Non-native Minnesotans: Speak your mind on “Minnesota Nice”

Thousands of people have just transplanted to Minnesota (“Welcome!”) for the sake of University. It seems important to give them a hearty introduction to our state. If they missed out on cheese curds, deep-fried pickles, and the Fair, they certainly shouldn’t miss out on this – Minnesota Nice.

Minnesota Nice is the “stereotypical behavior of people born and raised in Minnesota” (emphasis mine). I’m one of them. MN Nice is further described, according to Wikipedia, as being “courteous, reserved, and mild-mannered.” As such there exists a “polite friendliness, an aversion to confrontation, a tendency toward understatement, a disinclination to make a fuss or stand out, emotional restraint, and self-deprecation.”

Wow (sarcasm dripping). What a beautiful definition of what it means to grow up Minnesotan. How kind we are to one another! How we humble ourselves! What saints of restraint we are!

Contrast the above with a much briefer (and more accurate?) definition from the urban dictionary: To be Minnesota Nice is to be passive-aggressive. Whoa! That was pretty frontal.

Well, which is it? 

Transplants and non-natives of Minnesota, what’s been your experience with Minnesota Nice? Has your experience been largely one of genuine kindness? Or would you have experienced more passive-aggressiveness amongst this MN nice charade?

Perhaps, I’m a bit jaded and desirous of a bit more New York or Boston flair. One person noting, “New Yorkers aren’t rude, we are just honest and efficient.” That sounds great. But, just to be clear, New Yorkers are rude by our midwestern standards, honest and efficient as they may be. But, could our conversations benefit from a bit more honesty of New Yorkers while still retaining the niceties of Minnesota? Is it possible? I think it is. But, what do you think?

And does pursuing this balance connect at all with the biblical teaching to “speak the truth in love?” Whatcha think?

QUESTIONS

  1. Non-natives, what do you feel about Minnesota Nice? How would you speak your mind on this topic?
  2. Minnesotans, what are your thoughts on this? Do you fit within either of these stereotype – either extremely nice OR passive-aggressive? Would you answer honestly or in a way so as to avoid confrontation? HA!
  3. How does this topic of MN nice interact with having a relationship with Christ? Is there any overlap?

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Posted on by Cor in LIFE

37 Responses to Non-native Minnesotans: Speak your mind on “Minnesota Nice”

  1. Brita

    I’m from Montana and think people are very nice there too. :) I do notice a much more passive-aggressive communication style here. I’m a teacher and I notice it especially with parent emails…drives me nuts. People are much more willing to be cruel in writing but smile to your face.

    During meetings at work people sometimes seemed shocked that I just speak frankly and don’t sugar coat things or speak more passively. I do try to be respectful though. I also have met some wonderful caring Christian friends here but shouldn’t all Christians be that way? Unfortunately it doesn’t seem that way.

  2. Amber

    I’m a Minnesotan displaced in Virginia, and I never appreciated the genuineness of Minnesotans until I moved here. Even at the grocery store, the cashiers never engage in even the friendly “How are you?” Most people keep their head down in public, and look at me like I’m crazy when I smile and say hi. The two weeks a year I’m home are always the best, because I feel like I have friends everywhere I go, even though I don’t know 99% of them.

    • Cor

      In Virginia? I guess I didn’t expect to hear that.

      • Ben

        If Amber is talking about Northern Virginia (i.e. DC suburbs), I’d concur. It’s much more East Coast than Southern there. Just moved back after living there for four years, and it’s amazing how many basic courtesies we have in Minnesota just aren’t there.

        • Amber

          Actually, I live in Lynchburg – in southwestern VA. It’s not as bad as Northern VA, but definitely not as you’d expect the “south” to be. I’ve learned that in this area Southern Hospitality is a thing, but it only comes out after 1-2 years of being in the area, and even then if you’re not a familiar face, no such luck. Even the senior pastor at my church didn’t speak to me once or know my name until I lived here 1 1/2 years, despite the fact that I’m a leader within the children’s ministry.

