Quintessentially, Swedish: Fika!

Fika is not only the untranslatable Swedish word, but quintessentially a Swedish cultural aspect – meeting people over a cup of coffee or tea with or without a snack.

What is fika?

Fika means coffee, a social cup of coffee or a cup of coffee while socializing, and fikapaus is a coffeebreak.

Fika is a noun, and en word – en fikafikan (Swedish words take the indefinite article en or ett – all the words in Swedish are grouped into en words or ett words, and one has to learn them).

Fika also functions as verb: att fika – fika – fikar – fikade – har/hade fikat. Att fika means to have or drink coffee.

Fikarum = coffee room

Fikaställe = cafe, coffeeplace

Fikabröd = cake, bun, roll

Lena the Swedish language teacher at Hermods points out that the word possibly comes from the word fik (café): ett fik – fiket – fik – fiken, a place where people went for a coffee, and the noun gradually also functioned as verb – to have coffee at a café – fik – fika – fikar.

NOUN: Substantiv

Singular Plural
Indefinite Definite Indefinite Definite
Ett fik Fiket Fik Fiken
A café The café Cafes The cafes


LOST IN TRANSLATATION: An Illustrated Compendium of Untranslatable Words from Around the World is written by Ella Frances Sanders. Ella is an illustrator and writer, and according to her bio in the book ‘lives all over the place, most recently Morocco, the United Kingdom, and Switzerland’. Published by TEN SPEED PRESS, Berkeley

Fika: verb: gathering together to talk and take a break from everyday routines, usually drinking coffee and eating pastries – either at a café or at home – often for hours on end. “The combination of coffee and conversation is a great one, and often leads to inspired exchanges, bright ideas, and general caffeine-induced brilliance. It is perhaps unsurprising that fika is a social institution—Swedes have nearly twice the average per capita consumption of the European Union.”

“Fika is much more than having a coffee. It is a social phenomenon, a legitimate reason to set aside a moment for quality time. Fika can happen at any time, morning as well as evening. It can be savoured at home, at work or in a café. It can be with colleagues, family, friends, or someone you are trying to get to know. It is a tradition observed frequently, preferably several times a day,” reports The accompaniments or snacks for fika or fika fare are cinnamon buns, cakes, cookies, open-faced sandwiches. It says, “It comes as no surprise that Swedes are among the top consumers of coffee and sweets in the world – or that Swedes appreciate the good things in life.”