“Jantelagen” – the law of Jante

One thing that I really despise in Sweden is something we call“Jantelagen”. This is the Wikipediacdescription:

Generally used colloquially as asociologicalterm to negatively describe an attitude towards individuality and success common in Sweden[2]and the rest of theNordic countries, the term refers to a mentality that de-emphasizes individual effort and places all emphasis on the collective, while discouraging those who stand out as achievers.


It might be more noticeable in the Scandinavian societies, but nuances of it is certainly in every culture.

An example of this is a friend of mine who came back from a 6 month travel with his wife and went back to work. He wrote a Facebook status about comments he received at work after coming back. It was something along the lines of “You should really work for 2 now because you’ve had such a long holiday” and I bet the comments didn’t end there. Comments like these are generally said in a humorous way, but reveals a sort of begrudging attitude.

I mean, it’s not like this friend of mine has more leave than anyone else at his work. And it’s not like the possibility to apply for 6 months absence of leave isn’t available to all (you might not get it, but everyone can request it). Even though I don’t know their financial situation in detail, I am quite certain they are not better off than the average Swede. Probably worse, as they work part-time and do volunteer work the rest of their time. Hence; it must have taken quite some planning and saving up to be able to go away for six months. During these six months they also spent time doing volunteer work so it wasn’t like a six month holiday either.

The above are some facts and some assumptions. Regardless of my friends actual circumstances (ie even if he got the money to go from a relative), it doesn’t give those bitter people, letting chances in life pass them by, the right to give these begrudging comments in the name of Jantelagen.

A while ago I spoke to an acquaintance of mine who just started a company and quit her job of 20 years or so. She said she’d had plans to quit already, but when the boss came and told her that she had to start working full-time she made the decision to quit sooner than planned. She said her boss had told her that it was unfair to the other employees that she had the opportunity to work part-time and that others had been complaining. How unprofessional!

I don’t understand people who are jealous of things like this. Usually they are in a position to go and do the same thing. But they don’t because they have got themselves stuck in a mortgage and need the full income. Or they choose to have a fancy car. Or choose to go on ski holidays every year or whatever. Some people choose to have less money and more time – it’s not unfair. It’s a choice most people could make if they wanted to, but they would have to make changes in their life to do it and they might not be prepared to make these changes.

A couple I know live in a studio flat the size of a wardrobe. Their boys are grown up and moved out, so they can choose to live like this, which enables them to both work part-time and go abroad several times a year.

It’s so cool and inspiring – not something that people should have the right (through “jantelagen”) to criticize or be jealous of. If it springs from an unhappiness of being stuck in the hamster wheel yourselves then let it inspire you to look over your own situation – make the changesYOU want, whether it’s have more free time in a week, go travel or do volunteer work just go for it!

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