Past Episodes

Episode # 20 – Special Edition. The Concept of Jante Law, Created by Aksel Sandemosse

Bookmark and Share

This is a special edition of MyDenmarkTV (Episode #20), in which we take a trip up north Zealand to Espergærde to meet a sociology professor, Jan Kirstein, who works at Roskilde University. The purpose is to talk about the Jante Law (janteloven), which is quite Scandinavian i.e. Danish/Norwegian concept, invented by the novelist Aksel Sandemosse in his novel "A fugitive crosses his tracks". Special thanks to Jan for sharing his knowledge on the concept. Enjoy the special edition! Important! Leave us your comments, let us know what you think about the Jante law. Were you familiar with it? Have you experienced it in Denmark or outside of it?

Websites and resources shared in this special Episode are as follows: (Jante Law on Wiki) (Roskilde University)
Book 1: G. Prakash Reddy: Danes are like that! Perspectives of an Indian Anthropologist on the Danish Society. GREVAS Forlag. Mørke. Denmark. 1993
Book 2: G. Prakash Reddy: Danish Dilemmas. Perspectives of an Indian Anthropologist on Values in Danish Society. Dep. of Anthropology SRI Venkateswara Uiversity.

Danish words mentioned in the Episode:
En lov - law
pas på - watch out
regn - rain

Other Useful Resources: (A restaurant booking site - free and instantly confirmed) (An ever-growing collection of web resources to make your stay more fun and enjoyable)
Consult with MyDenmarkTV team (Via telephone, to help you make your stay in Denmark more enjoyable) Copenhagen Tours (Book a guided tour by water or by bicycle and explore the best of the sights and sounds of Copenhagen)

If you enjoyed this episode, you might be interested in:

  1. Episode # 4 – Special Edition. The Famous Danish Lunch and the Concept of ‘Hygge’


7 Responses to “Episode # 20 – Special Edition. The Concept of Jante Law, Created by Aksel Sandemosse”

  1. Glyn says:

    Hello from “down under”. The discussion of Jante Law mirrored life in small town /suburbia/community group in Prewar Australia which gradually dissipated in the second half of the 20th century. You could call it human nature ,tribalism, or uneducated bigotory. The advent of improved transport and mass communication opened the eyes of all — even those who did not or still do not want to see. (see ,learn ,experience etc any thing new). I think its the same the whole world over . Cheers and thankyou for educating me about my wife’s homeland.


  2. mathea says:

    yet another great episode… people say similar things about New Englanders here in the United States… We are not as open perhaps as other parts of our country, but I still think we are reasonably friendly. Thank you very much for the wonderful, informative episodes!


  3. Augustine says:

    you really have excellent videos,
    if, it is possible and you can invite to come
    over there and I’ll join you. It would be possible.
    thank you.


  4. Michael M says:

    I feel Jante Law is a mixed aspect of Danish life – the 10 laws themselves seem very negative, but I can understand the “everyone is equal” aspect. However, as a foreigner hoping to come to study in Denmark (and maybe even live there after my course!) this seems a rather scary and negative aspect – as I feel I would be in the ‘them’ category. However, I enjoyed this video, and it certainly made the issue clearer.


  5. Allan Birch says:

    Jan Kirstein is almost right.
    In my opinion Janteloven is used not just in small cities, but all over Denmark.
    It’s being used to “keep good people down.”
    An example:
    If an american businessman, factoryowner, shopowner ect. buys an expensive, big car, they’ll admire him for having a good business.
    If a danish shopowner do the same, the danish will (hidden, off course) envy him and say: he cheats his costumers with too high prices, he cheats the state for taxes ect., and maybe he’ll have less costumers. So he’ll buy a smaller car. (Less “show off,” we don’t like that)
    Maybe even the public will check him extra to “find something.”

    Prakash Reddy was actually living only 2 km. from me when he wrote the two books about the danes!!! In a very small village called Hvilsager, about 30 km. from Århus.

    Trainer Anja Andersen was right about Janteloven, she was/is a god gifted trainer, but DON’T COPY HER, she has a very bad attitude. I don’t think, she knows much about politeness and decent behavior on job anyway.
    My advise to new citizens here: BE YOURSELF, polite, decent, use your skills good, but don’t show off.


  6. TKJ says:

    I know it’s a very late reply, but oh well. And for the record, I am Danish. :)
    While I agree with Allan Birch on parts of his post, I strongly disagree on other parts.

    Envy is not a Danish thing. If you’re poor (relatively speaking) in any country, you’ll probably envy the neighbor with a Porsche in the garage. Saying “I admire him!” might be the ‘PC’ thing to do but it would also be a complete lie.

    Allan also gave some advice at the end of his post, which I agree with. The thing is though, that politeness is not the same all over the world.

    It’s not that Danes run around beating up rich people, burning down their big houses or anything like that, but it is simply not seen as being polite to run around bragging no matter who you are, how good you may be at or how rich you may be.
    If you can afford a big house and a cool car, go for it. Just don’t don’t expect people to admire you if you run around yelling “I’ve got a cooler car than you!”
    They will just be annoyed. Not by the fact that you have a cool car, but the fact that you’re being.. Well, an ass about it.

    You can kind of read/understand the Jantelov in two different ways.
    #1. You’re no good! Go die!
    #2. You’re not better than anyone else. Behave! – As in, you’re not better than me and I’m not better than you. (It goes both ways after all. It applies to everyone. Not just the one person). We are in fact equal no matter which car we drive and how much we earn etc.

    Most Danes have never read the Jantelov or the book from which it originated, so the “Fuck Janteloven” thing is mostly just a fad. People are trying to be ‘clever’ without even knowing what they’re talking about. If you actually do read up on it, it seems obvious to me, that #2. is what was meant by it. A small town in the “old days” wouldn’t want a person to run around thinking he owned the place.

    Anyway.. Good videos.
    I find it very entertaining and informative to see what foreigners have to say about our country. There’s a lot of stuff that I never even thought of in these videos as I’m just used to everything being the way they are. :)



Check out what others are saying about this post...
  1. [...] It’s probably better to hear it from an actual Dane, so here’s a nice little video of my colleague Katie Rice interviewing sociology professor Jan Kirstei…. [...]

Speak Your Mind

Tell us what you're thinking...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!