The Law of Jante

It is hard to find anyone in any of the Scandinavian countries who does not know this law. Although the law exists since the beginning of civilization, it was only officially declared in 1933 by writer Aksel Sandemose in the novel “A refugee goes beyond limits.”

The sad truth is that the Law of Jante is a rule applied in every country in the world, despite the fact that Brazilians say that “this only happens here,” and the French claim that “unfortunately, that’s how it is in our country.”
Now, the reader must be annoyed because he/she read one paragraph and still does not know what the Law of Jante is all about, so I’ll try to explain it here briefly in my own words:

“You aren’t worth a thing, nobody is interested in what you think, mediocrity and anonymity are your best bet. If you act this way, you will never have any big problems in life.”

The complete Law of Jante (thank you Lars!)

Don’t think you’re something
Don’t think you are worth the same as us
Don’t think you’re smarter than us
Don’t think you’re better than us
Don’t think you’re wiser than us
Don’t think you’re more than us
Don’t think you’re good at anything
Don’t laugh at us
Don’t think anyone care about you
Don’t think you have anything to teach us

The Law of Jante focuses on the feeling of “power”. And this law is accountable for the world being manipulated in all possible manners by people who have no fear of what the others say and end up practicing the evil they desire. We see a huge abyss between the rich and the poor countries of the world, social injustice on all sides, unbridled violence, people being forced to give up their dreams because of unfair and cowardly attacks.

Mediocrity may be comfortable, up to the day that tragedy knocks at the door and people start to wonder: “but why did nobody say anything, if everybody could see that this was going to happen?”
Simple: nobody said anything because the others did not say anything either.

So in order to prevent things from growing any worse, maybe this is the right moment to write the anti-Law of Jante:
“You are worth far more than you think. Your work and presence on this Earth are important, even though you may not think so. Of course, thinking in this way, you might have many problems because you are breaking the Law of Jante – but don’t feel intimidated, go on living without fear and in the end you will win.”
 
ADDENDUM: a classic example of the law in Stuart Kelly’s post,: CLICK HERE

Comments

  1. Lusina says:

    Hi:) Thanks a lot for the post.
    This is what one would never embrace in my country. I am just so happy for it! It’s an ex-Soviet Union country, Armenia, and even we still strike for better economy and so on… but I would never leave it just because of this advantage. I often travel to Scandinavian countries and when coming back to the homeland, I can breath a fresh air, without knowing no one cares what I feel, think or live for.
    P.S Vesa, what you wrote in your comment perfectly matches what anyone should do for better life.

  2. Aloha,
    I remember when you wrote this post on Myspace, because I wrote a reply on my blog there that you commented on. And here we are, coming full circle again. After spending 2 1/2 years on Hawaii and being deported back to Sweden three weeks ago, this Jante was what I dreaded the most. However, so far the fight for our rights, something Sweden is very good at with former work in the UN and the like, overrides it. Development does happen. I still want to live in San Francisco or Hawaii or NYC and nothing is solved. But maybe it was more important that I came out so I can spread my words to the world about what it is like to be an incarcerated immigrant in the US. I hope so.
    Love,
    /Alexandra

  3. prapurva says:

    HI,

    I’ll be frank. the law you mentioned, if deserves, then deserves more then a post. please write a story centering the thought, and i mean a story not a journey. cheers.

  4. Manu Dash says:

    A booster dose indeed for the people with down-syndrome.Congrats.

  5. Gonzalo says:

    The anti Jantelagen (law of Jante) was written in 1989 by Ewert Ljusberg. The name is Jamtelagen (law of Jamte)
    Here is in Swedish:
    http://sv.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jamtelagen
    The translation could be this (I know is a bad translation but I don´t know better):
    1 You should know that you are somebody – always.
    2 You should know that you’re as good as others.
    3 You should never believe that you are more important than others or less than others.
    4 You must remember that you always do as you are.
    5 You must love yourself so you can love others.
    6 You should not judge others because they do not understand better.
    7 You should always fight complacency within.
    8 You should still be happy about your tongue.
    9 You must care for and beautify the piece of land that in a moment in history will be manage by the unborn.
    10 You must embrace the gift called life.

