What is one Swedish culture that everyone can instantly relate to? FIKA! Whether you are at work or out with friends, you can always do fika. When you are too stress in doing something, take a break and have a fika! Enjoy the taste of your preferred coffee and let yourself seduced by the inviting smell of kanelbullar (Cinnamon roll) with its rich flavor, accompanied by a couple of friends just talking and having a good time! I guarantee you will soon forget all your stress! It is also a good occasion to catch up with friends and families.
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I remember the first time I came to move in to my corridor after one week staying at my Swedish host family. It was a sunny Saturday in August 2007. The corridor looks slightly like rows of hotel rooms on both sides – only with a main entrance door before the first rooms, and a big kitchen / dining / common area at the end of the last rooms. I immediately like it – because it was like nothing I’ve ever seen! J
When I started a minor commotion in the kitchen – while unpacking and storing my personal items in the kitchen cabinets – a Swedish boy came out of his room and greeted me. And he told me that there would be “fika” at 6. Little did I know that it would be one of the reasons that keep me smiling throughout the 2 years studying in Sweden.
So, “fika” is basically a coffee break that’s been institutionalized by the Swedes. They have it all the time! When you’re working, you have a fika at 10 and at 3. When you’re a student and lives in a corridor, you have a corridor fika once a week. It’s a nice social gathering to stay in touch with other people, and personally, I think it’s a warm thing in an otherwise cold north.
After the first fika, I was completely taken away by it. There’s coffee, tea, cake, and good friends. What more could you ask for?? Since then, me and a bunch of friends who (surprisingly!) feel the same about fika, would have a fika once or twice a week! The venues were mostly our corridors – so we would be visiting each other’s corridor every week.
Being a student with limited budget, we always bake our own cake. Starting from, cupcakes, kladdkaka – a typical Swedish and very easy to make gooey brownies, kanelbullar – cinamon roll, lussekatter – a Swedish christmas buns made with safran and raisins, and semla – another Swedish spring time cardemom-spiced buns filled with cream and almond paste. Yum!
But the best part about fika is not the coffee, nor the cake. It’s the good conversations that come along with it. And the good laugh, good stories, good ideas that also popped very often. As the two years of our study came to and end, there were also good tears in our last fika. And that’s how fika keeps me smiling for the whole 2 years in Sweden. And even after that. J
Name: Qian LIU
When, where & what you studied in Sweden?
I studied for my Ph.D. in Economics from 2003-2009 at the University of Uppsala.
Current occupation & work:
Deputy Director, China Forecasting Service, at Economist Intelligence Unit, part of The Economist Group. I manage a global team of analysts to conduct research and analysis on China’s macro economy and regional growth.
Strongest memory from Sweden:
- Beautiful summer sunshine, and thick snow nights.
- “Tough” and independent Swedish women versus the Swedish family guys.
- Which do Swedish people love more: coffee or alcohol?
Your best recommendation to new students in Sweden?
- Fika with everyone; it’s the best time to talk about anything and everything.
- In many countries, it’s extremely impolite to address your professor just by their first name. But in Sweden; get used to it!
- Try the Swedish food, like strawberry cakes, pepparkakor, and the amazingly goda Semla. And Ramlosa/Loka!
You can find Qian Liu on:
- Twitter: QianLiuChina
- Weibo: Louise刘倩
- QQ weibo: QLEconomist