Coffee Culture Compared: what is coffee?

Coffee culture in Italy and Sweden compared.

As an aspiring translator, I stumbled upon a very serious concept to translate: coffee. Coffee is something that helps everyone understand everyone’s lifestyle and it is strictly connected to culture. In this article, I hope to summarise the concept of coffee culture in two different countries: Italy and Sweden.

Where do we drink coffee?

Coffee culture is pretty strong in Italy, where we don’t have cafés but bar(s). The concept of bar exists in English too, but for British culture it is a place where people meet to drink mostly, if not exclusively, alcoholic beverages, play games (board games, cues) or just have a chat to catch up with friends. The Italian meaning of bar couldn’t be any different. A bar is a place where people spend maximum ten minutes having breakfast or to have a quick coffee (espresso) before going back to work. Italians usually meet in bars in the afternoon too to quickly catch up and have, again, an espresso.

Given this premise, Italians go to a bar, pay at till, order at counter, drink a small cup of coffee, sometimes they drink a cup of water before having coffee (this happens especially in the Central and Southern regions), drink standing up at the counter, then they’re back outside after 5 minutes. So if I ask someone “do you fancy a coffee?”, this is the situation in Italy.

But if I ask someone in Sweden “do you fancy a coffee?”, you schedule everything ahead of time, go to “Espresso House” (the Scandinavian equivalent of Starbucks, even though Starbucks is an independent chain there), order a coffee at counter, you get a large cup/mug of coffee (10 times the amount that you get by ordering a coffee in Italy), pay, sit down, chat half an hour or more.

Who said fika?

Unlike Italians, Swedes have something to eat along with coffee, usually a pastry (kanelbulle or kardemummabulle) or something savoury. Swedes, therefore, don’t have simply coffee, they have fika. I know that Italian readers will probably laugh at this but trust me, it’s not what it seems. Yeah, I know, you must be confused but if you google the real meaning of that word, you’ll see why.
The Swedish word fika is an inverted syllable slang term derived from “kaffi,” coffee in the 19th century. Swedes have usually a fikapaus (fika-break) at 10AM and 3PM and they are among the heaviest coffee-drinkers in the world.

Is coffee something that makes us understand people’s lifestyle from all over the world?

What about coffee culture in your country? I’d love to understand what coffee means where you live.

(I found this interesting article about cafes in Stockholm, have a look!)

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Saint Lucy’s Day

Saint Lucy’s Day is celebrated on December 13th. ⠀
In Sweden, it is called Luciadagen or simply Lucia. It is celebrated mostly in Scandinavia and in Sicily, so I really feel like a day connecting two parts of me. Swedes usually eat lussekatter, a sweet bun with saffron and cinnamon. Girls (and boys too) in Scandinavia are dressed as Saint Lucy but only one of the girls wears a crown of candles on her head. Processions are organized everywhere and they sing the so-called Lucia songs. 

My mom and I used to go to Syracuse (Sicily) to celebrate it and in Sicily, it’s a heartfelt day especially if you are named after Lucia. The typical Saint Lucy’s dish is called brusciuvia in Sicilian and it is a soup my grandmother (whose name was Lucia too) used to make. ⠀

The 13th of December was considered the longest night of the year, that’s why light plays a relevant role on this day and candles are lit on the head of Saint Lucy. 

Picture taken by Paula