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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What’s really like to live in Rome

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This little dreamer called Luce decided to move to the so-called eternal city back in 2013, after living the first 19 years of her life in a small village in Sicily. By ‘small village’, I mean a place inhabited by more or less 2500 people, where you’re forced to think outside the box if you don’t want to feel depressed and where the most dynamic thing that could possibly happen is to see sheep crossing the street.

After high school, I decided to move to Rome to study at university. So I packed everything and moved here, super excited about every single thing and every single person I eventually met. But what is really like to live in Rome?

Let’s start with some negative points first, because they can easily be overcome by countless positive aspects:

Getting around.

If you live close to the metro, line A, B or C, it’s going to be way easier to get around. Unfortunately one of the very first words that you will ever learn in Italian is sciopero. Sciopero is not simply a strike, sciopero is a catastrophe. On normal non-strike days, buses are never on time and traffic jams can get really bad at rush hour. During sciopero it’s 10 times worse, so the only thing that you can do to survive and get to uni, work or the city centre on time is either wake up early and try to get there by metro before 8 am or walk until your feet bleed. Sounds so fun, right?

Rome is “the city of beggars”,

as Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote in The Marble Faun. You will find them at every corner of the city, especially around Vatican City. I have no idea whether they are real or very good actors. Some of them are, of course. I know it’s a controversial opinion, but unfortunately, you will find many of them begging for money. Another thing you must be aware of is pickpocketing, especially on public transportation.

Rubbish is everywhere.

Rome’s streets are dirty and no one seems to really care about it. There’s not much to say about it, except that I’d love to see people (both Romans and non-Romans) more aware of the damage they cause both environmentally and aesthetically.

I hope I haven’t discouraged you with these three negative points, but if I did, keep reading to know how beautiful this city is.

I will start by pointing out what is obvious:

Rome is eternal.

Yes, Rome is known as the eternal city because you can see buildings and ruins from thousands of years ago. First of all, the Colosseum. I get past it every single day and I’m pretty sure I will never get sick of it. It has been there for centuries and it represents Romans: no matter what, they will always be there for you.

And again, Romans: they look like they don’t care about people, but they do. It’s easy to make friends here because you just need to start complaining about transportation or – if it’s summer you can complain about the heat.

Food.

Carbonara, amatriciana, gricia, pizza, supplì, gelato, pinsa… there are many reasons to move here, but the food is delicious here and they are all a must-try. I will soon write another article about Rome’s food scene, where to get the best food ever.

High-quality education.

Rome has three public universities and countless private university. Education at a public university is not as expensive as you might think, even at La Sapienza, known as one of the oldest university in the world. Downside: some course schedules are a nightmare if you want to attend lessons, but teachers know what they are talking about (or at least most of them). I’m still a student there and 99% of the teachers I had (and currently have) were/are amazing.

That’s all, folks. Arrivederci!

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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