    1. Ana says:

      I just love it!

      I have been following this law (anti-law) since I was born and I did not know. Pity, or luck, it made me move countries a couple of times, and change jobs many others, but I smile every single morning and I know I will always be all right.

  6. Peter says:

    Im from Denmark and an advocate for the anti-Janteloven, or none actually exist but still try to see the best in things, the big issue is you can’t really move 100% away from it, in the same way as it can be destructive it also protect you, in Denmark, for most cases if you come from jutland, you are born and raised with the Jante law but actually without ever knowing what it’s all about, it’s in our blood and not something you can simply cast away, the jante law is important in its own way like a Ying/yang thing, i think it is important to say that you should be careful not to overdue either of the two “laws” :), and think twice before acting. . .

  7. Ron Orr says:

    Thank you so much for the great law and we can overcome our fears and do great things if we put our minds to it and just believe.

  8. joelle says:

    Nous avons tous un but à atteindre mais chacun dépend des autres . Chacun apporte du grain au moulin de la société . Malheureusement, il y en a au bas de l’échelle ceux qui ramassent les poussières et les ordures dans les usines ou dans les rues mais ceux qui ont gravis l’échelle , et on atteint le sommet font partie de ceux qui salissent aussi . Le boulanger a besoin du meunier pour la farine et de clients pour acheter son pain . mais tous les étages de la société polluent beaucoup l’environnement et l’esprit des gens. Chacun se marche sur les pieds pour escalader l’échelle plus vite mais parfois on dégringole car on est licencié , alors on remonte petit à petit , en grimpant marche par marche cette échelle pour obtenir la plus forte reconnaissance . Mais il y aura toujours quelqu’un pour ramasser les détritus, c’est ainsi que va la société, il faut que chacun soit utile aux autres .

  9. Saurabh says:

    One has to apply the law when dealing with the outer world and just its reverse when treating the inner world.
    It is only then, I think, it can lead to peace and happiness.

  10. Vesa says:

    I believe this law is great if you think it the other way around. I am from Scandinavia and I see this law like something a lovin grandparent could say to you. It’s like a challenge! I like to see it this way and it works perfectly.

    Don’t think you’re something – Be something.
    Don’t think you are worth the same as us – Know that you are worth the same.
    Don’t think you’re smarter than us – Be smarter than us.
    Don’t think you’re better than us – Be better than us.
    Don’t think you’re wiser than us – Be wiser than us.
    Don’t think you’re more than us – Be more than us.
    Don’t think you’re good at anything – Be good at something.
    Don’t laugh at us – Laugh with us
    Don’t think anyone care about you – Know that someone cares about you.
    Don’t think you have anything to teach us – Know that you have something to teach us.

    1. shazia says:

      thats beautiful

  11. Hitler says:

    Sunniva – Yes and in Norway you also have Breivik. So probably we shouldnt try to learn anything from your frozen wasteland of a country.

    1. anita says:

      Perfekt example of the law of Jante.

  12. Brenda says:

    Beautiful truth and one that I have begun to embrace.
    Thank you for posting this and adding to my understanding within my journey. Love, lite and anit-law of Jante. <3 <3 <3

  13. Øyvind says:

    As Sunniva said, we already have the opposite version in Norway. It was written years ago and everyone learns it in school because we’re very aware of the damaging effects of the Jante law.

    Here’s a rough translation:
    You are unique.
    You are worth more than anyone can measure.
    You can do something that only you can do.
    You have something to give to others. (Basically, people will be enriched by your company)
    You have done something to be proud of.
    You have great, untapped potential.
    You’re worth something.
    You can accept others.
    You have the ability to understand and learn from others.
    Someone loves you.

    Which basically breaks down the entirety of the Jante law, not only the self-devaluating sides, but also the society-degrading sides. :)