What Exactly Is Janteloven?

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Ever wondered why Norwegians are the way they are? The answer, at least in part, lies in the societal norms known as the law of jante.

Once you've lived in Norway for a while, you'll come across more and more everyday references to janteloven as a reason for Norwegian society being the way it is.

The janteloven attitude of Norway

Janteloven (the law of Jante) at its simplest describes the way that all Norwegians (and in fact, other Scandinavians too) behave: putting society ahead of the individual, not boasting about individual accomplishments, and not being jealous of others.

Important: There's lots of confusion about the concept of janteloven, not lease because of the word law in the English translation. It is of course, not an actual law! Janteloven is more a set of unspoken social norms.

Are Norwegians rude

Conforming to societal expectations

I think it's fair to say that Norway in general is a more cohesive society than the UK or USA.

Listen: Unwritten social rules of Norway

Norwegians by and large are courteous: I've rarely been brushed off when asking for help, even in English. They keep the streets tidy, recycle plastic bottles and cans (albeit encouraged by the pant deposit system), and take part in the dugnad tradition of volunteering.

They may suffer from high tax rates, but there are few complaints from the population who understand the need for income taxes and most importantly, see the results by way of infrastructure improvements and subsidies.

The diverse population of Norway

As a liberal who believes in the right of the individual to live their life as they wish, it has been quite an adjustment. I'm not saying the behaviour is right or wrong, but it does work well in this environment and in these circumstances.

The origins of janteloven

The term janteloven can be traced back to Aksel Sandemose, a Danish-turned-Norwegian author, whose works of fiction included references to these “laws” in the context of small-town Denmark (taken from an English translation on Wikipedia):

  • You're not to think you are anything special
  • You're not to think you are as good as we are
  • You're not to think you are smarter than we are
  • You're not to convince yourself that you are better than we are
  • You're not to think you know more than we do
  • You're not to think you are more important than we are
  • You're not to think you are good at anything
  • You're not to laugh at us
  • You're not to think anyone cares about you
  • You're not to think you can teach us anything

In the books of Sandemose, Jante is the small town where the main character grew up.

The resulting Janteloven is an expression of the small town’s tyrannical pressure on the individual, but the author went on to argue that Janteloven has its validity everywhere. He was seeking to capture something that already existed in society.

17th of May parade in Verdal, Norway

This suggests this way of living is deeply ingrained within Scandinavians and passed down through generations. Although not explicitly taught, these societal expectations are reflected in many children's books and songs of today.

Time for a change?

It may be surprising to those who see Scandinavia as some sort of societal utopia, but there is a growing anti-Janteloven movement in Norway.

In the entrepreneurial circles I move in with my freelance writing, I meet many Norwegians who believe the ‘anti-bragging' concept is holding the country back from achieving more success on a global scale.

The concept has also inspired an expletive-filled song from a Danish band:

Free your mind, free your mind
It’s time, it’s time
To break the chains, break the chains
Break the law, break the law
Break the Jante Law

Anti Jante law poster

I previously spoke with Anita Krohn Traaseth, the successful businesswoman, blogger, and CEO of Innovation Norway. What she had to say is being repeated more and more as time goes by:

“One of the biggest things preventing Norway having a startup culture is the lack of self-esteem. Saul Singer was in Oslo two weeks ago and he told us the first word he was introduced to by Norwegians was janteloven. What kind of a message is janteloven for the next generation of entrepreneurs?”

“At the same time we need to build breadth. I am for keeping that, because this is the only way we can build similar to sports, a culture across the country. We are the sum of all our parts and we need to celebrate success on a national level.”

“For example, so many Norwegians have never heard of the small startups in Sogn og Fjordane with worldwide success. We need to build a culture of being proud. We need to cheer for failures. The road to success is failure, not janteloven.”

Coworking in Stavanger Norway

I do think these social norms hold back wannabe entrepreneurs from throwing everything into their projects, and it could go some way to explaining why freelancing is more difficult here than in the UK or USA.

But they also result in a society that is for the many rather than the few, and one that is the envy of the world.

Read more: Janteloven 2.0: The Law of Jante for the Modern Age

Even though it's taken me four years to write about janteloven, it's an important subject area for foreigners to understand, even if you're just visiting, as it sets the context for many of the interactions you'll have with Norwegians.

What's your opinion on the future of janteloven?

About David Nikel

Originally from the UK, David now lives in Trondheim and was the original founder of Life in Norway back in 2011. He now works as a professional writer on all things Scandinavia.

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97 thoughts on “What Exactly Is Janteloven?”

  1. Hmmm? Janteloven? I can understand the feeling of “janteloven” for people living in a small village where it is frowned upon to be a braggart, express feelings of pride, self-esteem and generally express yourself as feeling better than your neighbor. It then becomes a small village culture of democratic equality. The general feeling of the community becomes one of “we’re all just as good as the other person, no one’s better than I am, no one knows more than I do, and God forbid I should stick out and draw attention to myself.”
    This is a society with a two edged sword over their heads. Who then dares to lead? To invent something or a way that draws attention to the innovator? Who then dares to be different?
    Obviously, a thoughtful community will think this Janteloven idea through to its conclusion and discover that the idea suffocates free thinking. It stifles the creative spirit. Hans Christian Anderson would remain an “ugly duckling”. He would have to retreat to a place that would not frown on him for sticking out. Same for Grieg and Ibsen, etc, etc, etc.
    Why not keep the positive qualities of janteloven (modesty, comfort of belonging in the community, equality with your neighbors) but encourage pride in the courage of reaching for the stars, of containing your pride of doing your best while resisting an outward show of pride, feeling self-esteem even if it means you are acknowledging that in some ways and some things you ARE BETTER than your lesser achieving neighbors. Some people have a greater talent (at music, art, conversation, athletics, etc.). Can we not admire them for this and still keep the best qualities of janteloven?
    Why not infuse some qualities of janteloven with the old Viking spirit of vigorous adventure
    and the feeling that outside my own little community “the World is my oyster”? Why not reach out and joyfully embrace all that the world has to offer without fearing that my neighbors may be watching and disapprove? Let’s add a dose of confidence to the spirit of janteloven.

    • I have known about Janteloven for less than 24 hour hours but I do so like the ‘we’ are better than ‘me’. Is it possible that it is also to be found in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. Is it possible that there is a discernible difference on dimensions such as community spirit, caring for neighbours, giving to charity etc, across the very apparent northeast / southwest line that separates that part of the UK historically occupied from Scandinavia and that historically occupied by the Saxons.

      But as an ‘I’, is there an opinion held by ‘me’ that is important. As an ‘I’ I applaud the compromise notion of adding ‘a dose of confidence to the spirit of janteloven’. As an ‘I’ that is part of the ‘we’ we should be very careful not to lose the essential jantloven in an attempt to become like Donald Trump.

      • Talking noncense, there is no clear ethnic dividing line in the UK, you must know that Vikings Danes etc, settled in the eastern parts of UK, including east midlands and Yorkshire.

        • we were taught in school that the north south divide, typicaly a division between lowland and highland britain as well as a social, politisal and economic divide
          ran from the wash to the severn, so it would include yorkshire.

