The Law of Jante: When the higher status are criticized

In Denmark, and throughout the Nordic countries, conspicuous consumption is being somewhat curbed because of Janteloven, or the Law of Jante. Ufabet.

The law of Jante

The law of Jante

The ‘law comes from a 1933 novel by Danish-Norwegian Aksel Sandemose and can be boiled down to ‘You’re no better than us.’ It promotes a culture where people of high status are criticized because they have been classified as better – or pretend to be better – than their peers. In English, this is known as tall-poppy syndrome.

This is a big component of Scandinavian culture and the reason why you will see very few flashy luxury cars in Denmark. Well, that and a 150 per cent car tax, obviously. But the Jantelov goes deeper and wider than cars.

Where success may be enthusiastically flaunted in the US, humbleness is the bigger virtue in Scandinavia. Buy a luxury car with a personal licence plate saying ‘SUCCESS’ (as I saw in Riga, Latvia), and you can expect to have your car keyed within a day or two.

There are a lot of negative implications to the Law of Jante, but we tend to overlook one positive aspect: it does seek to curb conspicuous consumption, and that may not be a bad thing. Being exposed to other people’s wealth can have a negative effect. In South Korea, they have a saying for all this: ‘If one cousin buys land, the other cousin gets a stomach ache.’