Fika: More Than the Swedish Word for Coffee Break

Swedish cinnamon bun on a tray: fika break

Over the past couple of years, we’ve been obsessed with the Danish word hygge. It’s untranslatable, but refers to being present and acknowledging certain moments as particularly charming or ‘cosy’. To brighten long, dark winters, Danes incorporate hyggelig moments into their everyday lives, without them feeling forced. Reflecting on the often romanticised way that hygge has been painted for non-Danes, it seems like a concept suited to encouraging slow living in our personal and domestic lives, but not in our professional ones. As work is such a big part of our week, what else contributes to the Nordic countries continuing to top the global contentment charts? For Swedes, it’s possible that another untranslatable word, fika, has something to do with it.

What is Fika?

Fika is the Swedish word for a coffee break – it’s both a noun and a verb. But it’s more than just having a cup of coffee, it’s making time to slow down, pause, and enjoy a sweet treat. This will often be the much-loved Kanelbullar – Swedish cinnamon buns – found in practically every bakery and cafe in Sweden. Rather than queuing for a (probably non-recyclable) coffee cup with your name scrawled across it, sprinting back to work and forgetting all about your purchase minutes after, fika is a moment to look forward to. It’s about contemplating on your own or enjoying conversation with friends or colleagues. 

Even big brands in Sweden incorporate fika into the working day, often twice. And it makes sense – a proper break to refresh the mind and strengthen social relationships can only create a happier, more efficient team. Though, granted, it does sound quite idyllic. Phrases like “I don’t have time” or “what would my boss think?” are probably springing to mind. Yet if the whole office is stepping away from their screens for a while, surely these breaks become as normal as stopping for lunch. In fact, in a BBC article, Matts Johansson, founder of a coffee chain in Gothenburg, mentioned that fika “…is like going to the pub in other countries”. In other words, it’s very normal because pretty much everyone does it. 

Can We Fika in London?

Londoners don’t sit still for long. If you want to encourage your boss to embrace fika breaks or need to convince yourself that it’s a good idea if you’re working at home, reflect on this next piece of research. Margareta Troein Töllborn, a professor from Lund University, found that short, consistent breaks from work actually reduced the risk of employees experiencing burnout from stress. So, rather than seeing fika as losing 15 minutes of the working day, we should see fika as an investment. An investment in wellbeing, team morale and time to think creatively.

How to Fika Like the Swedish

Well, there are no rules, really. You can even swap the coffee for tea. You can fika whenever you like, wherever you like  – just not at your desk, while scrolling through emails. That’s cheating. And, if you’re having a break with colleagues, avoid talking about work – switch topics for a while, and you’ll return to a problem or task feeling refreshed.

Ready to ditch our grab and go culture and add a hint of Swedish slow living to your day? Even if you don’t like coffee, you might be able to get on-board with the promise of tea, cake and the chance to press pause during the day.

Urban Jungle: Benefits of Houseplants in the City

Houseplants may be ‘in’ and create great content for the ‘gram, but they are also a good way to encourage slow living in the city, especially when you don’t have a garden. My perfect ‘slow’ Sundays include a garden centre or plant market trip – I’m addicted! – but there are worse things to be addicted to. In need of some greenery? Here are some of the benefits of houseplants and creating your own urban jungle in the city.

Girl holding plant: Benefits of House Plants

Purifying the City Air

We all know that London’s air isn’t great. Whenever I go back to the country, I feel like I can breathe deeper again. Houseplants pump fresh oxygen into your home and some can even promote your own low-emissions zone. Snake plants and spider plants are good air-purifiers that are both nice to look at and pretty sturdy (if you’re a serial plant killer).

No Garden? No Problem

In London, gardens, terraces and balconies are a premium. If you’re lacking outside space and missing the countryside, houseplants allow you to create your own calm, nature-infused oasis inside.

Green Therapy

Caring for plants is the perfect way to add some botanical-style slow living to your routine. If you’re a house plant fan like me, you’ll find checking up on your plants is relaxing and therapeutic. Maybe it’s because they can’t talk… Although, on the other hand, some say talking to your plants and praising them helps them grow. Sounds hard to believe, but I guess it’s worth a try?! I have a sad looking calathea that could definitely benefit from some kind words.

Making Rented Space Your Own

If you can’t paint the walls to cover up cracks and marks, you can pop a houseplant in front of the eyesore. Plants are a relatively cheap way to decorate and accessorise your temporary (or not so temporary) home – especially when your contract prevents you from doing much else. You can infinitely redesign your plant shelfies and move your pots to create a new look whenever you feel like it.

If you needed some convincing (or you needed to prove to your flatmates or S.O that you deserve to buy more), these benefits of houseplants will help you thrive in your own space. Watering, re-potting and admiring your plant babies is slow living in London at its best.