        • I have lived in Norway for nearly 50 years now and my conclusion is that this society is totally stuffed-up because of the dominance of the all suffocating JANTA LAW which is only a cover-up word for this peroquial society with a chip on its shoulder with members watching over others and letting them knowthat they MUST not do anything from their own principals(ideas) especially if it means that a Norwegian could say “I” can’t or don’t dare to do it.
          I conclude that this “screwed-up”principle/attitude , comes from the 400 years of Norwegian domination by Denmark who held and chose the leaders of society in this period….. until the whole Norwegian nation was “given-away” to Sweden after Denmark “backed the wrong horse” namely Napoleon…..
          Just reflect over the CONTRAST, of those great Norwegians ,who at one time ruled over the WHOLE of the Viking world,to the jealous SUBJECTIVE peoples of Norway today.
          Yes I conclude that this society is probably the WORST and MOST OPPRESSIVE culture for a person from a FREE COUNTRY to live under…. and if I hadn’t mistakenly BUILT my adult life here with all my economical investments and friends and family,I would be out of here ,” like a shot” to ANY other country,possibly ANYWHERE, for a foreigner with a FREE sence of principles away from here, the dominating JANTA LAW LAND…

      • I think you have something here. 1,000 years ago the UK along with Norway and Denmark was ruled by King Kanute for twenty years and called the ‘Northern Empire’. I wish we still were still a part of Scandanavia and had their ‘We’ mindset and Janteloven rather than the ‘I’ of capitalism/cannibalism. My hope is that in these times the awareness of Janteloven and it’s positive benefits for all spreads out around the world. Personally, I dispair of any other future. Janteloven gives me hope and a blueprint for a better world, something I did not have until I discovered it and it’s beautiful influence on the Scandanavian countries.

        • Under EU free movement rules, you can move to Scandinavia and enjoy Janteluvian eutopia instead of wishing for where you live was still part of Scandinavia.

          As someone who has lived in Denmark, and still does for the moment at least, do not wish for something without living through it first. The suffocating rules and societal norms make it a terrible place to live, especially for the udlændige – quite literally, “outlanders”, any foreigner.

          • this…. even after living in Norway for 7 years and only recently stumbling upon reading of Janteløven has it explained a lot of the workplace politics and barriers which I’ve experienced that make it very difficult not only to integrate, but to thrive (financially, I’m fine…)

      • High trust societies like this are created over thousands of generations of survival in cold northern climates with limited resources. Sharing and group planning is the only method of survival. That’s why you see similar high trust behavior in all the northern nations like Scotland, Sweden, Japan, and northern Russia. The problems come from introducing migrants from warmer low trust societies with more adversarial behavior. The migrants don’t understand the instinctual group altruism and it causes communication barriers.

        • Group altruism?!? WHAT altruism?!?
          U mean the part where they used to put the elderly out on rafts, to die at sea, when they were too old=no longer useful to the … Group?? Look it up!!

          U must have forgotten the Janteloven – 9th Commandment, my boy: “U must not think anybody gives a rats’ ass about you” – again, altruism, you say?

          As a matter of fact, the consequences of the Janteloven have startet to bear down on fundamental human rights (yeah, those from the UN Charta of 1945)…, in situations worthy of the ECHR – several cases have reached it in the last 2 decades…

          Just talking about:
          – the fundamental right to information (foreign TV stations, Radio stations, satellite dishes, being forbidden up until the mid 80’s – sounds Nazi or Soviet? – only because it is…) – 1st Commandment

          – the fundamental right to freedom of conscience (several cases of children “kidnapped” practically by Barnevernet, for various “abuses” to current laicized cultural paradigm) – 1st and 2nd Commandments

          – the fundamental right to private life (several cases of people in nursing homes, being denied visits by immediate family – sisters, brothers, parents), as a result of LOCAL community decisions that, besides being proven unjusified, DEFIED NATIONAL regulations (whom they claimed to uphold) – Commandments 5th and 10th sound familiar???

          – the right to private property (u can’t even go to your own cottage, secluded & in the mountains – and yeah, I mean THAT cottage which you worked your butt off, capitalistic style, to be able to afford, unless the local community allows it – yeah, same local community which had no problem in taking your money when u bought it)

          – the fundamental right to justice and a free trial: they have had INNOCENT ppl in jail, including their own ppl, in Norway, in the 2010-2019 period for Fk’s sake, for allegedly receiving unwarranted unempl. benefits.
          Turned out it was the State (NAV – the welfare agency) who had trampled the law all along – the written, enforced by European treaties, law, this time. And this whilst these people complained (incl. through attorneys) that the “Community”/State was wrong & destroying their lives…but of course, the “Community” couldn’t really hear it, because, as a general rule, the individual is ALWAYS wrong in a dispute with the “Community”, right – ? Not to mention, in this case, expendable…

          So really, suffice it to say that the question is on just HOW MUCH Janteloven supersedes actual, civil, laws, since scores of Judges and Prosecutors (not to mention State clerks) obviously broke the Law (the real law this time) in their handling of these cases & people…

    • I think to say that Norway has not shown creativity, progress or confidence is quite untrue. Just looking at how it moved from barbarism in the Viking age to a country that upholds the Nobel Peace Prize is a stark example. It took people (individuals and communities) to get through all it has had to face to get to the level of success it now plays globally. I think it is wise to continue janteloven, if for no other reason, for the value of goodness it has fostered–especially in light of the violence, greed, pride, darkness and corruption that is so prevalent in other cultures, and growing throughout the world. What a great lesson in humility, compassion and peace Norway has become. I’ll take that janteloven for my community any day!

      • As for the Nobel Peace Prize, Nobel (a Swede) thought it better to have the Norwegians handle that prize. Ostensibly so that it would not be unduly influenced by politics. (At the time, Sweden and Norway were a united Kingdom – one item that came out of the Congress of Vienna after the defeat of Napoleon, but I digress.) If I were a Swede I would re-visit Nobel’s will to see if Sweden should take over selecting the Peace winners. I see instances where politics indeed influenced the Norwegians.

        • I don’t think it was just “ostensibly”. Norway was a small country not involved in any of the international political disputes of the day. Sweden, on the other hand, had fairly recently been involved in power struggles between Baltic-Sea countries, and it seemed quite plausible that it would be again in the not-too-far future.

          The problem came with the German invasion of Norway in the Second World War. If you look at the Nobel Peace Laureates before then, the choices were pretty reasonable. After the Second World War, the Norwegians understandably looked for some strong allies, and choose to join NATO. Gradually, the committee of the Norwegian parliament that chooses the person to receive the Prize became more and more politically corrupt, selecting candidates who will not give offense to other NATO countries, and therefore in many cases awarding the Prize to people who may have done good works, but in fields more and more remote from what Nobel’s will actually called for. And this is not to mention the occasions when they actually gave it to war criminals (such as Kissinger) and others who are the opposite of Nobel’s specifications.

          Some people have already been pushing for years for the Swedish Academy to challenge these flagrant violations of the terms of Nobel’s will, and appoint some other body to select the winner of the Peace Prize.

