There are rules to fika, it turns out.
One of the unspoken rules that has been difficult for me to come to terms with, and exposed a difference between values and expectations in Sweden versus those I’m used to, is the issue of the fika spoon, which you use both for stirring your coffee and eating your cake. I am used to using a fork and a spoon, separately, for reasons I had never thought to question until coming to Sweden.
The first time I encountered this issue was during fika with one of the members of my host-family. I didn’t expect to have tension about the subject of fika. Fika is, ordinarily, a pretty laid-back experience. However, this time I decided I needed to take a stand on my previously unspoken question: where is the fork?
Up till this moment, I’d been offered cake with my coffee one or two times, but these were early days for me in Sweden, and I was unaccustomed to this particular rule of etiquette.
Alongside each slice of kaka (cake) and coffee is placed a tiny demitasse spoon, but never a fork or knife. Laboring under the assumption that everyone in the Western world uses a fork, knife and spoon when they eat, I thought that perhaps the problem was a lack of forks, which, obviously, I didn’t want to mention.
Perhaps it was a sensitive issue, that there weren’t enough forks to go around? Maybe I represented one too many mouths at the table? With a fair amount of concern and some embarrassment, I thought it was better to say nothing.
However, one day, I decided to challenge this fear, since I’d noticed plenty of forks in the silverware drawer.
Digging in my heels, I was offered a plate of cakes and a cup of coffee, but I didn’t begin, because I honestly thought, I’m misunderstanding something; surely there’s got to be a fork coming eventually?
Finally someone said the Swedish version of, “Go ahead and eat,” and I said, “Actually, I’m waiting for my fork.”
This was when I got a lecture about how Sweden is not some fancy place like Paris, and therefore does not require a whole separate implement with which to fika. You’re just supposed to lick your spoon, either before or after putting it in your coffee.
I haven’t yet determined which is better from a health-and-stuff-floating-in-my-coffee standpoint, but that was when I realised that the fork, as a separate implement, means a lot to me, and I miss it.
I am not the only foreigner in Sweden to have to come to terms with the lack of a fika fork, I have discovered. Many blogs mention this issue, and I’ve even seen a heated forum discussion about it on The Local: Sweden’s News in English, an arbiter of social behavior and Swedish etiquette for expats.
- What does “fika” mean, precisely? (fikaafterfifty.wordpress.com)
- First We Fika! (fikaafterfifty.wordpress.com)
- Fika Long Past Fifty (fikaafterfifty.wordpress.com)
- Tips for Enjoying a Relaxing Fika from Gevalia! #samp (susanheim.blogspot.com)
- What is Sweden: Fika (lunkiandsika.wordpress.com)
- Fika – Swedish cafe in Seoul (gracesfood.wordpress.com)
- Check out my buns (adesignforwife.wordpress.com)
- Scoop: HE plays “Johan” in the Gevalia FIKA Commercial (lunkiandsika.wordpress.com)
- Hej, Fika and Tack – or 3 good words to know in Swedish (nathaliesstudio.com)