Janteloven; collective accomplishment and humility among Danes

People who don’t have a lot of international experience rely heavily on the media to understand how things happen abroad. Among the things that internationals look for is  an understanding of what treatment to expect from a society they would enter abroad. Unfortunately, much of the stories that get to hit the headlines in the international scale include racism, xenophobia, islamophobia and general aggression to foreigners. Much of these come from countries like Germany, the USA and the UK. You will experience a pleasant shock in Denmark to realize that locals demur aggressive behaviour and tend to be sometimes annoyingly cold. You may share a space with a Dane but what rents the air is an awkward silence. The spirit of Janteloven and hygge define the rather laid back lifestyle of the Danes which internationals may find extremely boring. 

Someone who has been to the Scandinavian region may be loudly wondering what makes the Danes so meek despite their achievements. Unless a Dane tells you whatever achievements they have made in academics, wealth or social status, you may easily dismiss them as being any other random people. So many times you will rub shoulders with important people including politicians without knowing that they are really very important people. They tend to really cut a low image and create a mean aura of their real statuses.  The silent hand that presses down egos of the Danes is Janteloeven. It guides the everyday life of Danes for the long haul. 

What is Janteloven?

Janteloven is a social code that dictates emphasis on collective accomplishment and well-being on one side. On the other hand, it impresses a disdain for glorifying  individual achievements. It is the underlying Scandinavian principle that applies across Denmark, Norway, Sweden , Finland and Iceland. Understanding Janteloven is paramount just as you would like to understand the history and modern culture of Scandinavians.

The idea of Janteloven was first baptized through the work of Danish-Norwegian author Askel Sandemose in 1933.  His book whose content has for a long time defined Scandinavian culture was titled A Fugitive Crosses His Tracks. In this book is a story of a fictional small Danish town (Jante). In Jante, individuals are expected to subsume their identity to a group. Through the first articulation, the concept made Scandinavians to argue that this was something that can historically be found throughout the villages and cities of Scandinavia.

Unpacking the far reaching and  influential laws of Jante

Scandinavian countries encourage a system in which individuals strive to be financially and socially successful. This happen if the following rules are adhered to correctly;

  • Do not think you are anything special
  • Do not think you are good as we are
  • Do not convince yourself that you are better than we are
  • Do not think you know more than we do
  • Do not think you are more important than us
  • Do not think you are good at anything
  • Do not laugh at us
  • Do not think you can teach us anything
  • Do not think anyone cares about you
  • Do not think you are smarter than us.

In practice, the Jante rules are animated by everyone in the society in terms of; dressing, type of property owned by people and product for their homes. This rule ensures that everything is done in a similar manner. The laws are clearly directed specifically to ‘you’ and referred to’ us’. This means the culture and community at large.

The Personality of the Danes according to Janteloven

The small country  of Denmark is constantly and rapidly coming up with revolutionary approaches in response to our current challenges in fields such as green energy, animal production and chemicals handling.  They design environmental science, biomedicine, agriculture and different types of technology yet still remain so down to earth in real life. Danes, it turns out, have a lot of cultural rules geared towards how to enjoy life . 

The Jante laws are especially seen in relations where there is an implicit leaning towards showing social values without showing off personal accomplishments constantly. This is because the Danes highly value modesty. 

Comical aspects of the Danes

The phenomenon of humour is universal but what is humour in one country is not necessarily in another. There may even be a wide difference. This is especially true in Denmark where two elements ,sarcasm and irony dominate . The aspects of irony at themselves show to the public or their social or even public peers that they don’t take themselves too seriously.

Sarcasm, also widely used in Denmark, is an important thing to consider when working with them. The Danes are not always able to identify the practical limits of sarcasm . In some cases this may lead to misinterpretations and affect social relations negatively if the international college is not aware.

Danish Janteloven 

As to the great Danes those in power and authority are neither great optimistic nor extravagant idealists. Their dreams are of practical nature and a certain atmosphere of clean and sane humanitarianism. This aspect is very attractive; they also  seem to carry out their reforms in a spirit of common sense. Danes are balanced people and their democracy is practical.