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Norway's "Law of Jante"

Norwegians, how does this Janteloven cultural aspect of Norway work? I saw the wiki article and I'm kinda in disbelief that such a thing IS a thing in Norway. Are these social rules all norwegians abide by?

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."

As far as I know, this is some serious herd mentality right there. Care to explain?

December 8, 2015



I'm from Denmark and here it's as much a thing as it is in Norway; perhaps in a slightly different way (I have never had the opportunity to discuss it with any Norwegians).

Like what others have already posted, it's about not being obnoxious, being fair and being humble.

There's another thing to it -- the law is not directed at the average person, but against anyone who would claim to be superior (without just claim). If you're worth of acclaim, your community will recognize it without needing you to point it out. If you think you need to point out that you're better than everyone else, you probably aren't; even if you have already been recognized as being good at something. This tells us that we all are just as much a part of society as anyone else -- you cannot be separate from society regardless of what you do, how much money or power you have.

The article TimothyCrabtree links to describes Janteloven from an American view on Danish society. I find that very interesting as I don't recognize a lot of what he writes. There is no need to feel guilty about your accomplishments and you can be quite proud of them if you want to. The point is, though, that you shouldn't assume that others can't do the same; the next person you meet may be just as capable as you are either in the same field as you are or in one where you aren't as good.


The law may not have a good reputation, but it is still followed and respected sub-consciously as it is ingrained in the culture. It is not as bad as it may sound though. Basically, be humble, show respect and don't be obnoxious.


From what I am understanding, it's more about the good of the community rather than the good of the individual.


There's a pretty good article that puts it into a modern context. It states that the Janteloven is not quite as popular as it once was, but comes back into play when one needs to be more reserved.


I have been looking for a copy of the book that this came out of for years! Not much to add though, as other people have summed it up pretty well. I have not had the opportunity to speak to someone who was raised in Norway to ask specifically about this (also not sure how I would approach it, would it be rude or a sore subject perhaps?) but the more I read about Janteloven, the more I feel like that perhaps it points out that one should be concerned more with the good of the group than the individual, and that it is rude to show off or be too proud. -- It was actually a little funny the first time I came across this list because it reminded me of certain things my mother taught me while growing up, such as that it isn't polite to brag and one should be humble and not think they are the smartest person in the room, etc.

Thanks for bringing this up. I am very interested in following the replies!


As long as you bring up Law of Jante in a Jante-way you are fine :) So ask about it in a curious and willing to learn way, rather than a it's-so-stupid-lets-mock-it way.

No, it's not a sore subject at all.


Thanks for sharing this. I've never heard of Janteloven. I especially like "You're not to think anyone cares about you." This is a maxim many people around the world could benefit from.


I must say that as an relatively, highly introverted Mexican, I do like these rules. That is one of the many reasons I like about Norwegians, Danes, and Swedes.


It's not something I think about or anything, but I do very much notice just how important these rules are in Norway when I see how unimportant they are in other countries. I've travelled a lot, and one thing I really notice is how socially acceptable it is to complain in almost every other country (ofc not Sweden and Denmark, the Scandinavian countries are pretty much the same when it comes to social culture). Once, in France, a man was very mad after getting his dinner, he thought it lacked flavor. He openly complained and told the waiters they were totally useless. In Norway, if you don't like the food you either ask the employees if you can borrow some spices (they will often have small baskets with a bunch of spices which you can go and get yourself) or you just accept it and eat it anyways. Complaining is not only considered rude and disrespectful to the cooks/employees/etc but also to everyone around you. That old woman sitting behind you, the family over there, everyone else who are able to hear your complaints will feel embarrased in your behalf. In a way we kinda make "sacrifices" like that (eating foods we hate among a lot of other things) to remain peaceful and nice to each other.


In a way I can understand why people complain if the food is not good, you pay for it so it should be good. That said, I would never complain to be honest. I'm just way too much an introvert for that and don't want to come over as "that annoying customer" that gets a new better tasty plate but with some added saliva as an extra.

If I hear these rules and how everyone follows them, it's the only place in the world it seems where being an introvert is actually less of a problem. I love Scandinavians, they are on average way less exhausting, they're really friendly, helpful, respectful and having a talk with them is just nice. On the other hand for extroverts it seems a hell, since all these social rules are in a way more natural for introverts, but for them it seems a bit the opposite.

Which would finally explain why my friend's uncle who is more an extrovert has the complete opposite experience with Danes, Norwegians and Swedes as I have. And I really mean, completely the opposite, according to him they're all cold, distant and really unfriendly. We both didn't understand, but where I (unknowingly) followed all these rules, he probably broke a lot of them. :')


Janteloven goes against the competitive nature of the individual, as Ayn Rand set it in her objectivist works (Anthem and Atlas Shrugged). In short, 'janteloven' is a bunch of conformist and incoherent arguments for "crab mentality" (of outcasting the odd geniuses) which combines the worst of socialism (like being a random collective part, like an ant or bee in a beehive, in an oriental way) and the worst parts of nationalism (like we are the "best", (or "you can't be like us") just because we have an unique identity of a lineage/ancestry of some Vikings). That's divisive, egotistical and egomaniacal. Guess what? Hitler thought the same about his Aryan race. (maybe Quisling as well). I am Greek and my ancestors are Ancient Greek but I don't feel the need to boast about it. I am not nationalistic. My nationality is NOT special. Neither is Norwegian or Afghan or Papuan or any other. It just happened to be. We don't choose our birth and nativity. I am proud for my OWN achievements as an individual and not for the achievements that someone else did a few centuries ago. And history proves that the greatest discoveries of mankind were INDIVIDUALLY-driven and not part of a social collective. Even the most famous Norwegians, like Grieg, Ibsen and Amundsen acted and made their works and deeds as INDIVIDUALS and not as part of a shy, timid and tedious collective. And Ibsen would be the first to debunk janteloven, because he was smart enough to realise that he will never be as smart play-writer as Shakespeare. Same as Grieg. I am sure that Grieg knew that he would never be the next Mozart. Same as Carlsen, he will never be the next Kasparov. Same as Kaizers Orchestra, they will never be the next Beatles. So, I find this "we-are-all-the-shame" herd mentality absurd, because it promotes collectivism which then leads to communism, and history proved that it's not a nice way for society. As humans we should be embrace our competitive nature, strive for excellence and behave like wolves. And not like collective sheep who succumb to political correctness and mediocrity. In my opinion, life is too short for mediocrity, as Nietzsche said. I don't know if there is any anti-janteloven movement in Norway, but that would be a positive change. About janteloven being called a "Law"(regel). I personally firstly recognise the laws of nature as the ruling eternal laws. The rest so called laws are mostly social conventions and norms, made by the collective, to control the masses.

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