I wrote this post after having read an article in SVD at
I had to update it with a new conclusion after having read a Australian blog post about the high Italian self esteem.
I think the svd article tells about an important part of the Swedish and Scandinavian sociocultural history and culture of today, known in Sweden as “Jantelagen”, the law of Jante. In Norway they call it “Janteloven”
It maybe also makes you understand Swedes better and that exagerated self esteem is maybe not the best neighter.
History of the law
Until 1900 in poor Swedish, maybe even Scandinavian, villages, all had to follow this law. A person who did not follow this law breaked the social balance in the village. I would say that this law still is respected today among some Swedes even in work places.
The law was formulated 1933 by the Norwegian writer Aksel Sandemose in his fiction ”En flykting korsar sitt spår”. Sandemose grew up in the Danish village Nykøbing Mors. he used this village as a model for his village Jante in his book. He formulate the law like this:
- You should not believe you are something.
- You should not believe you are as good as we are.
- You should not believe you are more intelligent than us.
- You should not think that you are better than us.
- You should not think that you know more than us.
- You should not think that you have more value than us.
- You should not believe that you are good at something.
- You should not laugh at us.
- You should not believe anyone cares about you.
- You should not believe you can learn us anything.
The eleventh law, “the punishment law” says:
- Do you not think we know about you?
The law of Jante in Swedish
I keep a copy here of the law of Jante Swedish version as taken from the article in
as articles in web newspapers often disappear after a few days.
- Du skall inte tro att du är något.
- Du skall inte tro att du är lika god som vi.
- Du skall inte tro att du är klokare än vi.
- Du skall inte inbilla dig att du är bättre än vi.
- Du skall inte tro att du vet mer än vi.
- Du skall inte tro att du är förmer än vi.
- Du skall inte tro att du duger till något.
- Du skall inte skratta åt oss.
- Du skall inte tro att någon bryr sig om dig.
- Du skall inte tro att du kan lära oss något.
Till detta kommer ett elfte bud, ”Jantelagens strafflag”:
- Tror du inte att vi vet något om dig?”
This “law of Jante ” reminds me about
“no prophet is accepted in his hometown” ( Luke 4:24)
Swedes were during the 19th century severly educated by Protestant priests who came to the villages to interrogate the villagers about the words in the Bible, Luther’s small cahtechism, and other reading habilites. Kids were interrogated at school with questions like “Who was the first man?” were the right answer had to be “Adam!” if you didn’t want to be punished with the stick.
The law of Jante today
US native Steven Karwoski wrote this in ” How I tackled Sweden’s Law of Jante”
“Equality remains a cornerstone of Swedish culture. This ‘we’re all the same’ mentality comes from the Scandinavian concept of Jantelagen or The Law of Jante, the cultural compass that celebrates ‘everyman’, discourages individual success and sets average as the goal. It manifests itself in the culture not only with the ‘we are all equal’ ethos but even more so a ‘don’t think you are better than anyone, ever’ mindset.”
( https://www.thelocal.se/20140617/how-i-tackled-swedens-law-of-jante )
here is one of the several youtube’s about the law of jante
I like this comment to her video:
“What’s funny is that the same Swedes that judge you will turn into social butterflies as soon as they arrive in Thailand or any country that has a warm culture.”
I recommend also this well made Youtube about the law of Jante described as part of Norwegian Culture. The author is a Norwegian girl who teaches Norwegian in her channel for English speaking visitors.
Swedes in Austria and Spain.
Swedes are also know as very problematic and even feared in Austrian ski site and in Spain for the drinking behaviour when they get “free” and inhibited.
Maybe similar social rules are found in your country?
two books about Sweden
This book about Sweden from 2008 tells about the law of Jante. (HINT. click on the image to view a Google review)
You may read about the Swedish History in this older book now available in the Internet archive (HINT. click on the image to view a Google review)
Reading the Australian Caitlyn Cooks post about Italian self estseem in her blog at caitlyncook.com at , I udnerstood that when I came back to Sweden 19 years old, I brought with me some Italian self esteem.
I had to adapt to the law of Jante in Sweden as I were reminded about my “exagerated” self esteem. Fiat had to adapt too. A big Fiat car announcement had this meaning under the photo under the new Fiat car image: “Buy Italian, drive like a Swede.” When I had a friend coming with me she sat behind as she didn’t rely on my driving. I had a Italian driver licence. And comment on my telling about my project like “Du gillar att skryta” that is “You like to brag”
I wonder if the italian self esteem is still the same after the bad publicity outside Italy. I once heard a taxi driver in Neaple say “If Neaple were governed by Swedes we would have a fantastic city.
i see however some hidden self esteem anyway here in Italy as blame others for the malfunctioning public services. Many Italians use to accuse all other to be idiots and corrupted egoists, especcially politicians they themselves have voted on and those who work in the government or Municipality.