The Destruction of Fika!

Trip Start Aug 18, 2011
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Sweden  , Swedish Lakeland,
Monday, January 23, 2012

I learned to my horror today that Sweden has opened up another Starbucks within its borders. Until now, there had only been one Starbucks in the entire country and that was in the international terminal at Arlanda airport in Stockholm, a place that is hard to get to on your average day.

Now, unfortunately there has been another one opened in the second largest city of Gothenburg on the west coast of Sweden. I am now afraid that the sanctity of Fika is at risk. An American company that prides itself on bad coffee that you can get from a drive through has no place in this Nordic country. I am hoping that they at least did a little bit of location research to find that Sweden, the country that consumes the second largest amount of coffee per capita in the world, likes to enjoy their coffee while sitting down and not while walking to their next appointment. Swedes have not mastered the art of walking and drinking coffee like Americans have. When I was touring California with Victor's family we stopped at an overcrowded coffee shop in Hollywood. We could not stay in the coffee shop, so we had to leave and quickly find a place to sit down because Victor’s grandmother did not know how to drink and walk at the same time.

As an exchange student I marveled with other Americans that Swedes had no problem giving up an hour or more almost daily to stop and enjoy coffee, cake and conversation; a trait that Americans have no idea how to handle. There is a Starbuck like chain in Sweden already called Wayne’s, but from what I have observed that chain is far less popular than local coffee houses that are more comfortable. I have spent time in Wayne’s and honestly my impression of the coffee house is that it is cold, unlike my favorite coffee house Ofandahls that is more like a cozy sitting room from the turn of the century, complete with all you can drink coffee.

If Starbuck’s is embraced by the Swedes I fear for Fika. Starbucks is like a disease and once it gets a hold of a location it festers and spreads, so that there soon there is no cure and we are stuck with Starbucks until they go bankrupt, which might be never.

There is also another fear. Sweden is an expensive country. Anyone who comes here will tell you that. Plus, anyone who has been to Starbuck’s lately will tell you about the sticker shock that the overpriced coffee is giving them. Add those two variables together and you get bad, way overpriced coffee in a country where it does not belong.

I may be called a hypocrite, because when I am in the States I do indulge in an occasional coffee from Starbucks, but that is there and this is here. If America had coffee shops where you could Fika I would go there. However, my lifestyle between the two countries is different, in the States I am in a hurry and in Sweden I have time to relax. America does not have Fika, so there is no comparison between the two countries when it comes to coffee. If Americans were to embrace Fika they would understand what a great institution it is in Sweden.

I fear though, that since Starbuck’s may be viewed as this great new thing from the States that has been in movies or that Swedes have had while traveling abroad. They might enthusiastically embrace the company not knowing what they are doing before it is too late.

I can only hope that Starbuck’s is rejected by the Swedes and that then Sweden will be inoculated against this disease that has plagued the States for years.
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