Sunday, October 22, 2006
Lagom and Jante Law
Boom! Take that, Blogger! Got 'em. It took a week, but I finally got some "Visitors" pictures up. Yes! Oh, the joy of overcoming the great Blogger picture gatekeeper. Here's to Steve, Geoff and Won as well as the Sunukjians and our dinner of Swedish reindeer, potatoes, Aqvavit and desserts like you wouldn't believe. Makes you want to come visit, huh? But that was last week...
While I have many blog entries brewing, while there's an endless amount of Linköping fun facts, stories and experiences to keep this website active for years to come, I've gotta hold off in order to fill you in on a couple important life philosophies critical to understanding Swedes. So step back with me this week for a cultural lesson that may perhaps enlighten future entries.
"Lagom" is loosely translated in English as "just enough." This idea of society's needs and resources, and every person needing and deserving "just enough" to fill their needs is a Viking concept that still lives today, apparent in many areas of Swedish life, but most clearly in the Swedish socio-economic model where everyone has and deserves "just enough" for their needs. This is not a concept found only in history or social science classes because I have spoken with many Swedes very familiar with this and even asking if I'm aware of it. When they ask, I say "Yes, in preparation for my time here, I read about Lagom and also 'Jante Law.'"
The Jante Law
The Swedish Jante Law (Pr. 'Yante' Law) is the strongest social underpinning in the country. Think of how strong the American social ethic of "Pull yourself up by your bootstraps" is to American individualism and life and there you have the equivalent strength of a social protocol found in the Swedish Jante Law. Jante Law can be summarized as "Thou shalt not believe thou art something"--in other words, a great commandment to keep oneself in proper perspective to everyone else. A nationwide calling to humility is another way of looking at it. Socially and economically, one can see how different this is from an American perspective. And as American commercialism and cultural life is only on the increase throughout Sweden, the Jante Law brings about a tension that Swedes are having to address on many levels of society. In the end though, Jante Law is in full effect throughout Sweden serving to create a society that seems to work together and trust each other more than most, from what I've seen so far.
There's your classroom lecture for a little while. Talk amongst yourselves....but make sure it's in Swedish!
"Se du nästa vecka."
See you next week.