      • Actually, it wasn’t because of the Janteloven that you transitioned from barbarism to civilization, but rather in spite of it: Janteloven says to discard anything that comes from the outside, as suspicious and potentially evil, and NEVER to presume or prove that it is better …

        Whereas it was actually the foreigners whom you have gotten civilization from…because, as you say, before that, there was just barbarism…

        Nobel Peace prize, u say? From one of the worlds leading countries in the production and sale of armament (incl. the much-hated anti-personell mines, that Lady Di was campaigning so hard against) ???… I know – ironic, isn’t it?!?
        Not to mention Swedish (Alfred Nobel) at its origins – you’re just basking in their glow…and giving prizes to people before they’ve even done something to deserve them (remember Obama? and the international up-roar THAT was??) … yup, prolly gotta be Norwegian to do that…

    • Some of the statements here are just NASTY! I can understand the concept of some of this, but some of these statements are similar to what abusers say to their victims!

      You’re not to think you are anything special – (but you MAY be very special an have amazing talents!)

      You’re not to think you are as good as we are – (but that tells you that you don’t deserve a place in society.)

      You’re not to think you know more than we do – (you may have a lot of knowledge in a subject that none of your friends and neighbors have.)

      You’re not to think you are good at anything – (that’s just awful! Most of us are good at many things.)

      You’re not to think anyone cares about you – (how sad! This seems absolutely out of place in a good society.)

      You’re not to think you can teach us anything – (um … what if you are a teacher?)

      • The message from my folks was to be humble. There is strength in hummility, but everything with balance is important.

      • Don’t forget, these statements apply to everybody. Even those in the WE group… so it’s not as bad as it seems. Every individual of the group should think this way, that way everybody respects each other equally. It si sa to be told nobody cares about you, but some people think they deserve all the pity and help, and this attitude is the great equalizer.

        • Bullshit!

          As the lady (Patty) said, this is just bullying!
          And, no, it is not as you say, “that way everybody respects each other equally” – because it is not about relations between individuals, but between individuals and GROUPS…
          It is the Group telling the Individual that they are worthless (as an individual), EVEN and ESPECIALLY when the interests of the GROUP are in conflict with the othwerwise (between two individuals, for instance) LEGITIMATE interests of the individual.

          As said, it is a very simple & very effective method, of achieving a double purpose:
          – brainwashing into submission (the individual, as a target), almost regardless of what it is about, AS LONG AS the GROUP/Community decides it – there are no fundamental (i.e. unbreakable) individual rights.
          – brainwashing into perpetuation (the individual, as perpetrator): preparing individuals to perpetuate the method, when acting on behalf of the Group (or to just always sympathize/support the Group, EVEN when it could be their turn next – sounds unbelievable, but I see that everyday…)

      • I think it sounds quite beautiful, actually. There’s something incredibly comforting in not having to prove how special and and amazing and fabulous you are everyday, just to deserve to exist. To me janteloven sounds like, you’re already enough and together we’re community.

      • Dear Patty,
        For you to understand Janteloven, you first need to understand “We”. Without proper understanding of “We”, you would be self obsessed and continue to live in self ignorance

    • Informative. “Envy of the world is the United States of America. Our land universities and hospitals. I could go on and on. Thats why we have so many immigrants. Legal and illegal.

      • An yet, a country like Sweden currently receives more immigrants per 100 000 than your so called envy of the world America. You live in the past. USA is no longer as relevant and envied as you’ve been raised to believe.

      • As an American. I see no reason why any Nordic citizen should ever envy or emulate us. 

        All Nordic countries and territories taken together have about 25% more billionaires per capita than the USA. Many Western European countries including the UK have about 1/3 that of the USA. Moreover, the combined Nordic productivity (GDP per capita) is greater than the USA. While UK productivity is only 70% that of the USA. All that Nordic wealth is far more equitably distributed than USA wealth. You Nordic folks have demonstrated that wealth can be built in a socially responsible way and entrepreneurs don’t need to be egotistical boosting assholes such as Elon Musk.

        Be careful of what you wish. The comments describing serious cultural abuses in Nordic countries deeply sadden me. Those however pale in comparison to the rampant fear, distrust, and exploitation we experience in the USA. History demonstrates Nordic culture can change without losing Nordic trust. The comments that see beyond Janteloven’s coercive belittling language give me hope this will continue. 

        If anything, we Americans should emulate you and adopt the Nordic model. The last and only time that happened was FDR’s New Deal in the 1930’s. That gave rise to our large, prosperous middle class which has severely eroded over the past thirty years. If we’re unable to set our differences aside, trust one another and work together as you do, the USA may go the same way as the USSR.

    • Hans Christian Andersen was Danish, not Norwegian.

      Maybe following the Sermon On the Mount would be more effective, anyway?

    • heh. yea, it takes some additional explanation, perhaps even more than that to see the positive on a mindset that seemingly have 1 purpose, to hold people down. But thats not what the result is. The writer who first pointed out the tendencys oversimplified it. However, it is a villagementality. but the towns are small, and its possible to become a known face in the capitol, even if youre a low-bie. The capitols is a freaking village. still is
      We love our leaders. As long as theyre OUR leaders. We love our heroes and we celebrate them, build statues of them, write songs about them and we use them as rolemodels for the next generation. But you dont come and say; im a hero.. lols, we decide when its earned. Its a nice tieing together of the social layers. noone is above you,were all equal. Some is ofcus abit more “equal” but even our royals can walk the streets of the capitol, can join a conversation with the folks in the bar, can take a shopping trip, and the most intrusive that would happen would be people saluting them, mebbi one would ask of photo op if its one of the “lesser” royals. Same goes for politicians. Its not untill like last decade or so we saw the first cases where some needed bodyguards. 15 years if we include the exeptions. And its all from the rightwing wave we also experienced here. But since we all have acces to same level of education then the debates are effective. very little nonsense, a ton of disagrements. But some really good discusion. And that translates to inovation and progress as well. We like fairy tales. We like succeding and to win the princess and half the kingdom. And were encuraged to do it. But some selfreflection will hit you. You are better. What you do is you persue your talents, become the best you can be within your field. But we know that talk is silver, so why brag? true accomplishment comes when the difference youre making is noticed by people by them self. What do I care about your new car for? Do your farts smell of lemon? – Yes, you can whatever. Why do I care? – what you instead do is you include people, invite for a ride.
      Errmm.. however. Janteloven dates all the way back to the iron age. It was “defined” by an author, but its been shaped over centuries. The vikings had several traits of jantelov, and you can see it peep out in the norse mythology eg how kings/queens was elected, how anyone who could walk could challenge them, how we could discuss with the gods while still holding them in high regards, how bread and bowl was broken and shared when peeps came together,- all drank from same cup, spat the same snot into it and passed it around, how people was legally charged based on their intentions rather than the result of the crime, eg. you could get away with killing your chief if it was an accident, if you where drunk and didnt know what your where doing, if it was a friendly fight gone bad etc. You where punished for your mindset and not your actions

    • You had me until this part:

      “acknowledging that in some ways and some things you ARE BETTER than your lesser achieving neighbors”

      That’s no better way than to broadcast your arrogance and ignorance. Everyone is “Better” at somethings and others, perhaps not so skilled, but far more skilled at other things than you at your “Better” than arrogant Trumpism. That’s why we all benefit from our social structures. There isn’t “Lesser” when it comes to Humans, only ways that conform to your particular beliefs.

    • We are like every other person on this earth. Like you said, if you are from a small town in Norway i might agree. The world is a like, and we think the same. Social media connects the world and Nations cant be put in a box like you are like and you are like that because of nationality. Be who u are, and connect to who u want to connect to. Janteloven is Old and something that’s fading away in Norway.

