Although many people will probably live in Denmark without knowing what this is, when one starts going a bit deeper into Danish culture, the Law of Jante (Janteloven in Danish) will most likely pop up at some point.
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”, in which the fictitious Danish town of Jante lives by its own ten commandments. Jante’s law is defined by Sandemose: “This is Jante: each little soul’s struggle for coequality and recognition, never without consciousness that all the others are greater than he.”
It’s one of the many non-written laws in Denmark, which operates in a subconscious level. Those foreigners who want to integrate properly should know it (and probably follow it to a certain degree?)
According to Wikipedia, there are ten 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: Don’t think you’re anyone special or that you’re better than us.
The ten rules state:
- Don’t think you’re anything special.
- Don’t think you’re as good as us.
- Don’t think you’re smarter 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 important 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.
According to my skat, it is not something that they’re told but more the general mentality of Danish people, that dislikes anyone that stands out.
Well, I am sorry but I don’t like it. Of course I don’t like the opposite mentality either, that is mothers who tell their children they are the best in the world, better than anyone else. That happens a lot in Spain (I guess it happens in a lot of countries) and it results in a bunch of spoiled-narcicistic-selfcentered jer… erm.. people.
My kids (future kids, as in the ones I’ll maybe have in some years from now) are gonna be told what my mum told me: “You are different, because we are all different. You’ll be good at some things, and bad at others. You’ll be better than some people at some things, and you’ll be much worse at others. And that’s okay, and that doesn’t make you better or worse than anyone, just different”.
Diversity is necessary. Diversity leads to evolution. Diversity brings enrichment. Of course it’s not nice when someone comes to us thinking that he’s better (as a whole) than anyone else (personally I’d punch these people on the face), but how good is it having people who think they’re worth nothing?
Balance, friends, balance is always the key.
**** Edit: I find myself in the need to add a note to this post. I just came home from an outstanding lecture on Danish working culture (I’ll try and write a post asap, although nothing I say will do it justice) and there was a brief talk about this Janteloven. They mentioned that this law is the way Danes use to explain some traits of their behaviour that they can’t really explain in any other way. Aparently, it’s something in the lines that differences among people create conflicts and Danes are not very able to deal with conflictive situations. So, if people are all the same, there’s less problems and moreover, there’s more trust (it’s easier to trust someone who is similar to you, not only ethnically but socio-economically speaking). Quite an old concept and easily missinterpreted, but it’s still present in their personality.