Victimized By Law of Jante

The law of Jante is the idea that there is a pattern of group behavior towards individuals within Scandinavian communities that negatively portrays and criticizes individual success and achievement as unworthy and inappropriate. The concept was created by the DanoNorwegian author Aksel Sandemose, who was inspired by Danish town Jante when he modeled the rule.

There are ten rules in the law as defined by Sandemose, all expressive of variations on a single theme and usually referred to as a homogeneous unit: You are not to think you’re anyone special or that you’re better than us (source: Wikipedia)


The ten rules state:

  1. You’re not to think you are anything special.
  2. You’re not to think you are as good as us.
  3. You’re not to think you are smarter than us.
  4. You’re not to convince yourself that you are better than us.
  5. You’re not to think you know more than us.
  6. You’re not to think you are more important than us.
  7. You’re not to think you are good at anything.
  8. You’re not to laugh at us.
  9. You’re not to think anyone cares about you.
  10. You’re not to think you can teach us anything.

An eleventh rule recognized in Sandermose’s novel is:

  1. You’re not to think that there aren’t a few things we know about you.

In this novel, the Janters who transgress this unwritten ‘law’ are regarded with suspicion and some hostility, as it goes against the town’s communal desire to preserve harmony, social stability and uniformity. These 11 principles or commandments form the “Jante’s Shield” of the Scandinavian people.

It can be stressful for some talented people in Scandinavia to be confronted with this culture, and unfortunately, it just happened to me today.

My Danish teacher, for the past one month, has been introducing forms of arguments in his class, including some issues in Denmark such as immigration & teacher-lockout. Today, he talked to me personally, that I have to stop using complex sentences & expression in class discussion because the rest of students are far behind & still learning simple sentences in Danish.

So, here we go, instead of encouraging his other students to learn Danish harder and actually practice the language for this past one month, my teacher asked me to stop practicing communication in the class, because he thought it’s not good for others.

It’s not like I have lived in Denmark for 10 years. I follow the same level like other students. He always says that it is important for immigrants to be able to speak Danish to function in society. So, why couldn’t he give me chance to practice what I learn from newspaper or other sources? Why did he choose to de-motivate me? Ironic…

It’s also not about competition at all. What’s the benefit on me for having to compete in the class? my danish school doesn’t even issue grade report, only prepare us to take Danish test for permanent residence. The thing is i don’t think that it is student’s fault for throwing expression or sentences that she/he learn from newspaper or news or other sources. Maybe the teacher could just jump me to the next level if he thinks it is more appropriate for others, but no…he asked me to stop talking per se.

Different people have different purpose that affect their attitude in this case. Maybe some just learn Danish as someone who were not going to live in Denmark for long-term or permanently. But here I am in Denmark, bought a home, pay high tax, struggle with immigration political agenda (u know, white & non-white, muslim & non-muslim), and I choose to live here, yet the government always says it’s important for immigrant to be able to learn Danish to function in society, and this class is made for this purpose: immigration, to function in society, financed by tax. Without it, I hardly able to contribute effectively to the society here. I struggle to read Danish newspaper everyday,word by word, and tense up my ear sensitivity. So, when I received this response, I feel utterly de-motivated 😦

My Danish friend confessed that he had been victimized a lot by law of Jante. He came from northern Jylland, a remote area far far away from city of Copenhagen. As a sprinter athlete,he has collected many medals in domestic and international competitions. He told me that when he was in school, his school-friends expressed annoyance everytime there was an announcement about his victory.

Law of Jante  refers to a mentality that de-emphasizes individual effort and places all emphasis on the collective, while discouraging those who stand out as achievers. Later, the meaning of The Law of Jante was extended to refer to those who want to break out of their social groups and reach a higher position in society in general. However, it sounds very ironic to me that as the hosts of Nobel prize centers (Peace prize in Norway & Science in Sweden) which acknowledge individual’s achievement, Scandinavia still battles with this awful mentality.

p.s. I am going to move school or program to find better teacher. It’s not my fault that I try harder.

I now refuse to say “treat everyone equally”, because nobody was born with equal talent and  later, results equal outcomes. Instead, I choose to say “treat everyone fairly”, those who need more will be provided relatively fairly (either to be topped up due to needs of extra help, or facilitated because of excess talents).

Other (funny) case of Jenta-law: “Lunch lady slammed for food that is ‘too good’


One thought on “Victimized By Law of Jante

  1. Ahhhh, we have the same problem here in Norway! I had the same experience with my previous Norsk teacher last year. The good thing was that she talked to the other teacher of higher level in the same day she told me to stop ‘show off’. So the next day i went to the right level with right teacher (‘ready’ for any kind of student).
    But I knew there was another teacher that not allow a capable student skip his level and tell them just to follow whatever he had planned for his class. My friend had a hard time with him in negotiation and since my friend was a Dutch, she talked to the school director to get to the right level.

    Well, it can be about Jante mentality, or just because they are not prepared. I found some ‘well prepared teachers’, and they are not so repressive to progressive student.


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