This weekend, I had the opportunity to talk to the Philadelphia Romance Writers, and, being good writers, they took me to a bar afterward. I was having a lovely conversation with author Kim Golden, who lives in Sweden. She was telling us about how dark it gets in the winter, how cold it is. “Do you have hygge in Sweden?” I asked. Hygge is the Danish art of coziness, according to my daughter—candles and throws and pretty lights, and since Sweden and Denmark are neighbors…
“No,” said Kim. “We have fika instead.”
What she went on to describe made me want to pack my bags and move. Fika is a coffee break, as best as can translated. But it’s so much more. It’s about slowing down. Taking a break. Interacting with humans, not computers or phones. According to my understanding, it’s mandated by law that companies provide fika breaks—not one, but two. Morning and afternoon. One does not do errands. One does (or maybe has) fika.
And then there’s the actual coffee. Kim says no one in Sweden puts sugar in their coffee; it’s almost an insult. Milk is okay, but she says the coffee is so superior, you don’t need much. Swedes scoff at us Americans with our caramel and whipped cream coffee drinks (making them just like me, since I also scoff at those drinks, finding them a sign of moral weakness).
There’s coffee…and pastries. Yes, Higgins, I thought as Kim described the flaky cookies, the almond paste, the butter, you must move to Sweden. Soon.
I guess what I loved most of all is that it’s culturally expected—you take a break. It’s good for you. When I was in Europe a few years ago, I remember how no one had their phones out, because why would you? You were with humans, right there in the flesh. How in France, the waiter only brings the check when you ask for it, because he wouldn’t dare imply that it’s time to go. How the Danes ride their bikes to work and school, and make things at home cozy and cheerful.
We Americans could learn a lot from these practices, methinks. I think we’d all be kinder to each other if we were a bit kinder with ourselves.