  3. Angie

    Since I moved to upstate New York, I deeply missed the more out-going, nice nature of Minnesotans. I can’t walk down a street here and smile at someone or say ‘hi’ without being looked at like I have three heads.. I know ‘Minnesota Nice’ tends to be passive-aggressive sometimes, but I found that I prefer that to just not being nice at all. Even around Christians, I feel like there are giant walls around people, and it takes a few years for them to become a bit more transparent and open. Obviously, this is the norm for many and not for all, but I still miss the ratio being the other way around.

  4. Adam Erwin

    Was just talking about “Minnesota Nice” while at the fair with my wife on Saturday. Timely topic, Cor!

    As a transplant from Missouri (Midwest? Yes. Nice? No.), I have come to find Minnesota Nice to mean, “We’ll treat you with relative kindness when we see you and tell you what we think you want to hear. Don’t mistake our relative kindness to mean we actually like you.”

    I’m not a fan of Minnesota Nice. I long for genuine interactions. Maybe it’s the desire to “not be mean” (to one’s face) that causes some folks to withhold what they really think/feel. I don’t expect Minnesota Nice to be replaced with Genuinely Nice, but I’d certainly settle for Minnesota Genuine.

    • Cor

      Wow. Great thoughts, bro. “Minnesota genuine.” I like that.

  5. Vicki

    So, an observation I made while visiting in May. I was involved in a “Minnesota 4 Way Stop” as I like to call it. I was a pedestrian walking into REI and there was one coming out and there were 2 cars, each on coming from a different direction. As a Detroiter I was on alert, ready to watch the man coming out of REI get hit by one or both of the cars coming. But what I watched happen was all 3 of them stop and wait, waving each other to go first. I’m telling ya, in Detroit both cars would have sped up and the would be dead. It’s that kind of courtesy that I think of when I think of Minnesota Nice. Which is something our whole society needs more of.

    However, I agree that once you get on a personal level with someone, the Passive-Aggressive, make everyone happy even if it means not be truthful, gets in the way of true relationship

  6. Matt

    Ive lived in Minneapolis, MN for all my life and after every single friend of mine has left this state, I know realize how shitty of a place this. I apologize for all Minnesotan’s but I have to be blunt and speak my mind. You know that the people of this state are not the best when your first Google search results when you put in Minnesotans are.. you’ll get Minnesotans are rude

    Minnesotans are not nice, are passive aggressive and stupid.

    That’s pretty bad, don’t you think?

    Anyways I’m just putting it our there, unless you’ve had childhood friends in MN, you’re screwed with making new friends!

    Minnesotans don’t smile, only fake ones!

    Minnesotans aren’t happy, unless there on vacation

    And last definitely not nice, but ICE!

  7. Faith

    I am sorry, but I have got to agree somewhat with Matt.

    I am a transplant as well. From Iowa. Go ahead, make jokes, I don’t care. Down there people will actually say hi to you as you pass them.

    Here and this certainly doesn’t ring true for all minnesotans, passive-aggressive is their middle name, and yup definitely ice. How often is it that you are running by and somemone else who is running says hi? Or someone lets you in on the highway when you are trying to merge? Ever heard of Ednia? The So-Cal of Minnesota?

    Go ahead Minnesotans, I’ve got my armor on.

  8. Jen

    I really love living in Minnesota – I went to high school here and now I’m back with my husband :)

    I do find something a bit disconcerting about this state, though. I almost feel as if there is a culture of distrust here (just from my own personal experience – I don’t know if anyone else has experienced this). People act incredibly warm and friendly regardless of whether they’ve known you for decades or just walked up to you for the first time in church. I find often,however, that their overflowing eagerness is almost a knee-jerk reaction or protective armor and not authentic interest/kindness. They don’t (or can’t) let it go deeper than that – it’s almost an act, a ‘go-to’ behavior. It just sort of weirds me out.

    I personally would prefer for people to be pleasant but not bubbling over with enthusiasm by how awesome they think I am or how excited they are to talk to me – because the next time I see them, it will be a repeat – they’ll have entirely forgotten they ever laid eyes on me.

  9. Jenny

    Wowza. I’m a girl born and and raised in MN, probably not too far from you Cor, since we went to high school together. I’m not going to touch Matt & Faith’s comments, because, well, I’m Minnesotan, and avoid confrontation {although that is a lot more to that than just being from MN}. Ha. But I have heard from people that making my friends in MN if you didn’t grow up there is extremely hard, but from my experience making friends anywhere can be hard.

