31 March 2012
By Tennie Videler
On my recent trip to Oslo I found out about ‘Jantelov’, a social ‘law which prevents Scandinavian people from boasting. It is worse than that, they feel they should not think about themselves as someone special or talk about their achievements. As an example I was told people lie about exam results if they are above average and in a class you don’t volunteer an answer too frequently to not be seen as a show-off (I figure Hermione Granger would not fit in..) Apparently, the prime minister would tell you if you met him at a party and did not recognise him that ‘he works for central government’ rather than admit that he runs the country.
This interesting cultural difference presented a challenge as I was running a workshop based on Vitae’s Careers in Academia, to give people insight into writing CVs and doing well in job interviews among other aims. CVs wasn’t too much of a problem, as a written down list felt more acceptable than if they would have to talk about their achievements. We explored whether the idea of giving evidence (using the STAR method: explaining the situation, the task you took on, your approach and the result) would be a way round this, which they liked, but only in a way ‘so that people can draw their own conclusions’….
It must be really hard for Scandinavians to thrive in the States for example. Do you internationally mobile people have similar examples or contradictory experiences?