Janteloven will be something that will come up sometime during your stay in Norway (if it hasn’t already). Basically, it is a concept created by the Danish-Norwegian author Aksel Sandemose, who in his novel ‘En Flyktning Krysser Sitt Spor‘ (A Refugee Crosses His Tracks), 1933, identified Janteloven as eleven rules. Sandemose’s novel portrays the small Danish town Jante.
There are eleven different rules in the law as defined by Sandemose, all expressive of variations on a single theme and are usually referred to as a homogeneous unit: You are not to think you’re anyone special or that you’re better than us.
The ten rules state:
- You are not to think you’re anything special.
- You are not to think you’re as good as us.
- You are not to think you’re smarter than us.
- You are not to convince yourself that you’re better than us.
- You are not to think you know more than us.
- You are not to think you are more important than us.
- You are not to think you are good at anything.
- You are not to laugh at us.
- You are not to think anyone cares about you.
- You are not to think you can teach us anything.
The eleventh rule stated later in the novel is:
- You are not to think that there aren’t a few things we know about you.
The rules sound pretty harsh but its concept is linked to the value of egalitarianism within the Norwegian society. The general message of this is that one should avoid standing out too much and boasting about one’s achievements and personal skills. Equality and working towards the common good is the basis of Norway’s social system.
One can see this in the Norwegian working culture as well – where the structure is pretty flat and non- hierarchical and good teamwork is encouraged.