On Fall Break and Fika

A coffee chat about - you guessed it - coffee.

Article and photos by Justine de Jesus

In Swedish culture, fika marks an important break during the day. For 30 minutes, busy individuals put their work on hold, taking time to catch up with colleagues over coffee and light snacks. Beyond being a regular pit-stop to refuel, fika has evolved into an important social phenomena for the Swedes: something as simple as meeting up in empty conference rooms and cafes to enjoy good company now represents a central part of everyday life.

To me, the most striking thing about the concept of fika is how different it is to coffee culture in America. Here, we pre-order drinks using apps on our phones to make the trip to the coffee shop as fast as possible.  Especially for us college students, it seems that the most valuable currency is convenience – and while I’m sure we all understand the importance of efficiency, there are some things that a shot (or three) of caffeine downed in seconds can not cure. In all honesty, I struggle with this the most. Although I often write about the value of taking breaks, I forget to live by these words. There are times when I think that the only form of productivity is sitting for hours in computer labs.  Sometimes, I skip breaks altogether, as if the absence of work necessarily equates with procrastination.  Yet, there is a lot to be said for the kind of productivity associated with fika. Although one isn’t slaving away at a screen, fika presents us with a chance to re-energize by reconnecting.

Last weekend, I took the chance to transform my four-day Fall Break into one extended fika. My mom (hi mom!) flew in to visit me for the weekend. Like mother, like daughter indeed: almost all our plans revolved around food. A stop at Insomnia to get my mom’s favorite peanut butter cookies. Afternoon conversations over charcuterie (and, of course, the food coma that followed).  Conversations at Blue Bottle, looking out onto the frenzied crowds of New Yorkers strolling around Grand Central. Mornings at Chelsea Market eating warm reuben sandwiches from our favorite stall.  My weekend was restorative, a fika long overdue.

“Fika presents us with a chance to re-energize by reconnecting.”

Of course, weekends like these are the exception, not the norm. It’s only been a week since, and already my planner is running out of lines as new deadlines creep their way in at an alarming rate. My eyebags are getting darker, backpack is getting heavier, desk is *exponentially* messier than it was two weeks ago. Yet, writing this post has reminded me of the importance of breaks. While we do not have four-day weekends at our disposal, sometimes a 15-minute fika is all we need.

With fika, the luxury is not about expensive coffee beans or fancy cakes – the luxury is simply time. We are just getting over the first wave of what ultimately becomes a never-ending season of midterms, and with every week the work continues to pile up. As busy as we all get, find time – or rather, make time for a little fika with friends. It’s a simple luxury, but one we should all afford.

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