Why We All Need to Embrace Swedish ‘Fika’

Dec 23, 2017 at 12:00 p.m. ET
Image: Getty Images

Scandinavian culture is having a real moment right now in the U.S. By now, you’ve probably heard of and embraced the Danish concept of hygge, the act of creating a cozy, warm, pleasurable environment. You might have invested in a lot of candles, chunky knit blankets and an excellent mug for tea. Or maybe you were more partial to gezellig, a more rustic, less fancy version of hygge that’s less pretentious and more about appreciating small moments.

Well, we’ve got a new Scandi concept for you, and that’s fika. Literally, it means coffee, but to Swedish people, it’s about a lot more. Journalist Almara Abgarian, a Swede who now lives in London, told me fika is “more of a cultural thing. It’s the essence of taking a break and catching up with friends or family, whichever one you choose, and having a bit of a cake.”

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It might be useful to think of fika as a kind of in-between of grabbing a coffee — something we Americans tend to do on the go rather than leisurely — and a lunch break. For Swedish people, the break can last anywhere from 15 minutes (if you’re at work) to 45 minutes, and they happen often, three to four times a week.

The essentials of a fika are a cozy place to sit and relax, one or more good people to chat with, a coffee (or tea if you must) and something sweet to eat.

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It helps that coffee places are regularly open much later than in the U.S., anywhere from 9 p.m. to midnight to even 24-7. According to Abgarian, they’re found on nearly every corner, and the good ones are filled with couches and comfortable seating that encourages you to stick around.

Considering that Fortune reports between 40 to 45 percent of Americans are lonely (depending on which data you look at), and a Brigham Young University study suggests loneliness has as much adverse affect on our health as alcoholism and smoking, there are plenty of reasons to start incorporating fika into your week. Here are a few recommendations on how to do it.

1. Find a cozy coffee shop in your area

Look for cozy seats, good music and delicious snacks.

2. Embrace your sweet tooth

“You’re there to sit down and have something pleasurable,” Abgarian said. That means cakes, cookies and other delicious treats. The point is to treat yourself.

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3. Put away your smartphone

The point of fika is to connect with the people you’re with and fully step away from whatever is weighing on you, so try to be present in the conversation.

4. Start making coffee (or tea) dates with friends, coworkers, family

Fika isn’t a solo activity. You might have a few people reject the idea, but you’ll eventually find people who are happy to chat and relax.

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