Why you and not me? Expressions of envy in Sweden and Indonesia

2014 IJRSP – Volume 3 Issue 3


Adrianson, Lillemor*
Boras University, Sweden (lillemor.adrianson@hb.se)

Ramdhani, Neila
Gadjah Mada University, Indonesia (neila.ramdhani@ugm.id)


The purpose of the present study was to describe experience of envy in two different cultures, Indonesia and Sweden. Envy is a feeling that most people have experienced and mostly regards as shameful. The concept relates to a variety of feeling that shows its complexity. The result shows that envy had a wider meaning in the Indonesian language than in Swedish, and consisted of emotional words that were rare among the Swedish respondents. The Swedish respondents’ descriptions were, with few exceptions, connected to a malicious (ill will) meaning while it was obvious that the Javanese respondents used also the concept of benign envy (without ill will). Jealousy and envy seemed to overlap each other more in Bahasa Indonesia than in the Swedish use of the words. The latter had a distinct word for schadenfreude that was lacking in Bahasa Indonesia. For the Swedish respondents, wanting to have what another person possesses was a central element of envy, for example prosperity or competence. The Javanese respondents stressed relationships, achievements and personal characteristics’ as main causes for envy. Both the Swedish and Javanese respondents reported that a person who they knew and with whom they had an established relationship, such as a friend or a fellow student, had envied them and the causes for this were about the same as their own.

Keywords: emotion; culture; malicious; envious; Javanese


DOI: https://doi.org/10.5861/ijrsp.2014.743

*Corresponding Author