Communication, Equality and Janteloven

Source: "The Social Guidebook to Norway"

The Norwegian society is built on egalitarian principles

Everyone is considered of equal value

None should believe to be superior to others

While many nations claim the same

In Norway you feel it in every day interactions

You do not use special formulations to address your boss

Or your teachers

Or the prime minister

They would be shocked if you did.

The formal form “De”

Similar to the German “Sie”

Or French “Vous”

Disappeared in the Norwegian language.

While some nations may refer to their head of state in ways that leave little doubt on their higher social status



Norwegians are more direct and pragmatic


As Odd Børretzen puts it

“En Nordmanns forhold til Gud er omtrent som hans forhold til Kongen: Han synes Gud – og Kongen – er grei nok, forutsett at han oppfører seg som en skikkelig nordmann og ikke tror at han er noe spesielt!”


"A Norwegians relationship with God is much like his relationship with the King: He thinks God - and King - are okay, assuming he behaves like a real Norwegian and does not think that he is something special!"

This stand on equality affects the way people relate to each other at work and generally in society.

Norwegian Principle (The Law of Jante – 1st axiom)

“You’re not to think you are anything special.”

“Janteloven” or the “Law of Jante” is not a real law but the idea that there is a pattern of group behaviour towards individuals within Scandinavian communities that negatively portrays and criticises individual success and achievement as unworthy and inappropriate. The Jante Law as a concept was created by the Dano-Norwegian author Aksel Sandemose in his novel A fugitive crosses his tracks (En flyktning krysser sitt spor, 1933). See Wikipedia.

The law can be translated to English as follow:

  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 better 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.


    Source: "The Social Guidebook to Norway"

    By Julien S. Bourrelle

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