  2. One of the most annoying aspects of Norwegian culture and society as a whole.
    In short, the Jante-rules are the biggest load of rubbish i have ever heard and one which the young people hate as it is mostly negative.
    …. from a business point of view they are even more absurd..

  3. “Janteloven” is seldom meant to be looked upon as something positive, but rather a negative trait in society. Janteloven was also written down by a Norwegian-Danish writer Aksel Sandemose in the book named “En flyktning krysser sitt spor”. Here is a description of the meaning taken from STORE NORSKE LEKSIKON (norwegian lexicon);

    Jante is the small town where the main character grew up, and Janteloven is an expression of the small town’s tyrannical pressure on the individual. Sandemose argued however that Janteloven has its validity everywhere.

  4. I have lived in Norway my whole life and I have never come across this so-called “janteloven”. My mother came to Oslo from countryside in southern Norway to study when she was 22. She has told me that the mentality is very different in the ‘big city’ Oslo and where she grew up. She also told me that it was a great relief to finally come to Oslo where no-one (or at least very few) judge you because you want to achieve something in life. I think that the existence of the jantelov is much about where you are in Norway and that this ‘law’ is very famish because it originates from the time we all were farmers.

    I might be lucky or maybe just naïve not to detect the jantelov before in my life, but I genuinely believe that the 21st century Norway janteloven is only to be seen out on the countryside.

  5. I think people mostly exaggerates the meaning of Janteloven. In its simplest form, and as a modern day interpretation it largely promotes compassion and solidarity. I don’t see the Norwegian society as a place where people are afraid to stand out and speak out, and to be different. Why do Norway have the highest standard of living, and one of the most egalitarian societies in the world if nobody stood out and wanted to promote progression. If one compares it with an extremity like the Hollywood culture, I could see that the Norwegian society stands back from the idea of boldness. As a Norwegian living in San Francisco I have certainly seen both sides, not only speaking about the Hollywood culture, but more so the general experience of the American culture. Surely, all cultures can learn from each other, and the American mentality of confidence in oneself is positive, but I think it’s more of an individual attribute and a myth of the American society, than the actual reality. Again, the law suggests that boasting your success is negative. It doesn’t say not to be proud of your achievements and your success, but rather make it something people want to affiliate you with. After a while, people get fed up by people who only talk about themselves and their endeavors.

    • I personally felt a bit different when I moved out of Norway 11 years ago, and probably had mostly bad things to say about the Jante Law. However, after travelling in nearly a 100 countries, doing business with societies that are highly affected by everybody’s desire to show off, or dealing with plenty of individualists that only look after themselves, I have realized more and more that there are positive sides of the Jante Law as well. The worst elements of the Jante Law is already dead, particularly in bigger cities like i.e. Oslo, as globalization has made an impact on the Norwegian culture. A more modest version still sits deep in the people, and I think this strongly contributes to the Norwegians ability to be humble and down to earth. Generally, people are not bragging in comparison to many other cultures, and people are allowed to be successful and stand out. Confidence is appreciated and entrepreneurial thinking mostly encouraged. Competition is acceptable. It is mainly snobbishness, arrogance and selfishness which is still not accepted. It is not ok to think that just because you have been successful, or is particularly good at something, you have the right to compare and openly look down on others. Just keep it to yourselves, and you will be fine. We look after each other, and we still keep the harmony of the community higher worth than the individual.

      Of course, there are selfish, arrogant, bragging people in Norway too, and there are those who want to show off their success excessively. I am talking about the overall picture.

      If anything, I guess Norwegians these days are a bit over-proud, more on a nationalistic level. We believe, and in some cases we are right, that our country and ways are the best. Again, many exceptions exist, as we got a good level of diversity by now.

      What we see in US is the polar opposite, but frequently at unhealthy levels. Everybody are taught to look after themselves, and individualism is extremely strong. If you fail, it was your fault. If you succeed, good on you, it was never luck or because you had opportunities others did not have. Narcissism is more widely accepted, as reflected by a presidential candidate who has a level of narcissism which everywhere else would be considered sick. In some places in Latin America, Asia and ever more so, Middle East, it is often acceptable to show off with all that you have and behave as if you are more of a worthy person than others just because you are successful or rich – again regardless of whether it was inherited or luck.

      Similarly, I had a discussion about this with my British colleague. We discussed how parts of Northern England has a bit of the same cultural elements, particularly in the lower middle class. Settle with something that is ok, dont think you will succeed by trying something you are not good enough to handle. This is to the contrary of the upper class elite in London for instance, where it is all about being ambitious, always look to achieve and be better than others, and where snobbishness still is a big issue.

      In case there is any doubt – I do not accept the part of the Jante Law, which discourage the longing for success, not allowing you to buy a nice car if you can afford, have big ambitions, etc.

      • You have not lived in the American South. As an example, it is interesting to note that almost nobody in the US South talks about how North Carolina’s Research Triangle replaced San Francisco and Silicon Valley as the world’s largest tech hub thirty years ago, and how it has been the largest tech hub/research park in the world ever since. If you ask Southerners about what’s going well, they will often struggle to answer, because no one pays any attention.

        I don’t think we see that attitude of you write your fate to quite the same degree in you life. Sure, it is definitely seen as a major component, but many young Southerners at least expect that there are other factors.

        But honestly, my experience in the South is that while it is ok to achieve, and you are absolutely expected to cultivate an extraordinary work ethic, you must not spend too much time and energy revelling in them, because soon somebody will poke fun and tease you, or they will find it really rude and avoid you.

        This is all relative, of course, but there are definitely aspects to society in the US South that do not exist in other parts of the US that achieve many of the same effects of Jante’s Law. Now that I am in college with a lot of Northerners in the dorm, I realize why I left the North. They are not bad people, don’t get me wrong, but noticeably less civic-minded than my high-school peers were, and their sense of self-worth feels comparatively inflated (and I don’t know if that is healthy or not).

        Of course, this is my opinion only.

        • I’m from/live in the South and I thought the same thing. That is why we often say, We don’t care how you did it up North. 😉

    • As a New Zealander – we have a similar national condition known as ‘tall poppy syndrome’ – basically hating on someone who achieves success. I envy Americans for their confidence, I want to start a national day of boasting!!

    • Your response are the best of all the replies written here. I think having lived in the culture and then moved away you definitely get a clear picture. Personally I completely agree with you, humility and being proud without boasting and bragging is key to success 🙏🏼

  6. As a person of Scandinavian heritage living in America, I can tell you: it is doing more than simply holding you back, it is also holding you together. To speak the truth against tradition is laudable; but braggartry is a step too far, not something to be proud of, but something to be ashamed of. The reason America is on the verge of electing a Donald Trump as President is *precisely* because of this (…my) nation’s complete inability to tell the difference between arrogance and leadership.

    Scandinavian-American society is a snapshot of what happens when people steeped in Jante Law move to a society as steeped with arrogance as America. Thus, Scandinavia has something to learn from how we (we who once were you) have changed. Some of us embraced the arrogance, others became iconoclastic, and a precious few walked a fine line, balancing egalitarian relationships on the one hand with intolerance for unkindness on the other. Our reward was a renewed focus on realism; an insistence on self-evaluation that has kept us humble enough to avoid speaking what we do not truly know, but confident enough to speak the truth when we know we can be helpful.

