Swedish Language Blog

The Ultimate Swedish Fika Post Posted by on Nov 22, 2016 in Swedish Language

Fika. If you’ve been studying Swedish, have a Swedish friend, taken a business trip to Sweden, or even read one of those popular Swedish crime novels, you’ve probably heard that word. There’s a lot behind it. Luckily, you’ve come to the right place to find out more.

Did you know that a few years ago, over 50% of Swedes preferred their first date to be a fika? Or that 100% of Swedes love fika? Or that every @Sweden twitter host is required by law to mention fika at least once. Ok. Maybe those last two things aren’t true. But the fact remains that fika is an important part of Swedish culture. We here at Transparent have tackled the topic once or twice and decided it was a good idea to collect a few posts so that you have a good amount of reading materials in case you’re here in the United States and about to celebrate Thanksgiving (a decidedly not-Swedish holiday). So without further ado, enjoy some of the Transparent highlights discussing fika!

Fika. Swedish Style.
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.

Take a Break – Swedish Style
One of the very first words of Swedish, right after hej and tack, that every foreigner learns is fika. Which also happens to be my favorite Swedish word, too. And you’d be hard pressed to find a word more Swedish to the core than fika. You could even say that fika is a social institution, and as such – a quintessential part of Swedish culture. And that’s true. It’s hard to even imagine life in Sweden without fika.

The verb ‘att fika’
Swedes have a wonderful verb, ‘att fika’, meaning to have a cup of coffee (or tea) with something sweet or with a sandwich and preferably in the company of colleagues or friends.

Of course, there is also a bit of grammar and vocabulary to go along with your fika. Here are three posts that will help you navigate your next fika opportunity in Swedish.

Ordering at a Café in Swedish
Anyone who has ever worked to learn another language knows the situation. You’re in a new country, let’s say, hypothetically, Sweden. You’re ready to partake in the Swedish fika tradition. You’re excited to test out your Swedish. But before heading in to the café, you want to make sure you’ve got it all right. So you stand outside for a couple of minutes. You decide what you want. One coffee. Maybe a cinnamon bun. You go over in your head how to say those words in Swedish. Coffee=kaffe. Cinnamon bun=kanelbulle. Check. You’re ready. Ish. You head inside. Talk to the barista. Ask for your coffee. Ask for your cinnamon bun. You nail it. Then they ask you something else. A follow-up question. A question you weren’t prepared for. The gig is up and you switch from Swedish to English. Foiled again.

Swedish Fika
Are you familiar with the most common Swedish desserts (sötsaker)?

Swedish Coffee Vocabulary
It is a well-known fact that Swedes drink a lot of coffee. The logical conclusion to draw of that is that there is a lot of different vocabulary that goes with that custom.

One common place for a fika is in the workplace. Check out these posts about the workplace culture and how fika fits in:

Quirky Swedish office facts
Alright, as most of you already know I have written a few posts about various “quirky facts”. This time we’ll be focusing on the office. What you must understand is that there will of course be exceptions to the things I have written in this post. I am telling you about the rule not all the exceptions. #1? FIKA!

Office Swedish part 2
Here is part two for some very useful Swedish office definitions. Enjoy! (You can find part one here)

And finally, a short film project that takes a look at the Swedish fika. Enjoy!

What is Swedish Fika?
The Swedish blog here at Transparent.com over the years has presented plenty of articles about one of the most Swedish activities of all: the fika! Upon browsing around, I came accross this great reportage produced by some students at Luleå University in northern Sweden that really gives a great feel for what fika is really all about. Here it is!

Tell us about your fika experiences in the comments below!

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About the Author: Marcus Cederström

Marcus Cederström has been writing for the Transparent Swedish Blog since 2009. He has a Bachelor's Degree in Scandinavian Studies from the University of Oregon, a Master's Degree in Scandinavian Studies from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and a PhD in Scandinavian Studies and Folklore from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He has taught Swedish for several years and still spells things wrong. So, if you see something, say something.


  1. Bolanle:

    I enjoyed reading this post. I am currently learning Swedish at the SFI in my area and ordering at the Cafe is so me . lol.

    • Marcus Cederström:

      @Bolanle Oh good, hopefully it was helpful. And good luck with your Swedish studies!