Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Fika: A Definition. Kind of.

Recently, I found myself doing some inadvertent code-switching. It happens. I get confused and all of a sudden my English is littered with Swedish words that few people understand and my Swedish is littered with English words which most people understand. It says a bit about the linguistic differences in the two countries. Of course, it also says that there are only about ten million people in the world who speak Swedish and so littering your English with Swedish is probably a bit pretentious. Even if it is inadvertent, but I digress. This isn’t about my inability to control my language skills. It’s about fika. The Swedish word that I found myself using.

It resulted in a very understandable, wait, what does fika mean? So what does fika mean?

Fika is an amazing Swedish phenomenon. It’s kind of like English tea. It’s become a cultural mainstay which tends to include coffee and perhaps a delicious baked good. And everyone does it. Everyone. Hell, even I suggest the occasional fika, and I most definitely do not drink coffee (although I have been trying to teach myself to be a grown-up and drink tea. Always ordering hot chocolate when I find myself in a fika situation has made me self-conscious about my inability to act like an adult). It can be used as an excuse to get out of work. It can be used as an excuse to catch up with friends. It can be used as a job interview, a date, a break-up. It’s quite versatile. As is the word. It is both noun and verb:
Det blir ingen fika idag. That’s the noun form for the grammar nerds amongst us.
Jag har suttit och fikat i flera timmar nu. That’s the verb in the supine form for those of you scoring at home.

And to further this fascinating linguistic lesson, according to Nationalencyklopedin it turns out that the word originated from some sort of slang language in which the word for coffee (kaffe became kaffi) was rearranged a bit, leaving us with fika. Now you know. And knowing is half the battle.

Welcome to Sweden. Anyone up for a fika?

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  1. "vi tar ett fik" is another common slag expression that I've heard.

  2. I do the same!!! Only that in Italian Fika means something completely different! ;o)

  3. I know what that is. Sorta similar to the "KaffeKlatch" (*fniss*)

  4. Now I'm curious.. what does Fika mean in Italian?????

  5. @Nicci. Its a word to describe the female genetalia. Living in the czech republic I´ve had a nice time explaining "fika" to all the Italians around (they are everywhere here..). I have also heard funny stories about italians visiting sweden for the same reason... :)

  6. Hej Hairy! I'm always up for fika! Fika is quite possibly my most favorite thing about Sweden. When I was in California, visiting all my California friends that I met in Sweden (haha), we tried to have fika... but it just wasn't the same. Fika in Starbucks with paper cups...? Or fika in my dining room with oreo cookies? It just doesn't have the same magical spark :).

  7. That's funny. I guess fika is like the American 'coffee break,' which explains the omnipresence of Starbucks (on every corner!!!). It's nice that cultures keep social traditions alive, and fika certainly seems to be a very pleasant (and delicious) one :o)

    ✌ ╰☆╮

  8. Italians do like Friday Fika time! Only the sound of it is nice.
    But now fico/fica is also slang for 'cool' or good looking guy and it's not as rude as it used to be. In Italian we start to write with K to be trendy (as k is not a letter in the italian alphabet) so it becomes fika = cool = good looking = merenda...what a versatile word that is!
    On another note I agree, fika (in the swedish meaning) is not the same outside Sweden but in England tea with scones, cotted cream and strawberries jam comes close...

  9. Fika seems to take on different forms in different parts of the country. I understand that in places like Jörn friends can pop in unannounced for fika but in Stockholm you should call ahead.

    This blog's a hoot. I look forward to reading more.

  10. So Im a huge nerd for this comment, but I wish there were more folkloristic studies looking at the different fika cultures in different parts of Sweden.