    Walking that line leads to incredible entrepreneurial capacity, but it does not always lead to success in the American workplace; because entrepreneurial spirit is *not* (not always) the dominant force in the American workplace: often, cutthroat self-promotion and theft of effort takes its place. *That* is something Scandinavia should strive hard to avoid.

    So. If what you are saying about Scandinavia is true, and your Janteloven is holding you back, you should feel free to revisit your cultural attitudes, to tell new stories. But if my perspective from the outside holds any merit at all, then let me say this: you really should strive also, as you change your ways, to remember the reasons why your grandparents told you the stories they did. My experience is that people who reject humility completely, open themselves up to use and abuse by the Donald Trump’s of this world.

    • Well said Jacob!

      Janteloven is just peasantish small-mindedness. To people like that, nothing should ever be done for the first time.

      I grew up in Minnesota USA, which has more than a few Scandinavian threads in the cultural weave (how many US cities celebrate Syttende Mai and Svenskarnas Dag? Minneapolis does!)

      We were raised to be pro-social, helpful without having to be asked, modest, friendly but not pushy or demanding, and cautious. Those are very good characteristics, especially in a land where the weather can kill.

    • Really!! Not accepting and afraid of criticizing the many Muslim immigrants bringing multiple rapings and terror attacks and such different cultural values into Sweden. God forbid a Swede think he/she is above any of that behavior–which is why the new immigrants are so free to continue their anti-Scandinavian behavior with no desire to become “Swedish” but desire to have you accept their behaviors.

      As an American with 100% Swedish ancestry, I am ashamed of what has become of these compliant, nice to everyone, no criticizing of others no matter how horrible they can be and allowing themselves to be so BULLIED. Somewhere they’ve had their fighting Viking spirit knocked out of them and let’s hope it comes back before it’s too late.

      PS – name me one president (except maybe Jimmy Carter – UGH) who didn’t have a HUGE ego. Thank God for someone who is not afraid to speak up and tell the truth–as uncomfortable as it may make you feel. At least Donald Trump loves (and needs) to win.

      • Well Donald Trump may not be afraid to speak up but he hasn’t demonstrated the ability to tell the difference between true and false, fact and fiction. And Trump himself is a bully.
        I like Jacob’s comments. Based on what I’ve read here, I would say Jimmy Carter would represent an appropriate integration of Janteloven with ego and would be someone who could personify what Jacob is suggesting.

      • Were you born and raised in Sweden? No? than you are not and cannot call yourself a Swede. You probably have never even been to any Scandinavian country in your life. Why is it people who know the least about something think they are the experts?

        • I was raised in Sweden and the Law of Jante (where I grew up) did not do too good (suffocating). Now, regarding the bad apples among the refugees, Swedes have been quite good at turning the next cheek, slap after slap. Unable to speak up and simply let things worsen. It is quite clear that the government of Sweden has had some contracts with certain countries of the Middle East, this is no surprise (this explains a lot). It is also quite interesting how the ones opposing to the refugee-waves have most of the time been quite racist, ignorant to say the least. It is quite rare to find truly neutral. Du kanske tror att jag hittar på, att allt jag säger är en lögn men det är tyvärr en verklighet, åtminstone från vad jag har kunnat observera.

      • Four years later and all I want to say is: Trump would have been a more well rounded person if he had been subjected to Jante.

        He’s a mediocre, narcissistic individual without the intelligence to understand that what he embodies Isn’t intelligence, but the worst traits of the Dunning Kruger effect.

    • Americans are funny in the sense that they would be among the first to come to your aid if being attacked or needed relief during a natural disaster , but then arrogantly come at you and tell you they know it all and we are the best at everything attitude, which makes them the most admired and/but despised people on th planet !

    • I love it here in the US South. They have a more humble culture here. There is something beautiful about it. The culture could brag about quite a lot and really give Northerners an inferiority complex, but it does no such thing. It’s so beautiful to see the society and be a part of it.

      There is a different system here, but many aspects of it lead to similar effects on many fronts, in my experience.

  7. To give an specific answer to your question. I’m against the huge opression that the Janteloven posesses. Yet at the same time. I don’t think it should’ve been that rebelled against in an arrogant or conceited way. Janteloven should’ve been dismissed in a nuanced way, yet not allowing yourself being completely hampered by it.
    I’ve experienced this law, yet I’ve still received praise for my strenghts and talents. However, despite this, I’ll claim to say that I think such oppression that Janteloven possesses exists in every nation in some sense. Especially in small plces. I think most people have experienced amounts of the law in some way or another.

  8. I am a Norwegian, and I understand what Sandemose perfectly is saying. You should not think that you are something special. Then he explains for the rest of the book that you are. Simple as that. People always try to tell you that you’re no good. Fuck’em, I’m fine, thank you very much, trou de cuille! Eller kyss meg i ræva, som vi sier på godt norsk.

    • Norway therefore has no known scientists,artists,physicists , even Edward Grieg was studing in Germany.Leipzig.The company Norwegian Air planes have characters from Denmark and Sweden,FInland.You can be proud of this.

      • What? Edward Munch, Jan Mossin (one of the co creators of CAPM in finance), the Mosers, Frisch, Hamsun, Kydland, Giaver, Haavelmo etc.
        And why does it matter where one studied in relation to this issue. What matters is where the person practized his craft.
        One can also mention that the guy who invented most of thec spec of GSM network was also Norwegian.

        However, due to Janteloven we could probably have done even better.

  9. Hey all! Great debate. I am not Scandinavian neither American, however my boss is Danish and already have mentioned that I should be more humble. I am pretty good, I do a lot, I work hard, I work together with my peers, I know I have some room for improvement of course, but I am proud of the work I do. How should I sell myself to stay humble but also convince him I am a very high performance employee and should be rewarded/paid accordingly? Any advice will be very much appreciated.!

  10. My mother used to tell me, “You are no better than anyone else, but they are no better than you
    are, either.” This was when I was just growing up, but I thought her words were wise, and I still believe that way today. The term “janteloven” was not used. We lived in a small town in the USA. To this day, I still do not like people who brag or put others down because they do not seem so successful as others. If someone gives a compliment a simple “thank you,” will show your appreciation. But each day is different. Everyone has successes and failures. To God be the glory. We are just part of the plan. I hope I have understood the concept of janteloven. I do not mean to offend anyone.

    • Giselle …Janeloven is a bunch of crap ,, you are better than others in some things and vise versa…we are not all created equal and anyone who tells you otherwise is either very ignorant and or lying to you!

  11. I never heard of Janteloven until today. However, I have always believed that I am not better than anyone else, and hearing others bragging about themselves always turned me off. I believe that doing a good job is much more important than bragging about it. The concept is interesting. Do humility and lack of praise result in low self esteem? What I know is that I learned something today that gives me reason to contemplate.

  12. Is this comment section just for Scandinavians, or can people from other countries
    contribute? In my country, bragging is too often part of the conversation, but many
    people either ignore it or are disgusted by it. On the other hand, praise does seem to
    have a positive effect as long as it is sincere and deserved.

  13. Jante law is as a concept most non-Scandinavians cannot understand. Being Scandinavian, and having been to Norway, I view it as keeping it low key. Being boastful and showy is considered vulgar- low class, even in other countries. Scandinavians can have great accomplishments, but don’t have to go around with there noses in the air. Inside, you may feel pride and accomplishment, but just don’t flaunt it.

