Trouble Spot #2: Minnesotans love Minnesota.
This is actually a really good quality and one that I desire for myself and my children. I want us to love the state where we live. It does however create a bit of a cultural conundrum. Because Minnesotans love Minnesota they never leave, and if they do leave, they often come back. This produces a tightly woven community of people held together by shared history and common experiences. Generations of families often live in the same town or within an easy drive of each other. People raise their children alongside friends they’ve had forever. It’s actually a beautiful thing, unless you’re an outsider trying to break in. In which case it feels like an impenetrable fortress.
I don’t fault the Minnesotans for this. By the time you are thirty-something your friendships are fairly well-established. And if you have generations of family surrounding you, along with the friends you’ve had your whole life, you really have no need of new people. And if you have little need of new people, you’re much less likely to open your eyes and really see anyone new who might be around you.
Now mind you, I love people. I enjoy meeting new people, reaching out to people, hearing their stories, understanding where they are coming from, making them a part of my life. So arriving in a place where that is such a monumental task has been really unexpected and difficult to deal with. And three years in, I haven’t made much headway. There are two people I hang out with on a very regular basis, and then another two that I see at least once a month or every other month. It isn’t that I don’t know anyone else, but I am just talking about those people who I get together with regularly or who I call just to chat. Of those four, three are transplants. There is my friend from Mississippi, my Colombian friend, a friend from New York, and a friend who has lived here since she was five. (She is the closest thing we have to a Minnesota friend. We have joked with her about why she bothers with us and thank her for being a friend to us outsiders). Over and over again I hear the same story from people who are not originally from here. They can’t break in, they can’t make friends. As a result we transplants are drawn to each other. Perhaps our inability to be accepted as a part of this place is like our own little bit of shared history that draws us together, and we create these mini-communities of folks that are not from here.
Because of all this, holidays can be especially hard. As if it isn’t bad enough to be thousands of miles from your actual family, there is no supplementing it with your new-found Minnesota family. When it comes to holidays here, it is all about “Us and Ours”. In our experience, there is little opening of doors to people outside the fold. So, if you can’t come up with other family-less transplants to spend the holidays with, you are on your own. It’s kind of sad to drive past the neighbors’ homes and see the driveways filled with cars, knowing that inside the generations are gathered, telling stories, eating yummy food and wonder, “Couldn’t we just come in for coffee?” It’s a strange feeling to be so surrounded by people and yet to be all alone. I sometimes wind up feeling like a little kid standing outside in the cold and peering in with my nose pressed up against the glass (No, I haven’t ACTUALLY done that 😉 ).