Friday, April 11, 2014

J ~ Jantelagen - It's Not About Me #atozchallenge


All Aboard! "It's Very Swedish..." a train on a cultural journey through Sweden, exploring the differences big and small between American and Swedish culture.

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Today's topic isn't food!  It's an idea.  A law if you will. Jantelagen = Jante's Law and originates in the novel A Refugee crosses his tracks by Aksel Sandemose.  He was a Danish/Norwegian who set his story in the town of Jante, where there was a sort of jealousy where you weren't allowed to think more highly of yourself than others. (Source)

It's evolved to a Scandinavian way of thought, and has also been found in other cultures.  When The Swede asked me if I had something for J, I said sure, I'm writing about real Christmas trees (julgranar).  

He told me about Jantelagen, which I'd never heard of, and I thought it was such a neat idea, and so different than American culture today that I threw the Christmas tree in the trailer and took it to the tree limb recycling facility.  (Ok, The Engineer did, a long time ago...but I thought it was kinda funny...but I'm delirious with blog visiting and Twitter chatting so what do I know.)

In American culture we're bombarded with ads that say, "You're worth it!"  "If you don't do it for yourself, who will?"  We strive to achieve, we want the credit for the idea, we seek the center of attention (ahem, that one strikes rather close to heart) and we want that trophy proclaiming we won.

Not so in Scandinavia.  There's a striving for NOT getting the attention, NOT getting the glory, NOT getting the credit.  Work quietly in the background, and give the other guy the credit.  I find this a refreshing idea.

How do you feel about this "law"?  I know from the comments that you readers are from all over the world.  Is there something similar in your culture? Does your culture lean more towards the American way or the Swedish way?

~Tina, who is going to try to recede more into the background and practice her Swedish roots :-)

P.S I did promise embarrassing childhood photos, and so far you haven't gotten many as fish, dill, ice, etc. aren't really embarrassing. So here you go:  me and Swissie.  I'm all gussied up to win first place at a gymnastics meet...



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34 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Jantelagen - it's also called being humble. Yeah, that's a novel idea, isn't it? That's also in line with what it says in the Bible - the greatest among you will be the greatest servant.
I've never wanted the attention or glory. That's why I'd rather feature others on my blog.

Elsie Amata said...

Humility is lost in America today. It's sad really that our grandparents mentally is now gone. I understand the importance of being recognized for an achievement - such as winning an award or medal - but when it's the person receiving it that runs around telling people how awesome they are, it kinda defeats it's purpose.

I was a gymnast too! You're adorable.

Elsie
AJ's wHooligan in the A-Z Challenge

CA Heaven said...

Jante's Law is still around in Scandinavia, unfortunately. It's more than normal humility, which can be good in many cases. Jante's Law is also about breaking down people's self esteem, the way I interpret it.

Cold As Heaven

Julekha Khatun said...

Yes in indian culture too we have something similar , where we sit in the background do work not seeking any attention ...With times this habit of ours is evolving too!

Nice post Tina!

JoJo said...

My parents kept me in line with not being proud of my accomplishments, not that there were many. They may have said it to me but if I ever expressed pride in anything I did, my mom would knock me down a peg or two with some snide comment about having a swelled head. :(

Elizabeth Cardamone said...

Hey Tina! Visiting from the A to Z sign up page. This is interesting, and very different from America, where every kid, no matter how uncoordinated, gets a prize. Once, at a birthday party, my son didn't win one of games and got upset. Every other parent said to me; "Oh, aren't you upset? Don't you feel bad for him?" Nope. I thought it was an excellent lesson. Call me heartless, but not everyone can win.

Best regards,
Elizabeth

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I like Elizabeth's story above. Life isn't about winning and self. Someone who never loses can develop a skewed sense of worth and won't survive when they do finally lose.

Kim Van Sickler said...

You've touched on one of the trends of American culture that get on my last nerve and that is how marketers have tapped into our feeling of entitlement. Guess what? Sometimes we don't deserve instant gratification. The win or reward is ALWAYS sweeter if we have to bust our butts to earn it. You can take that to the bank.

Kathe W. said...

Humility is the English word I think?(maybe?) for Jantelagen. A rare quality in the good old USA.
We could use more of it here. Our country is full of people who in my opinion should be diagnosed with a narcissistic personality disorder. They are characterized by exaggerated feelings of self-importance. They have a sense of entitlement and demonstrate grandiosity in their beliefs and behavior. They have a strong need for admiration, but lack feelings of empathy.
And I think Washington DC is full of these emotionally disabled people.
This is an excellent post and the little bit about your Christmas tree caused me to fall off my chair as I was laughing so hard. You have a great sense of humor! Never let that go!Cheers!

Ann Hinds said...

This is an interesting post. With the no child left behind theory, everyone wins. There is no place for children to learn humility with this policy. I was taught (and believe) what the Bible says. We are raising a grandchild (now a teen) and we constantly have to correct the notion that everything he does is great. I like the concept of Jantelagen and I think we will be learning about it today. It's Easter vacation and we have some free time. Thanks for sharing!
http://yeakleyjones.blogspot.com/

DAVID WALSTON said...