    It’s really easy to stereotype people in any state or country, and I think that is how this overlaps with Christianity. Pretty sure God didn’t mean for us to making sweeping generalizations and judge people based on what state they are from.

    Having said that, I’ve had the opportunity to live in New Jersey (where people were the most welcoming I’ve ever known), the Netherlands (where NOT a SOUL said hello or waved on the street. Seriously you want cold or ice?? Go there) and Scotland where I live now (generally friendly folk although they complain a lot-but based on the weather can’t say I blame them).

    All in all? I prefer MN, no matter if its fake or not, because I’d take a smile or wave to an ice cold stare any day. And the weather is better than in Scotland. :)

    • Jenny

      And of course I meant, “making friends” not “making my friends” in that 4th sentence.

  10. Dianne Moen

    I just moved to Northern Mn. Raised in SD, lived all over (as a member of the USAF – 20 years), when I got out, spent 20 years in Virginia. I have a really hard time being understood and understanding “what does that mean” in conversation, especially at the church. I spent several hours today googling Minnesota Nice. I think its an older thing, probably being diluted by TV, social media, tweets, and messaging. There should be a course offered when you get a MN driver’s license or pay your first year’s taxes. I think you just NEVER say what pops into your mind. If you want to say no, just say “well (pause) that sounds OK.” If you want to say yes, say “well (pause) that sounds OK.” If you don’t know, say “well (pause) I’ll have to think on that one).

  11. Jimbeaux

    My goodness, what a difference in opinion I have. I have lived in MN (moved here from IL) for 15 years, and I have found Minnesotans to be COMPLETELY self-centered and, as mentioned, passive-aggressive. This applies even in church, if you can believe it. Don’t make the mistake of believing that the smile or hello will translate into ACTUAL good treatment of others, as it will not. The only folks here I can get along with are other transplants, and it is not like I haven’t tried. In the end, every Minnesotan has himself / herself as the end all and be all of the world. If you think I am exaggerating, listen to this. My wife leads our church’s band, while another women (now gone) leads traditional worship. The TW woman was continually making my wife’s life at church hard, to the point where they pastor decided to tell each party to make a list of the thing that the other had that made them good people. My wife made a considerable list, while Naomi, the other gal, came to the meeting where they were to relate their good points to one another with a literlly blank page. She told my wife there wasn’t a THING she could find that was good about my wife. This is by no means the first, and I’m sure it won’t be the last, of such un-Christian nonsense. One member of our church last service complained to the pastor that my wife left the band area during his sermon (not always, just this time) saying it distracted her. I guess my wife’s need to use the restroom didn’t trump this nasty little woman’s sensibilities, and this type of SIN (yeah, that’s what it is!) is hardly unique in our church. And not only did this nasty person think to tell the pastor, but the pastor thought enough of it to tell my wife! Apparently, letting nasty, pointless comments go undiscussed never entered his mind. Of course, this is the guy who mentioned at the start of one of his sermons that before he became a pastor, he was a “corner-office” guy, as if this had any relevance to anything except his ego.

    • Ihatelpc

      I agree these people are like that. I’ve seen it so many times, I’ve lost count. I’ve decided I don’t want to live here permanently.

    • Ihatelpc

      Its called being evil while appearing to be good. Its dishonesty period.

  12. Jimbeaux

    Unless you have a job offer for $1,000,000 annually here in MN, stay away, unless you too are a P-A jerk, in which case, you’ll fit right in.

    And, excuse my spelling and other errors, as I was writing quickly, and I should have proofread before I hit send.

  13. Jimbeaux

    And, sorry, Jenny, but I have lived in five different states in the U.S., and NONE of the people in any of them were like Minnesotans, which, had I known, I would have never come to MN. States, I’ve found, have “personalities” and MN’s is inward and provincial. If you like it, good for you, but don’t knock others with the “God” brick for having a different opinion. I’m just as sure that God didn’t mean for people to do what I described my wife experiencing, and that experience is hardly unique. Perhaps God, instead of wanting me to not describe Minnesotans accurately, wants Minnesotans to stop being almost criminally self-centered and surface-nice.

