Understanding the Law of Jante (Janteloven)

The Law of Jante is a social concept created by Danish-Norwegian author Aksel Sandemose in his 1933 book “A Fugitive Crosses His Tracks.” You may be familiar with a similar concept used in other parts of the world called “tall poppy syndrome.” In Janteloven, individual success is discouraged and, in many cases, considered inappropriate. Instead, society encourages the good of the collective over any one individual. This has shaped Scandinavian culture over many years and helped to create the peaceful, modest, and very homogenous society of today.

The Law of Jante

  • 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 imagine yourself 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.

Failing to respect the Law of Jante can dramatically decrease your likelihood of success in business and hurt your relationships in Norway. However, as a foreigner you’ll be allowed to get away with some “exotic” behavior, such as giving a stranger a compliment.

What is Janteloven?


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