Live a Little: Learn to Fika

July 30, 2012 Katja Presnal

Fika = coffee pause

If there was one simple thing about Scandinavian culture that I think everyone in the States should adopt, it would be FIKA.

There isn’t really an English word for fika, but it could be translated to coffee break, but it’s so much more. You don’t have to enjoy coffee to have fika, and even the Swedes admit that while they love to fika, they are not the ones drinking the most coffee in Europe – it’s the Finns. You can fika and drink tea, juice, soda, water.. My favorite of course if coffee, but then again, I am a Finn. We don’t have a word for fika in Finnish, but we still have the same coffee break culture.

I’ve written about Fika before and about my search for the best coffee, and somewhat explained fika, but wanted to revisit it today, because there is so much to learn about it.

You may think that when you go through Starbucks drive-through every day, you have somewhat adopted this European coffee culture. I’ve always been used to having a 10 o’clock on the morning and 3 o’clock on the afternoon coffee breaks, but I too got used to the American way of taking my coffee on-the-go while living in the US for ten years, and loved stopping in our local coffee shop in Beacon for my morning coffee and drinking my coffee when dropping kids off the school. I’d make coffee at home, and drink it while working, and well, I still do, but now I am trying my best not just have coffee, but have fika, and I’ surprised what a big difference it has made.

The difference between just “drinking coffee” and “fika” is that with fika you actually stop working. You don’t take your coffee on-the-go, you don’t multitask, you stop, take a break, and enjoy the coffee (or your choice on refreshment), typically with your friends, family or co-workers and with some cookies, or biscotti or a piece of chocolate.

Live a little: learn to fika

Today I encourage you to learn how to fika. Forget about multi-tasking and on-the-go, have at least one coffee break in your day when you truly just stop working and do nothing but enjoy coffee and sit down with other people and connect. No iPhones or checking Facebook allowed either.

Stop. Connect and recharge. Enjoy and savor.

Enjoy your coffee, and your snack with it. Truly taste the cookie, and enjoy it, instead of nomming it down while working and reading something from your screen, and then feeling still unsatisfied because you barely tasted the cookie because you were so focused on reading (and then usually having to take a second and third cookie too for the very reason). Drink your coffee when it’s just brewed and hot, from a real cup, not from a paper cup and not after it’s been sitting in your desk for an hour.

Swedes don’t drink coffee all day in their desks when they work. They don’t take coffee on-the-go and they don’t drink in their cars. I’ve never seen a drive-through coffee house here, or anywhere in Europe. Swedes have respect for coffee breaks, and treat fika as a national institution and a human right. It’s almost like they have so much self-respect that they feel they deserve this glorious reward, a coffee break, for themselves at least twice a day, and most people take it. In fact, even at work places you are looked down if you don’t take your fika – why wouldn’t you? I once worked in Finland and didn’t like the taste of the free coffee at the break room, and was trying to work through my coffee breaks, and the other employees and even my boss told me that I was not allowed to work during a coffee break.

It’s not really even about the coffee. It’s about living a little everyday, it’s about giving yourself a break, and allowing yourself enjoy life, even when it’s busy.

Stop, brew and fika.

Photo: I took the photo in one of my favorite coffee shops in Helsinki, Finland, at the Fazer Cafe.

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Katja Presnal

Katja Presnal shows how to live Nordic inspired life to the fullest and plan your dream life. Katja owns Presnal5 strategic marketing intelligence agency and wants to help marketing professionals to combine a dream career and dream life via freelance work.Katja is an award-winning marketing strategist, and a well-known speaker. Katja has lived in five different countries, and seven states in the USA. Her three children were all born in different countries within three years. When not working or jet-setting the world, Katja is at home cooking big family dinners.She has been featured in NY Times, Glamour, Redbook, Fodor's, Forbes and Woman's Day magazines among many other national and international publications and written for MTV3 and Lifetime TV networks.

Comments (13)

  1. Jenn

    I love this concept – a true coffee break! This is the first I’ve read about fika but I do take breaks throughout the day to just sit on the patio and enjoy my iced coffee. Now all I need is a cookie!

    • Nick

      I feel very strongly that my roots have some Scandinavian blood to it! So much of their traditions I love that makes me feel at home!

      • Enjoy Life Oils

        You fit in here perfectly :) BTW, I still haven’t forgotten you and salmon lasagna, I have to learn to make it…

  2. Naomi

    When I used to work at record stores, I would always smoke because it gave you the excuse to go outside and just hang out for five minutes. Not very healthy, true, but a similar concept! It’s a hard one to adapt to working from home or being a stay at home mom. I need to try to detach and relax more.

    • Enjoy Life Oils

      Yes – I think many smoke for that reason! And yes, you can’t leave the house for a smoke, nor step outside to have a coffee break when you have kids.. But at least when you DO have a coffee break, don’t multitask, but just try to enjoy the moment. It’s not easy – we don’t get much time for ourselves and even then we want to cramp as much as we can to that time (checking FB, drinking coffee, checking the news on TV, listening if the dryer beeps..). Give yourself 5-10 minutes of time just a drink or snack, and maybe talk with the kids and focus on the cookie :)

  3. I first learned about fika from an Estonian friend years ago, then was reintroduced to it by a Swedish coworker in London. I love the concept, and have tried to practice it ever since then. I translate it into my every day routine by getting up very early, before anyone else in my house even thinks about waking, and having a cup of coffee on my own, to spend time with just myself and my thoughts. I may not be socializing, but I am giving myself time to relax and regroup before the chaos hits.

    • Enjoy Life Oils

      I love it! I do the same, I’m such a horrible wife that I wait that my husband leaves to work and then make coffee just for me before the kids wake up :)

  4. Will do Katja but I will do it with tea!! We Americans certainly need this reminder. It is go, go, go all the time and it seems like the harder we push, the more we have to be proud of. Time to slow it down and learn to enjoy this thing we call life.

  5. Satu Vänskä-Westgarth

    What!? Not even Instagramming on iPhone at the same time!? :) I should definitely learn do do this more, this was a very good reminder, thanks!

  6. Love this! I’ve never heard the word fika before. Love it. I’m working a temp job today and will definitely fika at work!

    Thanks for the reminder!

    (PS: I miss the coffee places in Beacon too!)

    K

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