When things taken for granted suddenly become a luxury
We all have certain things or routines that over time have become an integral part of our daily lives. For some people this might be going to the gym, having a beer at their favourite pub or eating lunch at their favourite restaurant. For me it is fika. Now you might wonder what fika is. I guess most people who are Swedish or who have been to Sweden before probably know about fika - it’s an essential part of the Swedish culture. Some people might describe fika as a coffee break - but it is so much more than that. Fika is a concept. Fika is a social institution. Fika is a state of mind. Fika means making time for friends and colleagues by having a coffee, tea and maybe a kanelbulle - a cinnamon bun. It is about slowing down, socialising and enjoying something to drink and eat at your favourite café. A study from 2013 has shown that Swedes spend an average of 227 hours a year with fika. This equals almost 10 days per year. 10 days where we sit together with friends and talk about this and that over a cup of coffee and some fikabröd. That concept doesn’t sound too bad, does it? When I moved to Sweden a couple of years ago, I immediately fell in love with fika and I spent my first weeks in Stockholm exploring different cafés, hunting for the best fika in town. Little by little, fika became a routine, an integral part of my everyday life, whether it was during my time as a student or as an employee. After an exhausting day at university, I would meet up with my friends for some fika after school. At my job, our department even had a fixed fika time, with someone else being responsible for bringing pastries every week. On weekends or free days I would try out new cafés. In a nutshell: I love fika. Sitting in different cafés having fika is a small reward in everyday life, a break in stressful times and something I can always look forward to.
It is May 2020 and the world is shocked by a global pandemic. Most countries in Europe have not only closed cafés but also borders. Sweden is the exception and follows a different strategy. There are comparatively few or hardly any restrictions. Cafés are not only open, but also crowded when the first warm days of spring in Sweden allow people to sit outside without freezing. For me it's different. I'm part of the risk group and I've been trying to minimize contact with other people as much as possible in the past few weeks. To sit in a crowded café during a global pandemic does not only feel wrong, but also oddly dangerous. In the first few weeks I, and probably many others, thought that this uncertain time would soon be over and I soothed my fika-thirsty self with the thought that in a few weeks I would certainly be sitting in my favourite café again. Well - these few weeks have passed and it is still very uncertain when things will return to normal. Most of our daily routines cannot take place and as days get warmer and longer, I realized that all I wanted was to take a walk to one of my favourite cafés in Stockholm and enjoy some fika in the sun - but I also knew that that would be rather reckless and also rather stupid. So I made a compromise: I would go to the café, get a cinnamon bun and a cafe latte to go and I'll enjoy it in the sun on my balcony. It is worth noticing that I don't own a coffee machine at the moment, which means that I've been living without a single cup of coffee for the last months. To be honest, it felt rather odd entering a café the first time in weeks but when the smell of fresh coffee hit me, I already knew that the decision to treat myself with some fika to go was right. I paid for my cafe latte and my cinnamon bun and when I took my first sip of coffee while the spring sun was shining on my nose, a warm feeling of happiness flowed through my body and I started smiling. Of course I couldn’t wait until I got home so I sat down in the park and enjoyed my fika that I had longed for all these weeks. As I sat there sipping my coffee, I realised how these little things like having a latte from your favourite café suddenly became some sort of luxury. So, maybe the current situation helps us to enjoy the little things in life and be grateful for them.
(Greta Ehlers is a bold young woman who is creative, inspiring, passionate, warm-hearted and funny. She loves life and lives it to the full. You can follow Greta on Instagram @gretastypeone or on LinkedIn (Greta Ehlers) to find out more about her.)