Fi⋅ka [fiː – kə]
1.) Coffee me – STAT!
OK, so that may not be quite a literal translation of the word, however since there is not direct translation I deigned to take a liberty or two with the presentation of the meaning of the word. Two widely accepted laws of the universe are as follows:
1.) People need breaks. (From what? you might ask. Well, from everything I might reply! Work, school, pool-side lounging, other breaks)
2.) People on breaks like to drink. (What do they drink? you might ask. Well, aquavit I might say. And if you replied, But it’s only 11am, and it’s not really socially acceptable to be drinking alcohol at this time of the day. I would probably then say, well then pour it into my socially-acceptable-11am-beverage here and no one will ever know.)*
And just what is the socially-acceptable-11am-beverage? Coffee of course. In all corners of the world, coffee is an accepted and even oft encouraged drink of choice for any who wish for a moment’s respite at any time of the day from 6am to, well 6am the next day. In France they’ve mastered the quick espresso pit stop at the local Tabac bar, in America it’s an expensive latte grabbed from international coffee chains, but in Sweden its the art of fika. In a country which ranks among the top consumers of the hot drink, it’s not surprising that they’ve created a word that embodies their coffee culture.
Fika does not just mean to drink coffee, it also connotes enjoying company, taking a break, and has definite overtones of an accompaniment of a sweet pastry or other scrumptious snack or smörgås. It is such a fundamental part of Swedish culture that it has further evolved into nouns such as fikapaus, a “fika pause”, fikarast, a “fika break”, and fikabröd which is a generic word for the accompanying cookies, biscuits, or other such “breads”.
All around the world coffee is consumed and has spawned innumerable coffee cultures that have their own unique and fasciniating rituals. Swedes however have elevated this culture to a sacrosant tradition, an intrinsic and intractable part of everyday life, that honors coffee in a way few others manage to do.
*This is not in any way a reflection of or an assertion that Swedish fikaers augment their coffee with auquavit or any other spirit or alcoholic beverage. Nor is it an avowal of my own personal preference for alcohol-enhnaced coffee over straight up black coffee which is actually, as far as I am concerned the best way to enjoy it.