  14. I think Janteloven is a brilliant concept and can be traced back to the tribal society where everyone was equal and the distinction between the strong with unimaginable strength were to protect the and weak with any form deficiency and also hunt for the tribe, it is definitely better than our current day ‘Selfie-society’ where the only person anybody is interested in is oneself, and damn the other. However, the twelve laws like any other man-man laws need to be amended to keep in line with a global competition and the shrinking of the world through internet. Some wise men of Norway need to sit down and reframe the ‘Janteloven’ to incorporate some entrepreneurial and competitive elements for the good of all into the laws.

  15. “To avoid criticism, say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.”

    Law of Jante is reality in Nordic countries, because nobody wants to be poor or under average people in any sector of human life. Healthy self-esteem is based usually on our own experience of our goodness in specific sectors of life. We want to see average people to succeed, because most people are average people for example in intelligence level or physical condition. Real beauty is envied and true love is hated, but we can stand alone and being hated well, if we are brave enough to be as we are. Life isn’t competition, because everybody will be finished when death comes reality. Don’t waste your time to live other peoples life. In deep inside we really know how things are and what is the truth, if we aren’t yet so psychotic persons, that we believe our own lies. Love and sovereignty to stand over criticism are only way out from social environment as law of Jante or Jante’s description of hell!

  16. the laws containing “we” & “us” describe perfectly the attitude American yuppies have toward the blue collar worker.

  17. I had never heard about this saying before today and I can see that it can be misinterpreted if you miss the subtle message. The Scandinavians have achieved a society where everyone is helped to achieve a good life. I believe they are the adults of the world who have more wisdom in their attitudes to fairness then most if not all other countries.
    When I visited a couple of years ago I saw a beautiful country and a happy people. They have respect for their environment and are forward looking. We could all learn from them.

  18. Oh dear me ……….Let us get one thing straight about the bragging part and let us call it for what it is!

    There is a hell of a lot of difference between bragging and lying!

    The word got out that I was a an ex Australian golf professional. So in what was supposed to be a friendly round of golf with two guys that were social players that invited unbeknown to me their local champion to kick my butt! Before we began and at our first meeting I asked if he played regularly. The answer was, litt! It was obvious by his brand of clubs, his golf bag and his swing on the first tee that he was a pretty good player. A 2 handicapper to be exact!

    I had just been lied to by a Norwegian sports man.

    Now I am Australian through and through so I purposely lost the first hole! On the second hole I asked the Norwegian guy if he would mind a little wager on the game!
    He said that would be OK and continued with, we usually play for 50nok for the front and back nines and 50nok for the match. I said, lets make it interesting, call it 500nok for the front and back nines and 500 for the match!
    Those cold nerves of steel went to jelly and on the second hole he hit the ball on his second shot out of bounds! That was the end of him! Needless to say, in the end he lost 1,500nok.

    Call that what you want, I call that the truth, but do not lie, tell it how it is, or at least how it was!

    I have to say that it was the most gratifying money I ever earned!

    Ha det bra!.

  19. First I have heard of these laws. Its that age-old scale of order vs freedom isn’t it? Everyone has a different Utopia, they decided to emphasize the order…yes I’m aware that history is filled with examples of where that went bad quick. I like to think of my preference somewhere in the middle. But if I had to choose an extreme, I guess I would choose to keep the laws. Easy to say in hindsight of seeing these Scandinavian countries top the “happiness” charts though. So probably not entirely uninfluenced there. My Grandfather was Norwegian, but never learned much of his country, hope to learn more. Thank you for the article!

  20. Having lived in Norway for many years, I realized that their “equality” is really to a large extent suppressing critical voices and those who are tall poppies or wish to individuate or grow further. Their social mechanisms to achieve this “mediocrity” slavery are very covert and subtle, yet powerful.This is not true equality but control. Equality is NOT making people become unindividuated copies to have “peace” (see the movie the Giver – reminds me of Norway). Norway is like covert narcissists, very exemplary and angelical on the surface but lots of manipulation and control underneath.

  21. Just to make something crystal clear, in case someone else tries to google janteloven. Janteloven is not a law made about how to behave in norway, or how we want to behave in norway, or something that describes how most people behave. It is taken from a book about a man who comits a crime of killing a man, he goes on falling in love and kills again. Then the author talks about how it feels like growing up in the smaller towns, and he portrays it as janteloven. However as norway is a land with many many smaller villages and cities. A lot of people have recognized some of this to be true, through this book, and it is a creative critique on how some of us might act. Nobody in norway says that we should behave this way. You should read the book, and understand its meaning before making a whole article about Norway. The main person in this book is not a protagonist, he is a confused man, and the book tries to explain that sometimes how and where you grow up can change you. Jante is a metaphor for the town nobody wants to grow up in.

  22. Well in Denmark the jantelov is used when people are behaving badly and rude. The fact that we have the freedom to speak, makes some people believe in the fact, that they can say whatever they want, without taking responsibility of their words. And that’s where the jantelov is used, to tell people, that some words are hurting and rude. But I guess most people don’t understand the real meaning of the jantelov, which was made as a liberal critic of the small villages, where people couldn’t accept the fact of more succes for ‘them’.
    It’s important to have the right to speak, but it’s also important to not hurt others on purpose.

  23. I grew up in MN in a family with many relatives of Norwegian ancestry. I was very close to my grandpa, an immigrant from Norway. Recently introduced to this term a few years ago, I got it. Good or bad, it makes sense now why many of us, including me, behave this way. Keep the positive, unlearn the rest. For the most part, I unknowingly, passed this on to my kids.

  24. First, Aksel Sandemose was deeply affected by what he was later to call the ‘law of Jante’. Most of his novels were attempts to free himself of the corollary of this ‘law’ that said, in effect, that not only must you not believe that you are anybody (that’s the social aspect of the ‘law’) but the fact that the ‘victim’ internalises this law and makes it his own, so that s/he says to her/himself, “I know I’m no better than anyone else – so I won’t even try”. And it is interesting that, throughout his literary life, Sandemose placed great emphasis on the encouragement he had received from two already-established writers, one in Denmark and one in Norway – as if he owed his gift of writing to these two external emotional facilitators. The law of Jante kills your trust in yourself (selv-tilliden); and it was this that Sandemose fought his battle against.

    Second, it may be that the notion that Denmark and Norway are caught in some kind of grip (tvang) by this law of conformity, simply isn’t true; at least I don’t think it is a national characteristic. We did have the Viking age, which was an age of entrepreneurialism, albeit often a bloodthirsty one. However, we have a much more recent example of the ‘transgression’ if you like, of the law of Jante; namely our merchant shipping fleet. Oslo, Stavanger and several other towns became ‘hubs’ where shipping became a competitive activity, with shipowners and people connected to shipping in various ways would ‘bounce off’ each other regarding ideas and emotional, even financial encouragement. These hubs were, in effect, hubs of synergy – where various factors came together geographically and formed pockets of knowhow and capital; not unlike Silicon Valley in California.

