Do you fika? I mean, do you really fika?
Swedes know how to fika pretty well. It’s their word, after all. Fika is both a noun and a verb, and it means, essentially, ‘Coffee break.’ In Sweden, they have the coffee break down to a fine art form. Twice a day, inside or outside, with friends or alone, ‘fika’ is a chance to slow down, notice, and appreciate the little joys in life. At its core, fika is a conscious turn towards a moment of simplicity, to re-focus on what’s important and meaningful. For Swedes it’s not rocket science, really just coffee and a cookie, but it’s a cultural value that helps hold communities together.
Yet for many of us today fika seems like a sheer impossibility. We’re rushed, pressed for time, and the emails and texts keep pouring in. This is why every major coffee shop in the Calgary area has a drive-through window. Zip in and zip out, coffee in hand, and off to the next thing. We’ve figured out how to take the ‘break’ out of ‘coffee-break,’ and we’ve done so without missing a beat.
A friend of mine was surprised to see that neighbourhood baristas here in Canada offered espresso to go. He said, “In Italy, all along the major highways, there are rest stops. Instead of taking coffee to go, like you do in Canada, Italians pull over and stop, sometimes several times in a short trip. It’s part of the experience, I guess.” For us in Canada, stopping is seldom part of the experience; we need to go, and go now.
Consider that a culture that doesn’t know how to break may also not know how to see others along the way. When we zoom by our neighbours or our neighbourhood at break-neck speed, we may forget that the people who live around us are valuable, important, and not incidental to our own lives. Stopping to take a break is a gift, a gift to ourselves and others.
Author Macrina Wiederkehr wrote, “We are not alone. There is One with us who wants to give back our reverence. There is One with us who wants to give us back the gift of time.” God has given us amazing abilities to be productive and to get things done. God also welcomes us to stop.
Sometimes the stopping invites us to just sit and be, sometimes God wants to speak to our hearts, and sometimes stopping is what we need to see those around us.
For our Swedish friends, fika is a moment to see others again, to slow down and take note of what and who is around us. Anna Brones writes that, “Fika isn’t just a coffee break, it’s a lifestyle, and one that we could all probably use a little more of in our lives.” That sounds like a plan. So this week I’m committing to fika everyday day at the coffee shops in town. I’m happy for the company. Drop me a note and I’ll meet you there.