Sunday, 9 February 2014

Sort of about research, sort of about Janteloven

I have been known to fall for a couple of April Fool's jokes in the past. The best one being that Virgin Atlantic had designed a bottom glass plane, so passengers would be able to see the ground whilst in the air. I didn't share on Facebook, although that's how I discovered it, but I remember thinking "God, that's so cool" without taking a second to think about why that actually wouldn't be practical or possible. Am I glad I didn't share. When it was revealed by 12pm that all the enthusiastic sharers had been tricked, goodness only knows how many people had been taken in by it, such is the power of the internet. (I'm going somewhere with this, I promise).

I stopped going on expat forums and I left pretty much all the expat Facebook groups apart from Expat In Denmark. Why? Because there's a lot of crap and a lot of the comments/posts are simply parroted sweeping generalisations about Danes and/or Denmark. It also quickly becomes clear, when challenged, that things are simply being repeated and not researched. Common statements out there in cyberspace are that Danes are cold, Danes are all racists, Danes tell you off for putting the wrong toppings on rye bread etc (by the way, I don't know why anyone would put smoked salmon on rye bread - the bread overpowers the fish).

Janteloven, however, is the one that annoys me most.

A quick Google of Janteloven (or Jante's Law)  will lead you to believe that a Dane will knock you down if you ever dare achieve something. Janteloven is also something I only ever hear expats cry about. Hand on heart. I have only ever had one Dane refer to Janetloven and it was as a joke comment to my husband's Facebook status which boasted that we were in sunny Thailand, and everyone else was in rainy Denmark. Other than that, never heard it uttered from a Dane in seriousness.

I'm writing about this because expat forums are flooded with disgruntled people who claim that Danes don't like it when people do well. Based on my own research and experience with speaking to Danes (friends, family, colleagues, networking) I believe this to be a myth.

When I finally got a job, when we bought our first flat, when my husband bagged himself a new client ... we all got genuine congratulations. All of those things were big achievements, so congratulations were deserved. What is not looked upon kindly here (in my experience anyhow) - and this actually goes for the UK too - is when people brag. And I'm not talking the sort of bragging that parents do when their kids get brilliant school grades - that's bragworthy - but I'm talking the crass, unclassy sort of bragging conducted by who we call in the UK, and I apologise in advance for the language, Billy Big Bollocks. The swaggery types who march around and think they're better than everyone else. The arrogant types who exist to have power. The Donald Trump wannabes who flash the cash unnecessarily. Those are the sorts of people I hear put down in conversation and, in my opinion, rightly bloody so. To be so arrogant is uncouth, and I like enjoy it if and when I see such people taken down a peg or two. That is how I define Janteloven. It exists in more countries than Denmark - it just so happens that there's a Danish word for it.

Please feel free to agree or disagree, I always welcome discussion.