All posts by mplsthrumywindshield

I am an accidental Minnesota girl who arrived in Minneapolis from New Jersey back in 2007. I blog about life here on the tundra.

Minnesota Part 2: Minnesotans love Minnesota

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 😉 ).


Minnesota Part 1: So what’s all this business about Minnesota Nice?

Minnesota.  I never meant to hate Minnesota.  I meant to like it.  Actually, I meant to love it.  This was, in our minds, the glory land.  A friend of ours who moved here ahead of us had made it sound so great.  While we were living in NJ but waiting to sell our house we would break out in spontaneous song sometimes and sing “California here we come…”, only we’d replace the word California with Minnesota.  We were going to hit the ground running and our life was going  to take off.  Well, that never happened.  We got here and hit a road block, well a few road blocks. Cultural, social, climatic…

In large part I blame myself.  Usually, I research EVERYTHING.  It’s actually what I do for a living.  But for whatever only-God-knows reason I never researched Minnesota.  I never looked into the climate, the culture, the treatment of outsiders.  All I had to do was google it or go to city-data and I would have had plenty of my questions answered.  But nope, I never did that.  It didn’t even cross my mind. I was a happy, flexible, life-loving girl who could go anywhere and be anything.  I blindly moved 1,200 miles on the basis of a recommendation from a very persuasive and charismatic friend.  I didn’t realize that I was moving to a place so foreign that I would have irreconcilable differences with my new home state.  I have no one to blame but myself.

Trouble Spot #1 :  So, what’s all this business about Minnesota Nice?

I always thought Minnesota was like the other midwest states I had been to.  I had spent some time in Indiana and a good deal of time in Ohio.  Everyone in those places was very friendly.  People would just say hello for no reason or talk to you in the aisles at Walmart.  They seemed genuinely happy to see you, even if they didn’t know you.  I just assumed Minnesota was the same way.  What I soon learned is that people in Minnesota have generally good manners, which causes them to want to make you feel like they are interested in knowing you so that they won’t appear rude.  In actuality, they want to get through the necessary conversation, on with their business and back to the people they know and actually care about ASAP.  And, if they can avoid having any conversation with you at all, even better,  thus they avoid eye contact at all costs in stores and on the streets.  I experience this daily at the University of Minnesota.  I feel right at home, like I am back in New Jersey.

Sadly, this Minnesota niceness occurs even with people you actually know.  The old, “We should get together” line gets a lot of mileage out here.  I have wised up over the years though.  Many times, they don’t actually mean it.  I learned this pretty early on.  We have a friend here that  we know through some of my husband’s family that lives here.  She would always mention get togethers with her friends and how I should come and join them.  I thought she was serious.  Here I was, in a new state with no friends and a little bit of family, and here was this kind offer to get to know some people.  I followed up with her a few times, trying to get a date on the calendar, but it  was always the same response.  “Oh yah, that would be so much fun.  You should totally join us…”  Ok, I’m not a social moron.  Eventually, and much to her relief I am sure, I stopped asking.  That, my friends is the “Minnesota Nice”. Of course this woman needed to ask me to join her and her friends, it would seem rude not to.  She just didn’t realize that I didn’t know the game yet.  Silly me.  I wasn’t actually supposed to follow up with her.  Had I known, my proper response would have been, “Yeah, that’d be fun,” and then I would have left it at that.  Ok, got it, now I know.

One of my husband’s professors at the University of Minnesota, who came here from England, has observed the same thing.  She describes it as “pathological politeness”.  It is a driving  need to always, at all times and in every situation, have people think you are, well, nice.  Thus sacrificing all truth and honest communication on the altar of niceness.  I am very careful not to participate in this cultural phenomenon.  If I offer something to someone, I make sure they know I mean it.  I actually have made a verb out of it.  I often tell people, “I’m serious, I’m not Minnesota Nice-ing you”.


I finally decided to start a blog. Facebook just wasn’t cutting it anymore. I have too many thoughts to express in 420 character status updates. So here it is. My first entry. It’s nearly 2 am here in Minnesota, so I should head to bed. I will write my real first soon, but I had to say something more than the wordpress generated “Hello World”.