  14. Dianne

    I have lived in Northern MN (zip 56621) for1 year now. I moved from the DC suburbs in Virginia where I lived and worked for 20 years; the previous 20 were in the military -worldwide. Minnesotans are people like everywhere else, but different. I would say opinions are deep – and judgmental, but not expressed until they really get to know you. That might be why it seems the discussions are “passive – aggressive”. And it seems the opinions are up for discussion, but not argument. That is, people don’t seem to “discuss” for the sake of being a devil’s advocate. Finally, quoting the Bible seems to always be safe; quoting the movie Fargo – not so much. In fact, never admit to watching the movie Fargo….IMHO. Enjoy the nice spring weather.

  15. need money now unemployed

    Nice post. I learn something totally new and challenging on blogs I stumbleupon everyday.

    It’s always interesting to read articles from other writers and practice something from other websites.

  16. Ihatefakes15

    Minnesota is truly a beautiful place to see. Beautiful scenery, beautiful trees, lovely sunsets…But the people, ugh, fake, 100% Fake..fake till the point of depression. Extremely self-centered..their niceness is a Machiavellan cover up..pure deception, they have no conscience. Its all for the show and for looking good.

    • Anonymous

      They have no conscious because Mn seems to be a state with a large percentage of sociopaths! Simply stated, mental illness runs amok amongst the populace!!

  17. Ihatefakes15

    In common language that’s called being “two faced”…

  18. Mary

    Minnesotans are nice. Every time I travel out of state, (even places a state over like Chicago) I’m shocked by how passive people are. Nobody holds doors or smiles at the cashier or lets you cross at the crosswalk. Also Minnesota nice only applies to native born Minnesotans. It doesn’t count if they moved away and went back or were born somewhere else and raised there once they turned 2 or so. Those of you who say we aren’t nice have only been to big cities filled with people who don’t have roots in Minnesota. Try a small town (which is what most of the state is) and you’ll see that we truly do live up to our stereotype, and we’re proud of it.

  19. Sean

    I moved to St.Paul, MN 10 years ago from Ireland. I have learned the hard way that Minnesotans are self centered and extremely fake.I am outgoing and friendly I like sports but I have zero friends. I am a very laid back and go with the flow kind of guy and I am usually non judgemental. I have always found it easy to make friends. That is before I moved to MN. I found that Minnesotans are nice to your face, but will talk sh*t about you behind your back. And if you are foriegn and you have different interests and opinions then you are weird (Which I have been told)The verbal expressions I use are weird and so is my accent, it makes me laugh when I hear this. I feel that these things also hinder me here in MN. The self centered and inconsiderate nature of people is frustrating, from backstabbing, passive aggressive,gossiping co-workers to dangerous and overly competitive drivers on the road, who risk the safety of myself and my family just because they feel that I am getting ahead of them or they need to get one up on you. I do NOT trust Minnesotans and that makes me sad, because all I wanted was to make friends with the people who’ve shown on the surface that they are genuine, but turned out to be two faced and fake. So know after 10 years of living here. I go about my business and I don’t interact or engage with people unless I have to and this does not come naturally to me. When I have dicussed this with MN’s they response is “If you don’t like it, then go back to where you came from” Which is typical of the mindset of a Minnesotan. I do not want to change Minnesotans. I am using this blog as sounding board to talk about MY experiences, so that I can not hold onto any ill or negative feelings and treat my fellow human with respect. For the longest time I thought I was going insane and it was me. But i’ve read a lot of repsonses on these blogs and other blogs and talked to other transplants that replicate exactly my experiences and it is validation for me.

    • Andy

      My wife and I have had almost identical experiences to yours. We encountered the same unwelcoming, rude behavior first separately at our jobs but then realized, as we talked one night, we we’re both experiencing the same thing. At this point we have lived here over ten years and have no local friends. We now have two young children and we’ve decided, for their we being, to move back to Colorado where we lived before moving here. I won’t disadvantage my kids by raising them around these small-minded, uncultured, self-centered people.

