The best solutions will be found through loving thoughts and perhaps a good cup of coffee.
- Jen Vondenbrink
Sometimes even the finest translators come up against words that defy translation. While we try our best, some translations can never quite match the significance and sentiment captured by a foreign culture. For instance, Google translate will tell you quite succinctly that fika is the Swedish translation of ‘have coffee’, but in truth this little four-letter word describes a ritual, an experience, an attitude and a state-of-mind that above all cherishes human connection.
Fika can happen anywhere or anytime, whether it be morning or night, at home, at work or in a café. It can be with co-workers, family, friends, or someone you are trying to get to know, and it’s something the Swedes believe should occur frequently throughout the day. While yes, having coffee is a big part of it, (usually along with some type of sweet pastry or baked goodie as well), fika is more about socialising and connecting with people than simply just drinking coffee together. It’s a great way to exchange knowledge, opinions about what’s going on in current affairs, or within the company where you work, and generally bond with people.
Most importantly fika is about slowing down. Ducking in and out of a coffee shop and scarfing down a latte at your desk does not count. In Sweden a coffee-break is something to look forward to, a moment where everything else stops and you savour the moment. It refreshes the brain and strengthens relationships. And it makes good business sense too; there are many research-backed health, wellness and performance benefits of taking breaks.
While taking breaks might sound like the last thing you should be doing when you have an extensive ‘To Do’ list in front of you, you will actually gain focus and energy after stepping away from your desks.
Everyone needs time to recharge. Stress and loneliness can have detrimental effects on your mental and physical wellbeing, which can be averted by taking some time to connect with another person, or even just a quiet contemplative moment by yourself.
Taking a break can give you a fresh perspective on challenging projects. Not only does it remove you from the task and give your mind an opportunity to incubate on a problem, sharing time with others offers new perspectives and opinions that you may not have thought of on your own.
There are countless scientific studies that all conclude that cohesiveness between co-workers can contribute to increased productivity thanks to the positive atmosphere created when everyone feels heard and valued.
A shared experience like fika makes us feel closer to the people we share them with, and people who have close and satisfying relationships are happier, have fewer health problems, and live longer. If that isn’t a good reason for slowing down for a cup of coffee, I don’t know what is.