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Just enough Swedish fika – the Swedish word lagom Posted by on Feb 20, 2018 in Culture, Living in Sweden, Tourism

The Swedish fika is a well-known phenomenon among Sweden-enthusiasts. Just as important is the word lagom. How are these severely Swedish concepts related?

By this point, the art of the Swedish coffee break has reached far beyond the vast stretches of the oblong Scandinavian paradise that is Sweden. Its concept serves as a symbol for what, according to many, Swedish culture has come to stand for – working at a level that is lagom.

Lagom is yet another pillar of Swedish culture, but is more a way of being or doing than a specific activity. Working at a lagom level is about keeping a good balance between work and life outside of work – not working too much, but not working to little either. Working at just the right level so as to be a productive employee but also able to enjoy other aspects of life as well.

But lagom is not only about keeping a decent work-life balance. You can also have your coffee cup filled to a lagom level – not too much, but not too little. Just right. In Swedish culture, there is, in many cases, a general understanding about what lagom approximately means in different situations. If a Swede asks to have her coffee cup filled lagom, she will often be pleased to find just enough room for milk in her coffee cup, but not so much room that she feels that the café is being cheap.

You can even be lagom as a person – a person who doesn’t have high expectations on life but not low expectations either. Someone who doesn’t take up too much space, but still takes a presence. Someone who doesn’t talk too much or too little. Someone who is lagom.

Yes, fika and lagom are important cornerstones of Swedish culture. And naturally, for the Swede, there has to be lagom med fika – just enough fika – in every day. It’s part of what makes each day in itself lagom, allowing for just enough space to take a break and reenergize before moving on with the day’s work. Many companies even have a standard fika time for everyone at some point during each day so as to enhance the social culture of the office. Of course, every company is different, but some form of fika breaks are generally encouraged by employers so as to increase employee welfare and also productivity. And naturally, the company stands for it!

You don’t have to be Swedish to be lagom or enjoy lagom med fika, so why not give it a try? Next thing you know, you’ll be asking your boss for 6 weeks of vacation and 18 months of parental leave! But that’s not so bad, is it? Nah, it’s pretty lagom, if you ask me.

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About the Author: Stephen Maconi

Stephen Maconi has been writing for the Transparent Swedish Blog since 2010. Wielding a Bachelor's Degree in Swedish and Nordic Linguistics from Uppsala University in Sweden, Stephen is an expert on Swedish language and culture.