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Is Sweden's Fika Coffee Break Tradition Disappearing?

Longer work hours may be to blame

Fika time
Fika time
Stefan Domanske/Flickr

Fika, though it may sound like an Ikea bookcase, is a time-honored Swedish tradition of a leisurely coffee break that's often accompanied by pastries or other sweets. Even more important than the caffeine is the social aspect; it's akin to the English tradition of afternoon tea.

Sitting down with a friend for a chat over a latte is fika; hurriedly slurping down an espresso on your way to a meeting is decidedly not fika. Sweden is the world's third-largest coffee drinking country, and some have speculated that fika — which at least in theory can take place multiple times throughout the work day — might be responsible for Swedes' general lack of work-related stress.

But according to Business Insider, American ideas about fika are seemingly misled: The coffee break tradition isn't really popular with young people in Sweden, leading BI (which just launched a Nordic edition) to wonder if fika could be facing extinction. It speculates the reason behind the cultural shift "could be that Swedes are working longer hours than previous generations, leaving no time for an extended coffee break."

At least among the older generations, however, fika is so cherished that some companies have even made it mandatory. Even if millennials are eschewing the leisurely coffee breaks their parents and grandparents hold dear, its legacy may live on in other parts of the world, at least as inspiration to take a bonafide break in the middle of a long work day.