A4 is the standard size of a sheet of paper (anywhere but the USA, Canada, Mexico and the Dominican Republic).

In Norwegian, there's an idiom, "The A4 life". It means something like:

You work 8-4 in a fairly common profession, have a house, one or two cars, a spouse, and one or more children. You don't do anything extraordinary, you've settled down, and live life like everyone else.

Note: It doesn't mean you live a boring life, and it's not necessarily negative. It means that on paper, your life is just like everyone else's. Note that the part about having a spouse and children is essential.

Is there a word, idiom or phrase that describes this in English?

  • 1
    An ordinary life.
    – user66974
    Commented Sep 21, 2017 at 20:09
  • 1
    But you can live an ordinary life if you're single too, or? The part about having a spouse and children is essential. Commented Sep 21, 2017 at 20:11
  • "The full catastrophe"--Zorba the Greek
    – Xanne
    Commented Sep 21, 2017 at 23:57

3 Answers 3


That's a great phrase! I can't think of a direct analogue in English, but the closest is probably to have settled down: to have 'establish[ed] a settled lifestyle, and especially to [have] marr[ied].' A more interesting idiom is to have 2.4 children: to have an average or conventional family life, by reference to the supposed average number of children per family in the UK. Someone with 2.4 children probably also has a 9 to 5 (this can be used without the suffix 'job' and doesn't necessarily mean that they actually work from 9 am to 5 pm).


You might call an average person a common name like John Doe (also Jane Doe) or John Smith.

A white picket fence is a symbol of an ordinary life. You could say "living a white picket fence life."

An Average Joe (US) or an Ordinary Joe (UK) is another name for an archetypical person.


We sometimes utilize the latin term status quo when referencing someone's life attributes in comparison to an average. For example, a thirty-something year old in the middle of his career working standard or regular hours, living in an cozy house, possibly married with about 2 children, might have a status quo life.

Other expressions include the terms 2.4 children, John/Jane Doe, middle-class, 9 to 5, ordinary, bread-and-butter, and especially in America, living the American dream or living a white picket fence life.

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