Fika. Swedish Style. Posted by Marcus Cederström on Dec 12, 2011 in Culture, Swedish Language
After several years in Sweden and a move back to the United States, I realized I had picked up quite a few habits. Some decidedly Swedish. Like taking my shoes off every time I enter someone’s home. It’s just a nice thing to do in my opinion and it ensures that all of that gunk I’ve been walking on outside, doesn’t make its way inside.
One habit that I did not pick up was going out for a fika. Probably because I don’t drink coffee (on a side note, I was once told that me not drinking coffee made me a stereotypical American. Because Americans don’t drink coffee. Obviously.). But no trip to Sweden is complete without hearing the word fika on a regular basis.
A while back, Katja wrote about the classic snacks for a fika, and even took a look at the habit of fika-ing in cafes instead of at home. Today, we’re going to talk a bit about the word and the cultural mainstay it has become.
First, what is it? Fika is a cultural phenomenon that is similar to English tea. You’re supposed to have yourself some coffee, maybe some saft if you’re not into coffee, and some baked goods. Fikas are common in the work place, where you’ll sometimes have both a morning and an afternoon fika. They’re a common way to go on a first date. A common way to go on a last date. A common way to meet new people, meet old friends, meet new colleagues. Sometimes you might even have a job interview over a fika.
As you’ll notie above, there’s not much the fika can’t do. It’s amazing really. The word itself is pretty impressive. It can act as both verb and noun. For example:
Verb form: Ska vi fika imorgon eftermiddag? (Shall we fika tomorrow afternoon?)
Noun form: Ska vi ta en fika lite senare? (Shall we grab a fika a little bit later?)
Fascinating isn’t it? It gets better. Or at least for the linguistics amongst us it gets better. Nationalencyklopedin has a very short, but very interesting (and unfortunately, now NOT free service) that describes how the word originated from a slang language used by marketplace merchants in Västergötland. The Swedish word for coffee is kaffe, which became kaffi. Somehow, and this is where my linguistic knowledge hits a wall, the letters were rearranged and we are left with the word fika.
So next time you find yourself in Sweden and someone asks you out for a fika. Say yes. You’ll already have a great conversation starter (speaking of which, Katja has written a lovely post about a classic conversation starter in Swedish. Check it out.).
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