That is a Law we all should live by!

Jo said...

Great law, wish I had been brought up with it. I do like attention I'm afraid. I also feel a lift when I produce a meal which is enjoyed by everyone. And after all, I blog. I think the mere fact of writing one means we are looking for some kind of attention.

Daidri Smythe said...

Tina I love learning something new and this was my something new today! Very interesting law and I definitely would fit in just fine in the Swedish culture. I have always struggled to receive a compliment and don't like attention on my birthday, etc. I'm not sure why, I'd just rather give than receive. :) Great A to Z post!

Laura Clipson said...

This is a great law, certainly something we should all try to do more.

klahanie said...

Aha, our adorable young gymnast. Your mentioning of the Swedish ethos is very much how I am in the blogging world. I like the Swedish way. Working quietly in the background, without the fanfare, is very much my ideal. It has worked for seven years of blogging.

Have a lovely weekend, dear Tina.

Gary :)

bemuzin.com said...

I like the Swedish ethic. I also like the picture of you two; nothing embarrassing about that picture and genuinely happy smiles.

Andrew Leon said...

Wait, how do you find out how highly others value you so that you know how highly to value yourself? That seems kind of iffy to me.

I think Alex is looking for Philippians 2:3 "...with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves."

Michael Di Gesu said...

A TOTALLY REFRESHING POV...

Yes, sadly, Americans are power hungry and will step all over anyone and take credit for everything, even if they didn't do it!

Susan Scott said...

mmmm, here in South Africa there's a bit of both, those doing anything to gain attention and those who are more retiring.
We also fit the mould that if you want it you can get it - sadly this leads to robberies of eg cell phones or less, and MUCH larger. Our transition to democracy (20 years already) has been challenging but it has left the less fortunate with the belief of what's yours is mine and if I want it, I will have it. In spite of this SA is a great country.
Thanks for this interesting post Tina ..
Garden of Eden Blog

Melanie Schulz said...

That's not embarrassing- that's sweet.

Spacer Guy said...

Love your neighbour as yourself, think of yourself as a winner or life will become a blur. Humility? Even the guy sweeping the floor wants to feel important.

cleemckenzie said...

I'm for a touch of humility. It shows off a person's best side.

That picture isn't humiliating! Did you win that first place?

Lisa Southard said...

Fantastic photo! We (by which I mean my family) fall somewhere between the two approaches: we are important, and so is everyone: so enjoy your own view without blocking any one else's. I also believe Life Is Good :-)
Lisa at Wishbone Soup Cures Everything

Lisa Southard said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gail M Baugniet - Author said...

Social Media teaches us to brand ourselves and sell ourselves by showing the world how much better we are than the next guy. Humility does not play a part in the new social order. Being humble and letting the other woman get the credit is such a foreign concept, I don't see the practice "catching on" in America during my lifetime.
Love the picture!
Gail visiting for AtoZ

Gail M Baugniet - Author said...

Social Media teaches us to brand ourselves and sell ourselves by showing the world how much better we are than the next guy. Humility does not play a part in the new social order. Being humble and letting the other woman get the credit is such a foreign concept, I don't see the practice "catching on" in America during my lifetime.
Love the picture!
Gail visiting for AtoZ

faeriembassy said...

I dont think this is part of our cultural identity here but what strikes me is that it sounds very like humility and that seems to be a bit of an old fashioned concept these days. personally I like it

faeriembassy said...

I dont think this is part of our cultural identity here but what strikes me is that it sounds very like humility and that seems to be a bit of an old fashioned concept these days. personally I like it

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Tina .. Hygge - I was going to post about it for the Ubuntu blog .. but check out the Wiki article under Danish Culture .. I know you've masses of time a the moment - no don't fly over the pond and give me a gently flip-flap face slap!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Danish_culture

Really this III mmememememmeee all the time IS as you say a right pain ..

Cheers Hilary

A Tarkabarka Hölgy said...

It sounds good for society. Sometimes I get annoyed with the USA for the constant competition. At the same time, I think I am too far gone at this point to backpedal... Plus, I make a living from performance :D
Nice post! Very interesting.

@TarkabarkaHolgy from
Multicolored Diary - Tales of colors
MopDog - The crazy thing about Hungarians...

Ida Chiavaro said...

I was fascinated by Jante's law when I moved to Denmark, it was originally a poke at his old life in Denmark, and has a negative side too - much like Australia's tall poppy syndrome... Great choice for J.

Ida Chiavaro said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
shelly said...

The Swedish way is much better. The first shall be last and the last shall be first.

melaniegobledvm said...

This is great! Sadly, I think it is lacking in American culture as a whole, but the reason it appears that way is the people that do live this way are not in the spotlight. It is up to each one of us to recognize when it is happening and strive to take humble pride in putting others first. Not the detriment of self, but for the betterment of others. it is a wonderful thing that does happen, but gets lost in the world we live in. Can we chose our world? Chose who we surround ourselves? Food for thought