Let’s fika!

Fika time is a rite in Sweden. Not that this doesn’t exist in other countries, at least with other name, but here in Sweden, it has definitely a major role in Swedes’ life.

The origin of the word is curious. It comes from a back slang used in the 19th century – kaffi – an earlier version of the Swedish word kaffe. It’s nothing more than a coffeebreak, where people gather and discuss private or professional matters, in a relaxed way. It’s not uncommon for management to join emplyees, and can even be considered rude not to join!

There are two fikas a day, one at about 9 and another one at 14.30, which is strictly in accordance to Swedish working schedule (7.30 to 16) and lunch time (11.30). The morning fika consists of a coffee or tea with a smörgås (a delicious open sandwich with butter and cheese/ham/pepper/salmon/shrimps), while the one in the afternoon replaces the sandwich for a sweet, mostly a kanelbullar (a cinammon cake). Some people just have the drink, some also eat something sweet during morning and some (or only me!) replace the sweet for a piece of fruit. The kanelbullar is really nice, but it can only be healthy once in a while, because these sweets contain always a generous amount of sugar…

I have to say I like this social event, even though I don’t always join in. It’s a great opportunity to speak with colleagues, stretch your legs and relax a bit! Because, unlike many others, Swedes really work during the rest of the day, and apart from these breaks, they don’t interrupt the work for a smoke or a talk in the hallways. And that’s just how a working day should be – short but efficient 😉

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Gender equality in Sweden

Sweden has been ranked world’s 4th on gender equality! Surprising, right? In a country whose birth rates were amongst the worse in Europe only four decades ago… And today is one of the leaders, whereas Portugal has the worst birth rate of Europe! Shocking but not surprising – just today I found out that a male nurse was fired from his job in Portugal, just because he decided to take his paternity leave! And then, when he complained about the situation, he was threatned! Where have I heard a similar story before?

Funny, here in Sweden it really works a bit the opposite. Both parents are entitled to 16 months of parental leave, and they can decide how to split it between each other. Companies encourage this measure by employing workers during this period, to ensure the work is done. They even allow parents to work on a part-time basis, no questions asked! Parental leave is paid not by the employer but by Försäkringskassan.

Sweden has the highest female employment rate in EU and the largest amount of women taking part in politics. However, Swedes still want more equality!

What’s more surprising is the fact that this all starts early – at the daycare stage! Sweden is so modern that they have introduced a new gender-neutral pronoun, so that the children can understand they are equal since an early age! Toilets are unisex in Sweden, most of the time. And I was amazed how many men I have been finding pushing baby strollers… I am “so Southern European” that I am not used to this, but I love it! (Naturally, they won’t hold the door for us…).

It’s the same with same-sex families. According to the law, both same-sex parents have the same rights and duties towards children. Wow! They really are a step ahead… Don’t think Portugal can ever reach this, at least not in this century! Life has even gotten worse with the economical crisis…