    Another example is that of Norwegian literature. In the late 1800s and well into the early 1900s we had Henrik Ibsen and Bjornstjerne Bjornson bouncing off each other in more or less friendly-competitive synergy. But Norway has always been a small country in terms of population density, and for years Oslo was one of the few places where writers, artists, and commerce would come together and create together. The same applied for Demark, but to a lesser extent. Aksel Sandemose was up against a ‘culture of isolation’; one had to get out of one’s country town or industrial town before one could become inspired and discover one’s direction. And this is not unique to Scandinavia. The other day I came across a man called Tomigata Nakamoto (1715-1746) – Shuichi Kato mentions him in volume 2 of his three-volume work, “A History of Japanese Literature”, pp. 129-35. Nakamoto lived his rather short life in relative cultural isolation in the city of Osaka. True, I was influenced by a few Japanese scholars, but this does not entirely explain Nakamoto’s extraordinary originality in the field of ideas and methodology. He was lucky in that his father was a well-off merchant; he didn’t have Sandemose’s much more humble socio-economic background. And therein surely lies another secret to influence of the law of Jante: socio-economic class must have a much greater effect when combined with geographical and more general cultural isolation.

  25. I think being anti jante is too extreme in the other direction. There are aspects of it that are good and aspects that are not. Not having ambition would not be good but the idea of bragging I could along with. Be ambitious and driven in your goals and your efforts to reach them but be modest and unbraggadocious in your speech and mannerism. Imagine someone who achieves a lot but does not feel the need to brag about it or throw it in your face. This doesn’t mean not having pride in what you have accomplished but rather your pride is internal it doesn’t need to be on explicit display for everybody.

  26. Janteloven gives me hope as do the Scandanavian countries as a whole. It is the best model for a fair and humane society. I would see Janteloven spread around the world today!

  27. All that You know You learned from society
    You are not unique that What You know or learned is beyond the grasp of society.

    As a matter of fact remove much of this from a persons personality You have very little left to define them.

    Its about society repressing the individual

    Its about the needs of the many outweighing the needs of the few and placing egoe in its proper perspective.

  28. I think that janteloven has a lot of good things to be said about it, but like everything human, if taken too far, it causes neurotic, shame-based people and families.
    I know; I am the child of a woman whose parents came to the U.S. from Norway in 1907, and it wasn’t until I heard about janteloven that I began to understand why everyone in my mother’s family was so secretive and just plain WEIRD. They acted like it was noble to hate yourself and you should never be proud of something; at least that’s the way it came off to me as a little kid.
    So I believe striving for the good of the community as a whole is GREAT. But the society should allow people to feel at least SOME pride and pleasure in their own accomplishments, not to mention understanding that a feeling of self-worth is necessary to a person’s spirit.

  29. What I don’t understand about you ethnic Scandinavians of Europe, including Finlanders and Icelandics, is if you’re all so united in culture and traditions with things like “Jante Law,” and “lagom” (moderation), et al., then WHY are all of you so divided politically with your nation states and languages? Your individual, strange-sounding and written languages mean rubbish in the international arena, compared to English, Spanish, French, and even Portuguese. Wasting your time on silly concepts and “norms” like “Jante Law” isn’t getting you anywhere. Why not UNITE all of your “Nordic” nations into ONE; speak a same rich language like English or Spanish (languages that are easier for foreigners to speak and learn), then be able to COMPETE with the Anglo-Saxon world more effectively, in terms of culture, language, influence, economics, power, trade, etc.? You really wouldn’t NEED the European Union then, either.

  30. I’m norwegian, born in the USA my father came to this country after WW2. My mother was born in the US to Norwegian parents. Growing up with a norwegian family and visiting relatives in norway I think Norwegians are a very proud people. You can see it if your in Norway during May 17th Norway’s independence day celebrations. Seems like the entire country celebrates. Big parades all over the country adults and children dress up in norwegian attire and people wear different styles and type according to what county or area you live in. Adults and kids are beaming very proud.. I’m proud of my norwegian heritage and traditions family is very important
    Wealthy citizens rarely to they boast about there wealth.
    You get the feeling that everyone is in the same when it comes to finances. Nobody is better than anyone. Norwegians for the most part dont talk about family matters outside of the family. Growing up I saw this 1st hand. Norway is a very proactive country unlike the U.S.
    which for the most is a reactive country. The U.S. acts on
    Problems after something happens. Look at 9/11 The U.S. put those security measures like TSA rules done after 9/11. There should have had those extra security measures in place before 9/11. If they were already in place maybe 9/11 doesn’t happen? European country’s had a lot of extra security measure in place way before 9/11 attack.

  31. Well, I’ve lived in Norway 20 years as a British Citizen, and they Norwegians are a supressed society with zero freedom of speech and the law means nothing. They do indeed think they are better than any other race, any culture and everything is Norway is best. Yet they fail miserably to know their own Countries anything if it doesn’t suit them to know it i.e., the incest rate, the amount of girls getting pregnant for the welfare benefits and 2, 3 even 4 kids by different fathers before the age of 25. The massive amount of children with mental illness and diagnosis’s as it means more money from NAV for the family, the high rate of the Country’s drug addicts and alcohol dependants, the suicide rates etc etc etc. MONEY is what they want. It runs their life to be like the neighbours, even down to if neighbour gets a new sofa, the next neighbour will too, same with cars, same with everything. They wont buy stuff unless its Norwegian and don’t even get me started on how simple conversation is taken as personal attack due to their lack of interpersonal skills or general social abilities. Unless you agree with them they take the hump and get uppity. Its a bizarre nation where as mentioned in other parts of this blog the culture is exactly that, down south for summer, skiing easter, everyone doing the same thing as that’s is what society says they do. They are either atheist or avid church goers, there is no inbetween or questioning. Even a simple question is taken personally, a fact I still now after some 20 years do not get. 2 relationships with Norwegians failed as they have no concept of anything but Norway and dare you question their small minded village mentality, they blame everyone else but themselves and expect everyone to think they are a great nation without failures. Well, I can confirm 100% that peasantry and small mindedness is still as active as it was in Viking times and I am pleased I am now leaving. Ive travelled and lived all over the World in the past 40 years, and never have I ever experienced such a closed in small minded nation where the discovery of oil is somehow elevated them to think they have always been and always will be the best Country in the World. And I am not the only expat to see it, experience it or have these thoughts. Most people like me say the very same thing about them having lived there for a few years.

  32. To me American culture is the extreme opposite of Janteloven. In their ignorance and arrogance they truly believe, ” If it is not the American way, it is the wrong way.” Janteloven is totally incomprehensible to these people. They know so little.

  33. I came to Norway 5 years ago from London to take my master’s degree, and the whole experience destroyed my sense of worth. I left Britain with the top possible grades for my bachelor degree in geoscience. Here the first lecture of the Master’s course was so basic it was unreal, for example one question on the first assignment was ‘what is a volcano?’……..I argued with the professor that the information was way too basic for Master’s level and he said he agreed, but it was tradition to keep the course this way. This is where Janteloven really hit. In the first exam I got an E grade, the lowest in my life. Fuming, I asked for a meeting with the marker and they told me in these exact words ‘Yes, it seemed like you were showing off, and we wouldn’t want that would we (laughing), therefore I couldn’t give you a higher mark. I was punished for showing off in an exam, the concept alone is laughable. So I tried to tone myself down for the next exam, did less work, tried less hard and voila I managed a C (they tell you that’s a good grade here). I started to develop depression at the end of the first year because of constant pushing from lecturers to tone down my efforts and to stop trying so hard as it will, as one professor said, ‘make the other students feel bad’. During my thesis year I had 3 jobs to support myself while writing my thesis and received no help from anyone at the university. Somehow I managed to get an A despite working 30 hour weeks alongside the thesis. I was happy but I never got a well done, no one told me congratulations except my international friends and parents. The university almost seemed angry that I’d done well and my supervisor even cut off contact after I graduated. I’ve since tried many times to get a PhD, but the bad grades from when I was ‘showing off’ brought my average down. Therefore I now work in a dead end job while the university take no responsibility and even the newspaper when I wrote to them said they wouldn’t write an article that would damage the university reputation. The last 5 years of my life were ruined by Janteloven, and I really hope I can get the funds to leave soon.

