On my first day of work at Al's I was surprised by the smell of coffee in the air. It was two in the afternoon and my coworkers were all congregating in the room I occupied. A tray arrived with four mugs of strong Swedish coffee. A large Marabou chocolate bar was being opened and broken into pieces, and everybody in the butik were taking a short break. I turned around at my desk, and was offered some coffee and some chocolate which I graciously accepted and listened to the conversation.
No talk of work was going on, but conversation leaned more towards family, friends, and local goings on. It lasted about five minutes maybe a little more, but then everybody disappeared to their tasks. Feeling that I had witnessed a random event I thought nothing of it.
The next day once again the smell of coffee, this time with coffeecake, and again simple conversation about life. Unknowingly, and by pure fortune my little room and that I shared with the Butik at Al's was the official "fika" location. The ladies, mostly hailing from Sweden originally, have kept up a common practice in Sweden known as Fika. It loosely translates into "coffee break", though any drink can be served. It also always has to have something small to eat usually pastries, but can be something savory as well. In Sweden it is a social institution that provides people a way to get together without any pretenses and in a very informal way.
Now everyday around early afternoon at work or at home I get the urge for some caffeine and a little something sweet, and it always reminds me to take a break. Work will always be there but the people we share our everyday experiences with may not.