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Paint My Mind Podcast from Sweden - Tall Poppy Syndrome

Doug Garland
Doug Garland
2 min read
Paint My Mind Podcast from Sweden - Tall Poppy Syndrome
Photograph by Tony Jaramillo

Table of Contents

Podcaster Rasmus Lindhagen is from the city of Örebro which is 2 hours west of Stockholm. I have looked forward to a Nordic podcast so that I could better understand their culture and brand of egalitarianism. Both Australia and Nordic countries are egalitarian but pursue it disparately.

I studied the Australian culture extensively to understand the Tall Poppy Syndrome (TPS). It is recognized as a noticeable part of their lives and is most prominent amongst the Anglophile countries. Australian researchers have studied the effects of TPS on their population more than any other country (see: The Dark Side of Success: Envy and the Tall Poppy Syndrome). Assorted tall poppies appear but they are cut down for various reasons such as envy and justification.

The Nordic countries are egalitarian as well but they take a different approach to maintaining the ordinary. Instead of cutting down a poppy who grew too tall, their culture tries to prevent people from growing tall.

The Law of Jante originates in the writings of Danish author Aksel Nielson. His 1933 novel, A Fugitive Crosses His Tracts, is set in a small fictional village, Jante, in the early twentieth century. He poked fun at their lifestyle and their low brow methods of maintaining mediocrity while eschewing excellence.

Here are his laws:

   You're not to think you are anything special.

   You're not to think you are as good as we are.

   You're not to think you are smarter than we are.

   You're not to imagine yourself better than we are.

   You're not to think you know more than we do.

   You're not to think you are more important than we are.

   You're not to think you are good at anything.

   You're not to laugh at us.

   You're not to think anyone cares about you.

   You're not to think you can teach us anything.

You will learn from the podcast that urbanization appears to have lessened the awareness and effects of the Law of Jante . The term janteloven has supplanted the Law of Jante and is a more generalized scheme of conduct. Even more common is lagom which translates as "not too little, not too much." This reminds me of the Goldilocks and the Three Bears fairytale where the porridge is not too hot nor too cold but "just right."


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Douglas Garland, M.D. practiced orthopedic surgery for 37 years in Southern California. Doug was also a Clinical Professor of Orthopedics at the University of Southern California.