Fika: Why You Need a Swedish Coffee Break

When it comes to conscientious living, it seems like the Nordic have it figured out. If you've been furniture shopping in the past five years, you've no doubt come across the hygge philosophy from Denmark. We've previously written about Lillördag (Little Saturdays) observed in Sweden. And today, we want to introduce another Scandinavian tradition that you may not have heard of: Fika.

Fika roughly translates to a short coffee break but in Sweden, fika means more than just stopping to grab food and coffee. It's a cultural institution, a moment to pause and recharge your batteries. It's so important, they invented a word for it.

In this blog post, we'll discuss the origins of fika and how you can incorporate it into your own day!

A relaxing coffee and cake break

Fika is frequently translated to coffee/cake breaks which is technically accurate but doesn't capture the whole picture. Fika is a thought, attitude, and a vital component of Swedish culture. Even Swedish car-maker Volvo has made a point of observing it with a series of pop-up fika cafés and a whole series dedicated to the concept.

The word fika is derived from the Swedish word kaffi, which is slang for coffee. It can function as both a noun or verb, and refers to the practice of making time for coffee or tea, and a little something to eat. The beverage options aren't really obligatory though, and neither are the cakes, the important part is to stepping away from work to be present.

Fika is more than just stopping to grab coffee and food, it's meant to be intentional and purposeful - unlike the mindless pantry-grazing some might be more accustomed to. This Swedish practice is a gentle reminder of the importance of building rest into our busy schedules. Fika is all about taking a moment to relax and recharge your batteries.

Fika like a Swede

There are no hard and fast rules regarding fika, per se. The important thing is to step away from your work. Fika is all about slowing down and taking some time for yourself. However, if you're looking for some ideas on how to fika, here are a few suggestions on how to get the most out of your Swedish coffee break:

Enjoy fika with friends or on your own:

Meet up at your favorite café and chat over a cup of coffee and pastries, or simply get up from your desk to visit with colleagues.

If you're working from home, find a quiet spot at home or a local park to eat your lunch.

Minimize distractions:

Physically separate yourself from your work, whether that's your desk, cubicle, or laptop...and maybe even your phone.

*Gasp* We know, it's scary.

Don't let the pings, pop-ups, and notifications lure you back in.

Schedule it:

Like any good habit, it takes time to build. Schedule a recurring task to take fika everyday with TeuxDeux!

Try something new:

For the foodies out there, fika is a great way to sprinkle little moments of joy into your day. Who doesn't love a mid-day treat? Visit a new café in your neighborhood or try a new coffee or pastry, like kanelbullar, Swedish cinnamon cakes that are a staple of nordic cuisine.

Fika Pastry

But not everyone has frequent access to a seasonally inspired menu dedicated to great nordic cuisine.

For non-Swedes, here's a kanelbullar recipe you can make at home.

For the less culinarily inclined looking to try new nordic cuisine, one can look to IKEA, famed Swedish furniture manufacturer that is (oddly) renowned for their great meatballs.

More than just a coffee break

Apart from being a nice way to break up the hours in the day, fika has benefits that can carry into your work. Here are just a few things fika could help with:

Fika can help reduce stress levels.

Working long hours contributes to high levels of stress and eventual burnout. Regular breaks can improve your overall job satisfaction.

Fika can boost focus, creativity and productivity when returning to work.

Various studies have shown that taking breaks can boost creativity, engagement, and productivity at work. Your mind needs time to wander to be creative! NPR recently explored how creativity and rest interplay in this post.

Food can also be a huge boon to focus and productivity as well. Skipping breakfast can make you more sluggish and less productive in the morning. Keep your brain fueled with regular meals and snacks packed with protein, fiber and healthy fats will help keep your energy levels up.

And no, scarfing food down at your desk hardly counts as a lunch, much less a fika.

Fika can help strengthen relationships with friends and colleagues.

Sharing conversation, time, and food with anyone is a powerful combination for boosting morale. This type of organic socialization beats team bonding via trust fall any day of the week.

Now, this is where you stop reading and try it for yourself.

Fika has taken on new meaning in the digital age. In recent years, there has been a lot of discussion about the culture of burnout in workplaces around the world. We work long hours, often at the expense of our health and wellbeing. This problem has only been amplified as the lines between work and home become blurred. 

Fika breaks are a simple way of bucking that trend as they promote mental health and creativity.  In a world where work/life balance is increasingly difficult to achieve, fika can be a valuable tool. It can be done alone or with friends or at work. You don't need to buy anything; you simply take time for yourself and enjoy some coffee or tea with your favorite baked goods. We hope you'll take your first fika after reading this. You deserve it.

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