Category 1

Social conformity

December 21, 2022

Why Janteloven is essential for understanding Danish culture

Michael Booth, author of The Almost Nearly Perfect People joins Sam and Josefine in the studio to discuss "The Law of Jante" that comes from a 1933 book by Danish-Norwegian author Axel Sandemose and still influences Scandinavian culture today.

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We're back with Season 3!

In this episode we tackle Janteloven or "The Law of Jante".

In 1933, a Danish-Norwegian author called Axel Sandemose wrote a book describing a fictional town in rural Denmark.

The people of the town were very set in their ways, and didn't like it when individuals tried to break from the norms, or think that they were in any way special.

This fictional (satirical) piece of work has come to define how many in Scandinavia see their lives today: people are sceptical of individual success, and prefer to "be average" rather than aspire to stand out from the crowd.

Of course, it's not that simple, but knowing about this undercurrent of conformity can help explain why people in Denmark are seemingly content (or frustrated by!) following the crowd.

We are joined by writer Michael Booth (author of The Almost Nearly Perfect People) and also speak with Søren Ledet, co-founder of Geranium, a Danish restaurant that has been voted as the best restaurant in the world.

Michael shares his experiences of getting to grips with Janteloven and even learning to love it (on occasion). In the episode we reference this article he wrote for The Guardian that caused a bit of a storm.

Søren discusses how breaking free from Janteloven has allowed Geranium to achieve the next level of culinary greatness, but still without fully discarding the central law of Jante - "You are not better than anyone else".

There's much that's discussed on the pros and cons of social conformity, as well as many anecdotes from life in Denmark.

We hope you enjoy!

This episode is sponsored by Talent to Denmark's "State of Denmark" campaign.

Denmark is actively looking to attract international talent to move to the country. If you're interested to learn more about jobs in (one of) the happiest countries in the world, head to www.state-of-denmark.com/wtd

You can also learn more about What The Denmark on our website, Facebook and Instagram @whatthedenmark

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