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Dreamers are castrated before they become a threat Posted by on Feb 25, 2010 in Culture

Imagine: You’re walking down the sidewalk or sitting on the bus maybe even on an airplane, who knows… but you are having a wonderful day and just a couple of seconds ago you thought of something you really want to do. Something just got you inspired and you are already up and far away from this planet. With your thoughts among the clouds.

I don’t know how long it will take you to fulfil your dream, maybe you’ll never manage to… but you had the chance to, and that makes the difference.

Now imagine: NEVER getting to dream! That privilege got taken away from you from the first day you started achieving things. It started before you could comprehend what was going on. On the playground your mother proudly tells her friends that you took your first steps yesterday. The other women ‘ohhh’ and ‘ahhhhh’ but their tempers are short and soon they are boasting about their children. Of course this isn’t quite the same as the horrid Tall Poppy Syndrome. But Jante-lagen has imprinted on most people who have lived in Sweden for a longer period of time. The act of listening to somebody else’s achievements and then being genuinely happy is a valued thing, and we are too focused on being jealous to truly appreciate achievements whoever they are made by.

Quite often I meet people who are starving for an ear to listen to their achievements. This I find sad, that people who are such social beings are still starving for attention because we don’t listen to each other.

I personally don’t like Jante lagen because it made it very hard for me to develop a sense of pride in myself. But it isn’t just Sweden that has this problem. After meeting people who come from different countries, I know that The Tall poppy syndrome doesn’t steer their societies! Is Sweden specifically known for its problems with Jante lagen outside of Sweden? How did Sweden turn out this way? Why Sweden?

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  1. lady dandelion:

    I recognize this – unfortunately. I think all countries has some of it, but it is true that it is extreme in Sweden. I love my country, but this feature is crippling and smothering and mixing up bragging with being able to feel joy and take pride in one’s successes. Very sad and one of the things that I more and more realize has made me uncomfortable here – in my mother country – throughout my life.

  2. Kimi the Qtswede:

    There are places here in the states, where populations of Germans are very high that the same thing is happening, and always has. There are parts of jante-lagen that I think other societies can take and use – here for example, the celebrations of mediocrity are ridiculous. Large amounts of money, and even parties are thrown for the silliest of things – progression from one grade to the next, irregardless of how badly the child did, for example. Also, too much emphasis here is on sports. So many kids think they are really special in sports and are crushed later when they see it wasn’t the case. I could go on forever.

  3. Neil Lucock:

    The Japanese have a saying that the nail that sticks out gets hammered down. It’s more about conforming to social norms than the Swedish Jante lagen.
    British people don’t like boasting and it’s considered bad form to say how good you are or something is. Instead, we understate everything, so a really good restaurant meal will be described as “not bad” or even “quite nice”. If we say someone is “alright” we really like them.

  4. katja:

    Understating things is another way of doing things. That is a post in it self, the culture differences and the misunderstandings between Swedes and Brits because the Swedes do the opposite, they usually overstate things. Makes communication interesting for bystanders.

  5. Charlotte:

    Wow, it seems we’ve had quite a few posts on “jante-lagen”…I find it sad to focus on something negative like that instead of pointing out the many great aspects of swedish culture. I think swedes genuinly care for eachother more than many others – there is a cameraderie where people accept and care for co-workers and neighbors in a way I think is quite special.

    Lets talk about semlas, 3 o’clock fika or the fantastic benefits of “bada bastu” instead 🙂

  6. katja:

    Charlotte, you’ve led us in the right direction! We’ll continue from here onward with happy Swedish characteristics and traditions. Have you got inspired and tried the 3 o’clock fika or eaten any Semlor this year?

  7. david:

    Well, it wasn’t that obvious for me before I read the articles about it. I don’t really believe that everything is really practised.
    But I for example wanted to move to Sweden because everyone is more equal. There seems to exist a higher respect for every person no matter what he wears or comes from. It is also very nice to be in a calm and relaxing environment where people have certain trust in each other. Where I come from I couldn’t imagine having salad, coffee and cake standing around for everyone to take.
    And I personally think that Swedes have a very reasonable pride, namely that they love their beautiful culture and nature. The typical American behaviour that is shown in so many films is really disturbing for me.