The Meaning of Fika in Sweden Spoiler: it's actually something quite nice

By Abi King | Europe

Nov 26

what is fika

What is Fika, Anyway?

Fika. So said the letters, so said my host. It was not yet four in the afternoon and I began to brace myself.

The word fika, I decided, had all the hallmarks of a potent local spirit, the sort that could stand in for paint stripper on an identity parade and would give you a headache as soon as look at you.

My second best guess was that fika involved some kind of furniture shop with utensils made from see-though lime green plastic.

Happily, both guesses were wrong.

Fika, as it turns out, is something of a social institution in Sweden.

sweet love fika

Pronounced fee-ka, the best explanation I’ve heard so far is that fika is a kind of “afternoon tea” half-remembered with a touch of romantic indulgence from England in the 1950s.

Apparently fika can be both a noun (let’s have some fika) and a verb (let’s fika now…) but like those other delicious letters in the Swedish alphabet (an ö, an å and an ä for example) I’m still getting to grips with the whole thing.

Fika often involves tea or coffee, with a cinnamon flavoured cake thrown in to melt away the cold outside.

Here at the Saltsjobad Hotel in Ystad, our fika involved custard-based Princess Cake and a cup of hot Sweet Love.

Not a bad introduction to a country.

Tack så mycket Sverige – Jag ser fram emot att få veta mer. Thank you very much, Sweden. I look forward to finding out more. (According to Google translate at least…)

Have you ever tried fika?

Disclosure: I’m travelling to Skäne as a guest of Visit Sweden. All views, words and fika tastings are all my own. As usual…

Fika Saltsjobad Hotel & Ystad

Follow along on #visitSkane on twitter

Roy Marvelous November 26, 2011

So it’s like high-tea? Mmm cake.

    Abi King December 11, 2011

    Kind of…Except I think you can “fika” in the morning as well…

Bird November 26, 2011

I shouldn’t have read this post. I have been craving cake all day, which in hot and sticky Jakarta where I am isn’t easily satisfied though the fried bananas in coconut milk do help…

I will definitely get my Fika on the next time I’m in Sweden.

Bird x

    Abi King December 11, 2011

    Fried bananas in coconut milk do indeed sound very good ;)

Tobias November 26, 2011

Fika is the best there is. Best moment of the work day for me.

With the christmas fika coming up, I’m prepared to gain a few pounds just from all the goodies they put on the table for the “fika paus” at work…

    Abi King December 11, 2011

    Me too. Never say no to fika!

Eurotrip Tips November 26, 2011

I had no idea Sweden had a somewhat equivalent to afternoon tea. Looks yummy :-)

    Abi King December 11, 2011

    Tasted it too ;)

Camels & Chocolate November 27, 2011

Have you been to Denmark? We used to live there, and they have a concept called “hygge” that is not so much a tangible thing as a sort of sense of togetherness. Every time I hear about fika, I think of hygge as I imagine hygge is the warm, fuzzy feeling you get while having fika =)

    Abi King December 11, 2011

    I had a brief stay in Copenhagen last year and thought of hygge while having fika. Perhaps because it’s so cold, people have found a way to be warm and cosy and turned it into an institution? (For anyone who’s interested, here’s the hygge post: )

Never heard of this before, but I would definitely enjoy as many fikas while you can!

Kirsten Alana November 27, 2011

My Swedish mother introduced us to this when I was a child! Now, when I need a fix, I travel to the closest IKEA or Swedish cultural center in American to pick up Princess Cake and Swedish tea. It doesn’t happen that often but I do enjoy it every time.

    Abi King December 11, 2011

    That’s a great idea. I’d never thought to look in Ikea (am normally too frazzled after I’ve spent more than about 30 seconds in there to look for anything much!)

sophontrack November 28, 2011

There’s totally a Swedish place called (I think) Fika in east London – amazing cakes and meatballs too!

    Abi King December 11, 2011

    Aha – shall have to look for that the next time I’m in town. Loved the meatballs as well but they didn’t look quite as good in the photo as the cake ;) #soshallow

Matt G November 28, 2011

Mmm…Great post reminds me of all the fikas I experienced. The coffee is so strong it had me jittery and awake at night but I couldn’t say no to a fika. Kannelbulle och Kaffe alla dag. Trevlig Resa!

    Abi King December 11, 2011

    Luckily, Spain has primed me for the coffee…I know what you mean, it is strong! Tack for!

JoAnna November 28, 2011

I visited Sweden a long, long time ago and don’t remember fika. Maybe it’s time to take a trip back to the country.

    Abi King December 11, 2011

    I’m amazed they let you through passport control in that case without pulling you over and showing you what it is ;) I’d love to go back as well – was there for such a short (though beautiful) time.

Nancy November 30, 2011

ok, today my coffee break is going to be a fika instead.

dtravelsround December 6, 2011

I’ve never heard of it, but it sounds really nice! Plus, that cinnamon cake … mmm!

    Abi King December 11, 2011

    I think you’d love it :)

Lindsay December 8, 2011

That cake looks delicious!! I love the ‘afternoon tea’ concept, and miss that about living in England (even though we just had kind of an informal afternoon tea sesh instead of sitting down with the whole nine yards of cakes and custards).

The Danish hygge also sounds lovely. I wonder if I can start a fika/hygge trend here at home…..

Thanks for sharing! Enjoy the rest of your stay :)

Abi King December 11, 2011

Well, tea and biscuits are still pretty common in the UK, although they’re not quite as cosy as fika…Start a fika/hygge trend, I say! The world will thank you ;)

Anji December 15, 2011

I learned a new concept and word today! Fika! Interesting concept, we can actually have fikas anywhere in the world!

    Abi King December 22, 2011

    Yep – it’s certainly something I’m keen to encourage!

Gayla~ December 9, 2012

The Dutch do ‘koffiedrinken’ in a similar manner and aways serve ‘gebak’ on the side (a cookie or piece of cake). Koffietijd can also be done with tea instead of coffee. A new trend is British-style High Tea, available at many hotels and cafes. I’ve never experienced Swedish fika, but now have something to look forward to on my next visit. Thanks!

    Abi King January 19, 2013

    Ooh – I did have coffee and cake in Amsterdam but missed the significance of it. Thanks for letting me know…

Moa January 18, 2013

As a sewed I just love that the word “fika” and that the definition has started to travel around the world. It´s quite odd actually that everyone, including me, is still a bit crazy about our fika when it has been such a huge trend to work out. Quite ironic because taking a fika it´s not that healthy.
A tip to the next time you take a fika is to buy a “kanelbulle” (cinnamon bun?) and a coffee and then dip the kanelbulle into the coffee. An incredible taste!
/A Swedish girl who loves to take a fika

    Abi King January 19, 2013

    Welllll…the food may not be that healthy but the cosy social aspect is. And that counts for something! Happy people tend to live longer…

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