On Location Swedish 5th Oct 2012

olse-ailie-introHej! This first On Location Swedish post comes to you from the beautiful university town of Uppsala, a little north of Stockholm, where I’ve been living and studying as an Erasmus student for about a month now. Over these past few weeks I’ve met a huge range of people, from my three Swedish flatmates who have been very good at putting up with my (improving!) Swedish, to other international students from all over the world. But today I want to talk about a Swedish custom which, given the way most university timetables seem to go here, is a hugely popular pastime with all students in Uppsala – fika.

Fika is just about untranslatable in one single English word; in it’s essence it means “taking a break from what you’re doing, going for coffee/tea/something soft, maybe having a little bite to eat, chatting a bit” – and can last anywhere between 20 minutes and five hours, at any time of day (or night!). “But that just sounds like asking someone to go for coffee,” I hear you cry. Well, yes, maybe – unless you’re Swedish. A Swedish friend here told me that it is always better to say Ska vi ha en fika? (Shall we have a ‘fika’?) to a Swede than Ska vi ta en kaffe? (“Shall we go for a coffee?”); the reason being that the latter has a habit of bringing on huge bouts of nervousness in Swedes stemming from questions about where to go, what to talk about, am I going to be entertaining enough for them, is this person actually asking me on a date…

Fika however, is just the right amount – nothing scary, just friendly conversation in your favourite coffee house; which, if it’s anything like my current favourite here in Uppsala, will be small, cosy, and serve excellent kanelbullar (cinnamon buns), which are such a big thing here in Sweden! There is even kanelbullar dag or “Cinnamon Bun Day” dedicated especially to eating them – moms! (yummy)! But for now, I have a fika appointment with two of my flatmates, so until next time, hej då!

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