The Norwegian Egalitarian Society

Illustrations: "The Social Guidebook to Norway"

The Norwegian society is built on egalitarian principles

Everyone is considered of equal value

None should believe to be superior to others

While many nations claim the same

In Norway you feel it in every day interactions

You do not use special formulations to address your boss

Or your teachers

Or the prime minister

Like you may do in other places

The formal form “De”

Similar to the German “Sie”

Or French “Vous”

Disappeared in the Norwegian language

While some nations may refer to their head of state in ways that leave little doubt on their higher social status


Norwegians are more direct and pragmatic


Norwegians are not less polite because they do not use the third or second person, nor use titles

This is simply part of their egalitarian culture

We relate to others equally in Norway

Politeness means something different here

The Norwegian relationship with equality is one of the things I love about Norwegians

It affects the way people relate to each other at work and outside work

This is exactly what our authors describe in their books on the Norwegian culture

Odd Børretzen also wrote a great book about the Norwegian culture

This is how he summaries Norwegian's relationships to equality

“En Nordmanns forhold til Gud er omtrent som hans forhold til Kongen: Han synes Gud – og Kongen – er grei nok, forutsett at han oppfører seg som en skikkelig nordmann og ikke tror at han er noe spesielt!”


"A Norwegians relationship with God is much like his relationship with the King: He thinks God - and King - are okay, assuming he behaves like a real Norwegian and does not think that he is something special!"

And of course The Law of Jante

“You’re not to think you are anything special.”

“Janteloven” or the “Law of Jante” is not a real law but the idea that there is a pattern of group behaviour towards individuals within Scandinavian communities that negatively portrays and criticises individual success and achievement as unworthy and inappropriate. The Jante Law as a concept was created by the Dano-Norwegian author Aksel Sandemose in his novel A fugitive crosses his tracks (En flyktning krysser sitt spor, 1933). See Wikipedia.

The law can be translated to English as follow:

  1. You’re not to think you are anything special.

  2. You’re not to think you are as good as us.

  3. You’re not to think you are smarter than us.

  4. You’re not to convince yourself that you are better than us.

  5. You’re not to think you know more than us.

  6. You’re not to think you are better than us.

  7. You’re not to think you are good at anything.

  8. You’re not to laugh at us.

  9. You’re not to think anyone cares about you.

  10. You’re not to think you can teach us anything.



Read more about our amazing Norwegian friends in Our Social Guidebooks to Norway 


By Julien S. Bourrelle

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