Janteloven

Having long been impressed by great and world-renowned Scandinavian professionals, I have only lately met a number of Scandinavians as colleagues in my academic career. When having lived and worked in the Middle East several of these exemplars did not make the best impression on me: too self-centered, too pompous. Patronizing and belittling other people’s achievements. Apparently stranded in an exotic country. I learned that the Middle East is actually full of Scandinavians with a failed academic career.

I was long wondering why the behavior of so many Scandinavians especially toward foreigners was so special. In many cases I have perceived a deep inferiority complex which was sometimes just unnecessary, sometimes unfortunately justified.

A friend and colleague recently informed me about what seems to be known as Janteloven, “a pattern of group behavior toward individuals within Scandinavian communities, which negatively portrays and criticizes individual success and achievements as unworthy and inappropriate,” as Wikipedia tells.

Based on Aksel Sandemose’s novel En flyktining krysser sitt spor of 1933, the ten (or rather eleven) rules are

1. Don’t think you’re anything special.
2. Don’t think you’re as good as us.
3. Don’t think you’re smarter than us.
4. Don’t convince yourself that you’re better than us.
5. Don’t think you know more than us.
6. Don’t think you are more important than us.
7. Don’t think you are good at anything.
8. Don’t laugh at us.
9. Don’t think anyone cares about you.
10. Don’t think you can teach us anything, and
11. Don’t think that there aren’t a few things we know about you.

I had immediately 12. in mind: Don’t think we cannot make problems for you if you dare to criticize us.

Small and larger communities which are in need of protecting their achievements by belittling especially those of foreigners will ultimately segregate. In general, Janteloven must be considered even sort of racism, a problem which has always been endemic in all Scandinavian countries.

Last modified March 25, 2012.

This entry was posted in Academics, Ethnology, Norway and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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