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Fika (Swedish pronunciation: [ˈfiːˌka]) is a concept in Swedish culture with the basic meaning "to have coffee", often accompanied with pastries or sandwiches. A more contemporary generalised meaning of the word, where the coffee may be replaced by tea or even juice, lemonade or squash for children, has become widespread. In some social circles, even just a sandwich or a small meal may be denoted a fika similar to the English concept of afternoon tea. In Sweden pastries in general (for example cinnamon buns) are often referred to as fikabröd ("fika bread").
The word "fika" is an example of the back slang used in the 19th century, in which syllables of a word were reversed, deriving fika from kaffi, an earlier variant of the Swedish word kaffe ("coffee"). From fika also comes the word fik (a colloquial term for "café") through a process of back-formation.
Fika is considered a social institution in Sweden; it means having a break, most often a coffee break, with one's colleagues, friends, date or family. The word fika can be used as both verb and a noun. You can fika at work by taking a "coffee break", fika with someone like a "coffee date", or just drink a cup of coffee, tea or other non-alcoholic beverage. As such, the word has quite ambiguous connotations, but almost always includes something to eat, such as biscuits, cakes and even sweets, accompanied with the drink. This practice of taking a break, often with a cinnamon roll or some biscuits or cookies, or sometimes a smörgås or a fruit on the side, is central to Swedish life.
Although the word may in itself imply "taking a break from work", this is often emphasized using the word fikapaus ("fika pause") or fikarast ("fika break"), with kaffepaus and kafferast, respectively, as near synonyms. Fika may also mean having coffee or other beverages at a café or konditori (a "patisserie-based coffeehouse").
Traditionally, fika requires sweet, baked goods, especially cinnamon rolls. According to Helene Henderson, author of The Swedish Table, one needs three items minimum to avoid insult to Swedish guests; "to impress, serve a variety of seven freshly baked items—and be ready to talk about the weather."
Fika is also combined in words such as fikabröd ("fika bread") which is a collective name for all kinds of biscuits, cookies, buns, etc. that are traditionally eaten with coffee. Non-sweetened breads are normally not included in this term (even though these may sometimes be consumed with coffee). Fika is also used as a noun, referring to fikabröd and coffee combined.
Fika is a common practice at workplaces in Sweden where it constitutes at least one break during a normal workday. Often, two fikas are taken in a day at around 9:00 in the morning and 3:00 in the afternoon. The work fika is an important social event where employees can gather and socialize to discuss private and professional matters. It is not uncommon for management to join employees and to some extent it can even be considered impolite not to join one's colleagues at fika. The practice is not limited to any specific sector of the labor market and is considered normal practice even in government administration.
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