Yesterday my friend Line reminded me about Jante Law and I realised that I hadn’t written anything about it on the blog. To be honest I didn’t know much detail about it until I researched it this morning! Anyone who visits Norway will almost certainly get a good feel about the Norwegian people – they are good-natured, humble and very friendly towards the English – makes such a nice change given the frosty reception we get in some countries :-)
This attitude may have something to do with Jante Law (or Janteloven in Norwegian). This term is used to describe a pattern of behaviour that’s often associated with Scandinavians – humility. Underlying it is the desire to see all people as being on an equal footing – that you shouldn’t ‘think big’, criticize others nor flaunt wealth/financial achievements as it can be portrayed as inappropriate.
The poet Aksel Sandemose put these rules into words in 1933 and they go something like this…
- Don’t think you’re anything special.
- Don’t think you’re as much as us.
- Don’t think you’re wiser than us.
- Don’t convince yourself that you’re better than us.
- Don’t think you know more than us.
- Don’t think you are more than us.
- Don’t think you are good at anything.
- Don’t laugh at us.
- Don’t think anyone cares about you.
- Don’t think you can teach us anything.
Apparently there’s and 11th rule…
- Don’t think there’s anything we don’t know about you.
I need to find out more about what Norwegians think about Jante Law. I personally think some of them are a bit harsh but I like the humbling mind-set that Norwegians have – seems to keep harmony among communities. However, in countries like the UK, when it comes to job interviews you really have to be good at selling your skills and achievements in order to stand out from several candidates. I did wonder whether I could start a little ‘personal brand coaching’ business in Norway but not sure it would be appropriate now. Fascinating insight into the culture.