Fika, Lördagsgodis & other Swedish habits
Of course, every folk on earth has its own habits, traditions and myths. But why not take a closer look at the Swedish culture?
It’s strange how Germans are always stereotyped as well organized and punctual people though Swedes are, as I experienced, ways ahead in terms of establishing orders, norms and in their punctuality. Take for example the German train – if you can be sure about one thing in Germany it is that your train will probably be late. But when you take a look at the Swedish transport system it will be rather possible that you’ll miss your train, boat or bus than those means of transport being late (in my entire time in Sweden I only experienced once a train being late about three minutes!). Also when the bus arrives at a bus stop, suddenly (really like magic) there is an exact line. No touching, no pushing – nothing! As if everyone would know their place in advance… Same thing in the supermarket and any other shop or event by the way: you will always recognize the Swedes organizing themselves in a line. I think this habit reflects and is strongly connected to the Swedish mentality. Of course Swedish people, as every folk on earth, differ among themselves. So to not generalize “the Swedes” I would say that there is a tendency towards great kindness and formality. I perceive them often as gentle but distant and a bit shy or cold – not in a negative way, but they just like to mind their own businesses.
Although or just because of this mentality, Sweden’s politic is strongly socialist. The health care system, the system to take care of young as well as elderly people and the system of financial support is so good that even Germany could learn in this matter from Sweden. I mean it sounds to me like Utopia: kindergarten spots are no problem at all, as a student you get money from the state for going to school, studying at a University doesn’t cost you a cent plus accommodation is most of the time provided or no problem to find. Of course this prosperity has a lot to do with that big country Sweden is and how little it is populated. I mean 10 million inhabitants on an area of 450.000 km2 – come on!
There are a lot of fascinating things about the Swedish culture although Sweden seems to be very similar to Germany on the first sight. One of those things is Swedish or better: Swedish people talking! To me it sounds like singing birds – they talk really fast, there are a lot of words consisting only of one or two letters and their pronunciation is in a unique way beautiful and ridiculous at the same time.
With those exact same words you could also describe the really day-marking habit in the lives of many Swedes: their “holy” Fika. Probably, you could take “holy” in fact literally in this case. Swedish people celebrate it often twice a day and with a lot of coffee and tea. Swedes are actually one of the world’s greatest coffee drinker by the way. Along with the coffee come several sweet treats like Kladdkaka (Chocolate Cake), Morrottskaka (Carrot Cake) or the all time favourite Kanelbullar (Cinnamon Roll). It seems that for every day time, situation, problem or question, the Swedes have found their Fika as a sort of all rounding solution. And during my time here in Sweden I really learnt to appreciate those little breaks throughout the day to regain power for the rest of the day and the change of atmosphere a Fika initiates during meetings or discussions.
But the Fika is only one among many examples that will lead you to the Swedish tendency to hold on to pretty old habits and norms. When Sweden for example had to handle a lot of people with bad teeth a few hundred years ago, they came up with the idea to only allow candies on Saturdays. That was when the term “Lördagsgodis” (= Saturdays Candies) was invented. And guess what, this term is existent in Sweden until today and a lot of families hold on to this rule that there shall no candies be eaten under the week! Furthermore, on Saturdays you often get a big sale on candies in Swedish supermarkets… if that’s not a reason to adapt this habit, then I don’t know what is ;)