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The Swedish Fika: Adapting to New and Lasting Traditions even when you Return

Guest Blogger: Cristina Valdez

The time I spent in Uppsala, Sweden allowed me to have a plethora of impactful diverse cultural experiences. The Swedish culture and customs I was exposed to made a significant impression in my life in Sweden, and my life today.

Cultural customs are evident in every country. For example, in some parts of India cutlery is not used to eat meals, in Spain every day around 2:00pm most businesses close down for an afternoon siesta  (a midday nap), and in Sweden there is fika. Adapting to the culture of one’s host country is an important part of studying abroad. And whether it’s trying a new breakfast food, taking a siesta or having a fika it’s sure to be an enlightening experience for all.

Fika, pronounced (fee-ka) is one of the most essential parts of a Swedish day. To have a fika generally means to take a break in one’s day to have a cup of coffee and something sweet (usually a pastry) together with a coworker, family member or a friend. Fika is deeply rooted in Swedish values, so much so that  it’s integral at school and in the workplace. During classes, students are allowed a 15 minute break in the middle to have a cup of coffee and a chat with classmates. Also, at most work establishments, fika breaks are included in the daily schedule. Fika brings people together and encourages dialogue and relationship development between friends, family or coworkers.


Before studying abroad in Sweden, I was a fan of an occasional cup of coffee, usually from Starbucks and filled with all the delicious syrups and flavorings one could find. But, during my time in Uppsala I learned that Swedish people treat coffee like an art form, and don’t taint it with anything that might take away from the natural and delicious flavor. They love their kaffe black, or with just a hint of milk. Surprisingly, I learned to love it too. Everyday I find myself missing the delicious and potent cupfuls I had while in Uppsala.

kanelbullarA traditional fika often includes coffee and a kanelbullar which is a cardamom infused Swedish cinnamon bun, or perhaps a chokladboll which is a rolled ball made out of chocolate, coffee, sugar and oats. All though these pastries are delicious, one can also enjoy salty treats. Knäckebröd (Swedish crisp bread) with cheese, or sandwich tårta, (a cake made with the components of a sandwich) are also delicious fika options.

sandwichtarta Just as easy as I had come into Swedish culture, fika came into my life. I was able to integrate a casual fika into my daily routine  and it became an easy and enjoyable way to spend time with my new friends. Whether it was after class at one of the student nation buildings or in our favorite coffee shop, fika was a cozy, interactive and totally Swedish way to hangout. It helped me build relationships with my friends and get to know them in a more personal way. Also, it makes for a delicious midday treat.

This unique event is central to Swedish and Scandinavian culture alike. It’s a custom that made for many enjoyable memories in Uppsala. Fika will stick with me through my entire lifetime. At times, I find myself enjoying a cup of coffee on a break between classes and reminiscing with my friends on our time spent abroad in Sweden.

1 Comment

  1. […] from that of the U.S.  The divergence of societal gender roles, the importance of coffee (fika) breaks, and the relaxed yet independent academic atmosphere were just a few of the things I had to […]

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