Jantelagen is another Swedish word that, like lagom tends to generate a lot of controversy and conversation in this country. The general meaning is that no one should act or think he is better than anyone else or aspire to be better than anyone else. Basically, don’t think you are better than anyone else. The term was originally coined by the Norwegian/Danish author Aksel Sandemos in a 1933 novel. I’ve heard it said that it’s a social code for all of Scandinavia and reflects Sweden’s philosophy of social equality. Believe it or not, there are then actually 10 “rules” behind the law, including:

  1. Don’t think that you are special.
  2. Don’t think that you are of the same standing as us.
  3. Don’t think that you are smarter than us.
  4. Don’t fancy yourself as being better than us.
  5. Don’t think that you know more than us.
  6. Don’t think that you are more important than us.
  7. Don’t think that you are good at anything.
  8. Don’t laugh at us.
  9. Don’t think that anyone cares about you.
  10. Don’t think that you can teach us anything.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Interesting stuff, huh? I have to admit that Jante’s law is a tough one for me and I have not been keen to take it on in the blog. Of course, I believe the basic premise that no one is better than anyone else. But to spell it all out so severely seems so severe.  So what’s up with Jantelagen in Sweden today?


1 Lukas Slothuus January 27, 2009 at 12:51

At least in Denmark, Janteloven (the Danish spelling) is quite notable. In school yards, classrooms, workplaces, and in the media, it plays such a pivotal role that it cannot be overlooked. It was one of the reasons why I left the country, and it’s one of the reasons why I won’t come back within the next couple of years.


2 Lukas Slothuus January 27, 2009 at 13:01

Oh and if you want a tiny bit of insight into perspectives of Nordic culture and norms, please don’t hesitate to take a look at my blog:


3 Anke van Lenteren February 10, 2009 at 16:40

I first heard about this concept from an American psychologist living in Sweden who was actually treating Swedish women to overcome the negative aspects of Jantelagen. My Swedish husband had actually never come across the concept until then. Needless to say, he has ignored it all his life! As do I (being a fully signed-up member of the exuberant Dutch nationality). I personally think it is increasingly irrelevant. Here’s to daring to be yourself.

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