“Fika” “Largom” and my first week in Sweden
It was a cool Wednesday morning in August. I was sitting in room C1 at the valla campus listening to one of the welcome lectures whilst trying to catch my breath from running to avoid arriving late on my first day at the university. I woke up jet lagged that morning and checked the time with my sleepy eyes. I had arrived the previous evening after spending a whole day in transit from Nigeria; a story I’ll share with you some other time. It was a few minutes past 9am and the lecture was to begin at 10 o clock. That was just the stimulant I needed as I jumped out of bed. About 15 minutes later I was all dressed and hurriedly left for the university. Luckily room C1 wasn’t too difficult to find in the C building. It was just as described on the map.
Description of events for the welcome program as well as a map had been given to me upon my arrival at the international office. The information day started as I expected with different speakers coming to give us information about life in Sweden and a list of things to do to help us settle in quickly and we all listened with rapt attention as we sat in the room which had a theatre sitting arrangement.
One speech that really struck me was the one about “Lagom”. Don’t bother checking an English dictionary because you won’t find it in there. It’s a Swedish word that means “just the right amount”. You see, we were told that Swedes like everything to be Lagom and that hit me. I was curious and eager to see to what extent that statement is true.
Next, we were told that Swedes like to “Fika”. Fika means to meet up for a drink, usually coffee and a pastry. But then like most non-Swedes would, I dismissed that as something that was found everywhere. It seemed to be a Swedish translation of popular culture. The meeting ended, and we were ushered to a room where drinks and snacks were provided. That was my second experience of Fika. I had enjoyed a Fika at the international office the previous day upon my arrival.
I had arrived from the train station dragging my luggage with exhaustion written all over me. A few minutes later I was snacking away and the experience of a stressful journey to Sweden seemed to be a distant memory. At least at that moment.
The next day was the roll call in Papaver at the campus US. We were introduced to the master’s program and once again there was Fika. Later in the day we had a mini tour of the city Centre. By the time the tour was over, and we stopped to have Fika at a local restaurant, I was beginning to have second thoughts about my impression of Fika.
The days rolled by and I had made several friends and had several Fika. It was a Sunday afternoon. My first in Sweden. I had found a nearby Pentecostal church to attend as I’m a Christian. The service was about to end and as is the practice in most churches we said the grace. I was getting up to leave when I heard what had become an all too familiar announcement. one I had heard so many times in the past few days: “there is Fika available so please stay back and let’s Fika together”. At that moment, any lingering doubt about the peculiarity of Fika had been discarded. I had indeed accepted Fika as a unique Swedish tradition. A tradition I was beginning to pleasantly get accustomed to.