked goods, especially cinnamon rolls.[8]

Fika is also combined in words such as fikabröd ("fika bread") which is a collective name for all kinds of biscuits, cookies, buns, etc. that are traditionally eaten with coffee. Non-sweetened breads are normally not included in this term (even though these may sometimes be consumed with coffee). Used as a noun fika also refers to fikabröd and coffee combined.

Work break

Fika is a common practice at workplaces in Sweden and Finland where it constitutes at least one break during a normal workday. Often, two fikas are taken in a day at around 9:00 in the morning and 3:00 in the afternoon. The work fika is an important social event where employees can gather and socialize to discuss private and professional matters. It is not uncommon for management to join employees and to some extent it can even be considered impolite not to join one's colleagues at fika.[9] The practice is not limited to any specific sector of the labor market and is considered normal practice even in government administration.[10]

See also


  1. Henderson, Helene (2005). The Swedish Table. U of Minnesota P. p. xxiii-xxv. ISBN 978-0-8166-4513-8.
  2. Holm, Pelle (1939). Bevingade ord. ISBN 91-34-50877-5
  3. "fik". Nationalencyklopedin (in Swedish). Retrieved 30 December 2010.
  4. Elof Hellquist. Svensk etymologisk ordbok.
  5. Svenska Akademien. Svenska Akademiens Ordbok.
  6. "Fika |". 2014-05-08. Retrieved 2016-05-21.
  7. Johansson Robinowitz, Christina; Lisa Werner Carr (2001). Modern-day Vikings: a practical guide to interacting with the Swedes. Intercultural Press. p. 149. ISBN 978-1-877864-88-9.
  8. Davas, Kim (17 August 2005). "Swedish Food Deserves Another Look: Rev. of Helene Henderson, The Swedish Table". Eugene Register-Guard. p. E3. Retrieved 31 December 2009.
  9. Paulsen, Roland (2014) Empty Labor: Idleness and Workplace Resistance. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. ISBN 9781107066410; p. 90
  10. Goldstein, Darra; Merkle, Kathrin (2005). Culinary cultures of Europe: identity, diversity and dialogue. Council of Europe. pp. 428–29. ISBN 978-92-871-5744-7.
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