What is fika? It’s a Swedish custom where people gather to drink coffee, munch sweet treats and chat. It is as much part of the working day in Sweden as people are going to the pub in other countries.
As a Norwegian I consider it as the backbone of daily life for a Swede. It is a social event that could even be described as giving the Swedes a sense of place and who they are. Many Swedish companies have mandatory fika breaks and empliyees are given free hot drinks.
Derived from the word “kafi” (coffee), fika is a time to sit down, relax, take a break from what you are doing and socialize.
The little town of Alingsås, 45 kilometers north-east of Gothenburg, on the west coast of Sweden, has appointed itself as the “Capital of Fika”. It may not be the first place an international reader think about when searching for a Swedish tourist hotspot.
However, Alingsås is a picturesque town, with the most cafés per capita in the country, and its flourishing fika culture is known for its authentic history dating back as fas as the 1700s.
Matts Johansson, founder of Da Matteo coffee chain in Gothenburg says, “Most Swedes have fika several times a day, whether it’s at the weekend or during the week. It’s about spending time with people, eating lovely homemade baked goods and drinking great coffee. It’s like going to the pub in other countries. It’s deeply ingrained in our culture.”
The tourism industry and café owners now hope that “the Capital of Fika” will help attracting foreign visitors to the municipality of around 39,000 inhabitants.
Does fika affect a country’s productivity?
A 2014 productivity research document analyzing 398 countries reveals that Sweden comes in at a respectable number 11. Sweden’s coffee-quaffing neighbor, Norway, is however the second most productive nation, behind Luxembourg. The workforce of the US is fourth, while long-lunching France is seventh.
Take a fika guided tour
Now you can experience Alingsås’café center, with around 30 cafes, three of which are listed in the prestigious White Guide Café Guide, on a fascinating 1.5 hours guided tour.
The tour includes visits to two cafés which are members of the White guide: Ekstedts bakery & Café and Nygrens Café. Guests will also get to taste cinnamon buns, truffles, pastries and cookies. Guests also get a little goodie bag of samples to take away with them.
The tour costs 330 SEK per person and is available every Saturday at 11.00 until 29 October.
“Our fika tradition in Alingsås dates back until a time when we had a lot of industries in the town and workers didn’t have time to bake themselves, so they ate out at cafés,” Sandra Grönkvist, co-owner of Nygrens Café in Alingsås, told The Local of the three-centuries-old tradition.
Head of Tourism, Gunbritt Reteike, one of the people behind the ‘Capital of Fika’ campaign, told the regional GT tabloid that she is already fielding questions from global media about the hype. “I’ve had visits by journalists from the US, Germany, England and Norway booked in this spring,” she said.
Coffee breaks are so important to the Swedes that even the country’s mega-brand, IKEA, has a paragraph about it on its corporate website: “More than a coffee break, fika is a time to share, connect and relax with colleagues. Some of the best ideas and decisions happen at fika.”
The Capital of Fika, written by Tor Kjolberg