  34. It’s a hard one because I see a lot of people on here saying it doesn’t exist but as someone who has lived in Norway for 2 years, coming from the UK, the difference is very apparent. Attitudes in England are very aggressive and everyone wants to show off. It’s all a big game and full of ego. Here I already can feel the difference. People seem much more inclined to be on a similar level to each other and not show off. I do agree with some though that Norwegians seem very closed and stuck in a certain mentality to their ways. I think maybe some easing of this attitude would help but I certainly think it could ruin the vibe of the country if they went full-on UK/US in attitudes. I’m yet to fully dive into the work environment here so maybe I’ll discover more sides to this.

  35. As person coming from East Europe i agree with the comments from people coming from UK or other Western World.. Sadly it shows how f*@(&#(*ek up people in Norway are , hopefully the mixed blood generations will start slowly fix the craziness in this country. Like double standarts in Nav or other gov. runed organisations . Like barnevernet child abuse. and other shits i won;t talk about . Because it will push another 13123 comment who will say how i am so wrong and how right they are 🙂 (best deffence is attack right ! )
    P.s There are few million norwegians who ran to USA according to stats from internet showin that this country is not such an Utopia. Hope internet secutiry people will read this and make 1 exception and think about it not automaticly deffend the corrupt system they have here.. .very long p.s i know

  36. I’m Australian and my husband in Norwegian. I now understand why he left Norway in his late teens to come to Australia. He said he never fit in and I feel it’s to do with this unspoken societal law. He is creative, an entrepreneur and an explorer so being out of the box was very difficult. When i visited there i didnt know about Jante law but i told my husband something feels off here, like everyone is the same, same colour variety of houses, curtains and even the food is mostly from one large supermarket. I couldn’t put my finger on it, point is there seemed to be a lack of expression. Apart from that I was so impressed that their family got on so well, there never seemed to be any arguments and everyone sort of lived in a very clockwork type of way, nothing out of line. They all seemed to have good paying jobs and didn’t seem stressed. So interesting!

  37. Thank you. While I recently came to know of this phenomenon and find that it seems to be behind the excellence in output from the Nordic nations, the way it appears to be criticized within these communities is also a part of the whole thing – anything that becomes worship worthy needs to be examined critically and the laws seem to offer the basis for this. Things like this are signposts but humans want to worship or crucify things without any effort to think.

    That said, among the articles that discuss the laws, here is one that is that calmly tries to present what is as is.

  38. The concept of Janteloven may be somewhat workable in a homogenous society with a small population where practically everyone is of the same ethnicity and culture but, for better or for worse, it simply would not work at all in a multicultural society like the U.S. Additionally, few people who were raised in societies where individualism is valued and celebrated (such as the U.S.) would tolerate the lack of freedom inherent in such a society. Also keep in mind that in Norway (which is the country where Janteloven seems to be most prevalent) the extensive social welfare system and the bulk of economic wealth was built on fossil fuel extraction, which makes the propensity of (some) Norwiegians to lecture the world about sustainability rather interesting to put it kindly. The real danger of Janteloven in my view is that it can cause citizens to cede to much power and control to the government, resulting in a loss of liberty. As an American, I know that our society is far from perfect and there are a few parts of Janteloven that would be beneficial our society. but I personally would much rather err of the side of too much individuality than enforced conformity. History is replete with many examples of enforced conformity leading to disasterous outcomes, especially when conformity is enforced by government.

  39. It seems to me that the negative sensations and also the consequences of Jante’s laws lie in their incomplete understanding or understanding in the wrong direction.
    These laws encourage the development of humility. Humility is a benefactor. It shifts the ego from its central place, and thereby forcing people to avoid conflicts and recognizing equality in front of law and so serving the development of effective relationships. But humility itself is not valuable unless it is used to achieve some goals, for example, high results in sports, work, etc. We know how valuable it is if a person can humbly accept that to achieve a goal he needs to work hard or needs to sacrifice some
    Developing effective relationships is essential for achieving high team performance results.
    I propose to consider the laws of Yante and the development of humility, as a base that can serve to develop the ability of understanding other people. This is a very important aspect that is often overlooked when discussing these laws. And you will see how they can become less harsh and more accepted.
    10. You’re not to think you can teach us anything
    To master understanding of others, it is useful to think that every person can teach you something. You can learn from both other people’s mistakes and positive experiences. For your own personal benefit, it will be more useful to learn yourself than to teach someone. Those teachers are good who are able to teach and learn simultaneously and main process by their consideration is process of self learning.
    9. You’re not to think anyone cares about you
    If you persist in caring for others and expect to be answered in kind, you will always remain dissatisfied with injustice. Nobody knows you better than yourself. That’s why you’ll take better care of yourself than anyone else. So that you are not outraged by injustice in the future and not to accumulate resentment towards other people, do not try to take care of them without a compelling need. Knowing this, it is easy to accept from others the same position of non-interference as a benefit for youself.
    8. You’re not to laugh at us
    It is better to learn to laugh at yourself than to make fun of the failure of others. Only a person, who is comfortable with who he is and who he is not, can allow yourself to joke about yourself. Essentially, it’s like an indicator of your self-confidence.
    7. You’re not to think you are good at anything
    Looking at yourself realistically and recognizing your strengths and weaknesses is the key to your success and happiness. That’s why think that you are good at everything
    it means being blind to your reality.
    6. You’re not to think you are more important than we are.
    No matter how important your actions and knowledge are, the ability to always see and recognize that someone in some situation may become more important is a very valuable skill for establishing trusting relationships.
    5. You’re not to think you know more than we do
    3. You’re not to think you are smarter than we are
    The ability to recognize the globality and breadth of knowledge in some anothers opens up horizons for you, just as the failure to do so sets limits on your development.
    4. You’re not to convince yourself that you are better than we are
    Recognizing the successes of others and being able to enjoy these successes as much as your own frees you from the stranglehold of envy.
    2. You’re not to think you are as good as we are
    Seeing in the aspirations of other people what you love, value, admire and strive to be like is a very good skill. More important keep the best before your eyes, what you strive, rather than the worst, what you need to avoid. So, believing that you are surrounded by good and even better people than you is more useful than vice versa.
    1. You’re not to think you are anything special
    All people are cut from the same cloth and no one is made from anything special.
    We have common nature and it is the basis of our mutual understanding. If we can see ourselves in others, then we can find mutual understanding with them.
    Whatever human manifestations you encounter, it is important to feel them within yourself, even those that we call devilish. If you are well acquainted with them in yourself, you understand their background, then you can control the primary sources in the direction you need, if you deny their existence, then they control you without your knowledge.
    We can differ from each other. We differ in how we manage ourselves, how we achieve our goals, what values ​​we prioritize and how honest we are with ourselves. These very differences will greatly affect the success of building effective relationships with people.


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