As the great Taylor Swift’s Blank Space is ever being misheard, ‘got the lonely Starbucks lovers,’ here I am, nestled and alone, within the slightly dulled and stained brown Polyleather loungers in the nations favourite Seattle-based coffee franchise. She’s got my card marked.
Americano-armed, and contemplating international culture to that muddy beverage, I’m forever reminded of the brief time I spent with those roll-neck sweater, frame-less glasses wearing, flat-pack loving people, the swedes.
Last year, my friend and I spent four days in Stockholm, Sweden’s capital and home to 22% of it’s 9.5 million inhabitants. You’d think that would mean the place was buzzing with people, rushing from furniture showroom to coffee shop, but this was not the case. Even on a Friday night, the main strip (if it’s worth of that name) was wild-west tumble-weed quiet. Really, very quiet.
Naturally, after gawping longingly at some Scandi-chic light installations, it’s time for fika.
For those who’ve not heard of this, Fika is roughly translated as ‘just popping for a coffee, maybe a cheeky sweet treat too.’ But it’s more than that; aside from sounding like a bygone, retired formula 1 racing driver, Fika is an attitude, a past-time, and an integral part of Swedish business, corporate and social life.
The Swedes recognise an opportunity with fika, seeing it as a time to discuss, reflect and develop whatever is going on between the attendees. And it’s something I think the British could really learn from.
In the British workplace, coffee is a means in which to complete the day ahead, a drug, a pick-me-up, something to sit next to your laptop while punching away at the spreadsheet you have open. Perhaps the chance to sit and think, casually discuss and reflect on your project would really help performance. Perhaps those forward thinking Ikea ambassadors have a
Then there’s the cakes and sweet treats. Kanellbulle are the most common, a cinnamon and cardamom muffin, sometimes with custardy goodness hidden within. everywhere seems to make their own too, so you’re sure of quality and freshness. Think Chai tea latte in a bun.
Between fikas, of which you’ll find you do until you’re quivering with caffeine, there are some great, extremely clean areas to walk around, and the national park, complete with folk village and petting zoo, will easily release enough energy for you to need another top-up.
Food of course is fundamental to any sort break, especially with this much walking around, snapping and fika-ing. Get used to dill. It’s more common than knitted jumpers out there. Sausuages and mash? Dill. Fish? Dill. Elk stew (which I heartily recommend) Dill. Whack it on, charge a small lottery win for it, and get out.
In short then, Stockholm is cold, quiet and expensive. But it’s also wonderfully clean, design orientated and the people are nothing but the most friendly I’ve encountered. Their attitude to coffee is worlds apart from our own, and of our American counterparts, and it’s worth every penny to go and experience.
So Brits, enjoy coffee, use it as a facilitator for conversation and refection, and stop sending emails.
Taylor (swift), if you’re reading, forget the Starbucks lovers, I’m a Fika lover.
(Photos taken with Canon AE-1 with Kodak 200 film, developed, and edited in Lightroom)
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