Living Like a Local: Shopping and Fika

On Monday morning, JoEllen was back on the work clock and had lots to catch up on after taking a week off to get to know Stockholm. Since JoEllen is working from home, where we live is not only our home but also her workplace. So, when she is working, I try to keep out of her hair as much as possible. Since my first day of school was not for another week and a half, I had to find a lot to do to keep myself busy.

I decided to first occupy myself with a productive trip to the grocery store. Eating out in Stockholm is quite expensive and since our “vacation” was over, it was time to start living like a local. I took a bus to our local tunnelbana (metro) stop, most of these stations have a mini grocery store in them or nearby. I was not a good grocery shopper or cook in the States and, needless to say, shopping in a new culture with a different language and food choices is even more of a challenge. I picked up the basics: cereal, milk, and salad, then after taking my time to walk through each aisle and get a feel for the options, I finally settled on cooking a few things even I couldn’t mess up too badly, sausages for lunch and pasta for dinner.

In Stockholm, it is much more practical to make frequent smaller trips to the grocery. Many people (like us) do not have cars to fill the trunks and back seats to the brim with goodies. This means that our purchases are limited to what we can carry. It is also a good idea to bring your own bag or backpack to the store. Since Sweden is extremely active in protecting the environment, plastic bags at checkout are not free and must be purchased.

After cooking lunch, I left the house to JoEllen and decided to get out into the city and shop for some new clothes on Drottninggatan (Queen’s Street). I wandered around there until I found an H&M (this didn’t take long; there is one on every corner). Navigating through a new city can become stressful after a while, so I decided to act like the locals and have a fika!

“What is a fika?” you may ask. Great question!

Fika is one of my favorite aspects of Swedish culture. Since the Swedes believe in slowing down and enjoying life, once or twice a day, they stop what they are doing and take a fika. This is a break that must include two things: coffee and a pastry. Fika can either be done done alone or with a companion. It is used as a quiet time to relax, reflect, catch up with someone you enjoy being around, and re-energize with some caffeine.

Fika in Gamlastan

Fika on island of Waxholm

We made friends with a coffee shop worker who gave us a free fika! Thanks, Alex!

We made friends with a coffee shop worker who gave us a free fika! Thanks, Alex!

Kanelbullar day!

Kanelbullar day!


The coffee here is incredible… incredible! Even the stuff you buy at the grocery or get at a gas station is better than the best coffee in America. I have also found coffee affordable, especially if you enjoy lattes or cappuccinos, which are in the same price range as a regular coffee. The pastries here are also delicious. JoEllen and I were not huge sweets eaters before moving here but that is changing quickly. We love their cakes with raspberries in them and their beloved kanelbullar (cinnamon rolls). Though Swedes regularly enjoy a small treat, they rarely seem to overindulge. Instead they pause, and truly enjoy their little moment of happiness. Taking fika (the word can be used as a verb or noun) makes Sweden the third largest coffee drinking country per capita in the world. I will do my best to help Sweden become number one (watch out, Netherlands)!

Fika in Skogskyrkogården (forest cemetery)

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