A guide to the Swedish Kollektivstall
this is Sarah writing to You! As some of You already know, my husband dragged me away to this distant, cold, northern country for two long years, since his company appointed him to work there.
At first, I didnt want to go at all, for lots of reasons, one being that I would have to sell my horse, which I would never, ever do, of course!
So after some discussions the Swedes would call äktenskapliga förhandlingar I agreed to come -if he let me bring my horse!
Someone helped us to find a stable. I got a phone number and called this woman MAGGAN who answered all my questions in a funny, sort of musical and not very bad english.
I wanted to make sure there was proper accommodation for my horse, a hage, a ridbana, and things like that.
Once I got there I was happily surprised. The stable had faluröd wooden walls and white fences, absolutely lovely! Nothing wrong with the facilities, not at all! The difficulty was to figure out how things worked in a Swedish stable.
This was something unheard of in the UK: a kollektivstall.
A kollektiv is a group of people who join up around something in order to minimize the cost and work load for all. Not that stupid, actually!
I find the Swedes quite well mannered, although a little shy. Actually so shy they sometimes pretend to be invisible and don´t always say hello.
They do get pissed though, if You happen to cross any of their mysterious boundaries. Boundaries that You are expected to understand without anyone explaining them to You.
They don’t usually scream and shout, mostly they just walk around quietly hating whoever did them wrong.
If they do lose their temper it is on the ”tavla” -the whiteboard. There you can read things like ”Who didn’t sweep the floor again? How hard can it be?!”
Anyway. When I asked about the stable rules, MAGGAN looked confused. After a minute or so, she said there wasn’t any.
Let me tell you, friends, this is SO VERY SWEDISH! They don’t give you any rules -but beware if you don’t follow the rules!
Swedes hate hierarchy. They pretend they don´t need leaders, so they declare the kollektivstall doesn’t have one, but what happens is that some natural born bully takes on the leader role.
They wouldn´t admit that, however. Not even if you put a gun to their head.
They are so democratic it´s crazy! Everyone are asked their opinion, even two-year-old children. Actually, two-year-olds have more say than grown-ups.
Since the kollektivstall means working together, and since there is no leader to tell you what’s supposed to be done, there are constant meetings, möten.
There are scheduled möten, extra-möten and sometimes krismöten.
But never spontaneous meetings, because Swedes need plans and order. They need a detailed schema for the next year to come, they need to know about everyone’s work hours and vacation plans and they need a very well defined structure.
And every möte is rounded off with setting the date for the next möte.
Not attending the stallmöte is a crime against humanity.
This extensive democracy means that making decisions in the kollektivstall takes forever. If an idea about changing the ridbana comes up, it takes about 78 tiresome möten and about ten more years until it is done.
In Swedish stables there is no such thing as staff. And there are no men to be seen around. For some reason, Swedish men don’t seem to ride. Swedish stables are full of exhausted women who do absolutely everything themselves, at home, at work and in the stable.
To pay for help, like having a cleaning lady, is taboo, which is probably the reason why lots of them ”walk into the wall” as they say, or get utbränd.
I think some of them have secret cleaning ladies, but they don’t talk about it.
How ever. In the Swedish kollektivstall, everyone help out with each others horses. It´s actually great! I just mockar, ride my horse and prepare my horses food. And I only have to go there once a day. Every now and then I take my turn with letting everyones horses in or out.
Like I said, quite smart!
It wasn´t until the rullande schema on weekends screwed up and the time I put the wrong blanket on someones horse that I realized the down side of it all.
Swedes CAN get mad, I realized it then!
What else? Oh, yes, Swedes are obsessed with säkerhet -safety! A sure way to make a Swede lose their cool is to do something reckless, like riding without a helmet -that brings out the monster in any Swede!
And then there´s things like getting a real answer. One day I asked MAGGAN how much spån I was allowed to take. There was a mumble and then the word lagom.
And how much is lagom? I had to ask. MAGGANs answer, after some thinking, was ”something in between too much and too little”.
Well, friends, here I am in this funny Scandinavian obsessed-with-safety lagom land, trying to get by.
I DO miss England, especially in spring, which sort of never happens here. The duration of winter is everything but lagom.
Have to rush off to a möte now but I´ll be back with updates shortly!