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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