      • Sean

        I feel validated when I hear about similar experiences had by other transplants. Unfortunately I am here for the long haul.If I could move from here I would. It is a very lonesome and isolated place in terms of building relationships and support. My wife is from MN, it took her a while to see what I was experiencing. What I find very unusual also is her family live 30 minutes away and we only see them if we go out and visit them or at holidays, they make very minimal effort to go out of their way to forge relationships with my two children or they are always too busy to arrange play dates between cousins. I have grown very standoffish with MN’s and have retreated into my own little bubble and I suppose that’s the MN way and I have grown accustomed to my environment and it is not easy going on 12 years living here and absolutely no meaningful relationships formed and that’s with family also. Very self centered and inconsiderate. I wish you, your wife and your children all the best back in Colorado and I am happy for you all. And I have to agree that the majority that I have met are small minded and uncultured people, almost one dimensional. Thank you for the response and validation :-)

  20. Sladen

    I was thinking about moving up there and called a few city halls to get information….rudest dam people ever. They hang up on you and everything … um no thanks. Havent spoke to one nice person yet and aint moving up there. My dad goes to work up there sometimes and he now declines work there because they are rude.

  21. The Sage

    I moved to Southern Mn 3 years …
    I have never lived around the type of people that I have met in this small town; these bastards are disingenuous, prevaricating, back stabbing, inbred, stupid/ignorant, hypocrites!
    Missouri may claim to be the “Show Me” state but Mn out shines those folks – You have to show these dumb fucks everything cuz they’ll never, ever figger it out themselves!!
    They are so crooked that when they die, they can’t be placed in a coffin, they have to screw them into the ground!!

    • Jack

      Well put Sage !!

  22. Hunter

    have lived near mid MN all my life, and most people are either faking a smile or are actually trying to be nice it’s hard to tell sometimes.

  23. Hoen

    Currently living in DEN and having done a lot of business in MSP, my take on Minnesota nice is flighty frostiness embedded in verbal politeness that comes off as passive aggressive. Culturally it’s probably derived from the Scandinavian & German settlers that first came to that area. I actually like to refer to it as “Charlie Brown Values.”

    Not everyone from there is like that though. There are plenty of MN people that know it’s BS and avoid this method of communication.

    I will say that it’s not just MN that has this quality – it stems well into other Midwest states such as IL, WI, IA, NE, The Dakota’s etc. Formally living in CA there were many transplants from WA, OR, & AZ that possessed the same sort of traits as MN Nice. Probably because there are quite a few Scandinavians that settled in the West as well. Heck, you can even derive the stereotypical “phoniness” that people say Californian’s possess on MN Nice.

    Take it from me as someone from the Northeast that can’t put up with indirectness or flightiness especially in the workplace. Doing business in Minnesota was the worst – you had to read between the lines of every conversation with most co-workers.

    But passive aggressiveness is not just a Midwest thing – I worked in NYC for a few years and most of my bosses who were baby boomers were very surly and secretive. So the saying that “All New Yorker’s are Real” isn’t necessarily true either.

  24. Hoen

    I’ll also say I agree with some of the other posters who day there is a culture of “Distrust” in MN – I don’t look the part of being Scandinavian (although I’m part German) and felt judged when I was up there.

    Also I’ve noticed with some people – all they talk about is their family blah, blah, blah. Ever think that I’d really give a shit having never met these people?

    Also agreed about the PC crap – most MN’s are sheep for the Democratic party wrapped around this weird local Church culture which I don’t understand.

    Then there’s the whole racism aspect – probably why there’s not a lot of Black people up there.

  25. Jack

    I am in a relationship with a woman who grew up in Minnesota. I mistook her family’s mild mannered, timid behavior for nice. They don’t have a nice bone in their collective bodies. They are rude,bigoted,insular and very unfriendly. I hate each and every one of them.

    • Sean

      I agree with everything you just wrote. I did laugh out loud at the “I hate each and every one of them”
      I used to feel the same way about the in laws and the other rude,bigoted,insular and fake MN’s but I realized that holding onto that shit was causing me more pain because I was so frustrated and pissed. So now I just don’t care and they can take it whatever way they like.

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